Issue # 155 reviews


Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

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The links below are to REVIEWS I’ve written for Cadence Jazz World!!!

Michael Jefry Stevens – Angel’s Dance

Dom Minasi/Blaise Siwula – The Sunshine Don’t Mind My Singing

Dom Minasi/Hans Tammen – Alluvium Sun 

Dario Chiazzolino and Nico Di Battista – Rewriting Song

Dario Chiazzolino – Paint Your Life

Judi Silvano & Mike Abene – MY DANCE:  Well, it will be “your” dance, too, as you swirl with Judi’s great vocals and Mike’s superb piano on these semi-improvised & all-original tunes from two masters of vocal/piano jazz!  I’ve reviewed Ms. Silvano many times here (just use the SEARCH to find out more).  Tunes like “Calypso” show her performance talent and express the sheer joy she conveys through a song!  “Dust” is absolute cool, yet full of vigor & vim.  Mike’s piano is free-wheeling & energy-filled, perfectly complementing pieces like “F Minor“, with the creativity just bubbling up as the cauldron simmers to perfection… this song, in fact, is my favorite of the eleven offered up, & a perfect way to close out another issue.  I give Judi & Mike a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Judi’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Judi Silvano: My Dance


Ernesto Cervini – TURBOPROP:  I had no idea that Ernesto, one of the promoters who furnishes me with great jazz to review, was also a master drummer… on this excellent (fourth) release, he proves himself to be exactly that, especially on tunes like the high-energy “Red Cross“… his sextet (Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Dan Loomis (bass) & Ernesto Cervini (drums), plus Tara Davidson (alto & soprano saxophone) and William Carn (trombone)) is right on the money on every tune on this ten-song excursion!  The pace is slower, but no less enlightening, on DeBussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral“… a truly beautiful song.  It was the 7:23 “Fear of Flying” (a Cervini original) that captured my vote for personal favorite, though – every note is “in place”, and the tune just cooks with vibrant life; in other words, they KICK tail!  I give Ernesto & his high-talent crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Ernesto’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

The Scott Hesse Trio – THE STILLNESS OF MOTION:  I have no doubt that jazz listeners in search of total-cool work in trio sessions will love Scott’s splendid guitar work (he’s joined by Clark Sommers on bass & Makaya McCraven on drums) on this ten-song gem.  Tunes like “Blues Sketch” definitely bear out their title… super jazz, to be sure.  The beauty of the trio’s playing is that there’s nothing rushed or forced… it sounds as though they’re right there in your living room, playing it all just for your ears – how nice that is!  The other attractor (for this reviewer, anyway) is that they are all original compositions… as I listen to the stellar energy and excellent interplay between the players on my personal favorite tune on the album, “Laws of Motian“, it’s clear that original is better, as it always results in something you might not have expected.  I give Scott & his musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at Scott’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Josh Nelson – EXPLORING MARS:  If space travel involves great jazz music like Josh produces with his piano & trumpet (joined by a whole host of high-talent players), I’ve no doubt we would have a horde of folks signing up for the voyage.  While it remains totally accessible, even for the traditional of jazz listeners, Josh makes it move in directions that you don’t hear coming… songs like the wonderfully intriguing “Curiosity” weave through changes that many accomplished jazz players wouldn’t be able to keep up with.  The percussion intro on “Opportunity” leads the listener into sonic discoveries that are both exciting and challenging, and the rapid pace keeps you on your toes to anticipate the next change in the sequence.  Think of the compositions as a kind of “Jazz From Hell” (Zappa) on steroids.  I was most impressed with the 6:22 “Sojourner“… it’s my favorite of the ten offered up, and certainly falls in the running for my favorite of 2015… this is some of the coolest jazz I’ve heard (yet) this year, and certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’ve giving it, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about Josh and his inspiring jazz at Josh’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dan O’Connor – THE OTHER SHORE:  I’m not quite sure how this wound up in the review stack… some very interesting lyric-based folk music that feature solo guitar (+ other instruments), all by Dan.  These were the tunes that we engaged back in the ’70’s (often as we shared the ritual tabs of “stuff” that was floating around).  Dan’s got an energy that won’t quit, especially on tunes like “Can’t Stop Driving“… I can definitely relate to this, especially as it pertains to my GTO – lol.  What’s really neat is Dan’s lyrical talent – he stays true to the folk ethic of having fun while passing on a message (heavy or lite).  The 3:18 “So Many Years Ago” is very attractive & will lift you up out of whatever funk you may have been in when you started listening.  It was the imagery on “Freedom In The Sun” that made it my favorite of the ten tracks Dan has offered up.  I give Dan a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  He definitely has high talent and energy for his music.  Get more information at the Acoustic Seed label site.       Rotcod Zzaj

Dan O

ShaShaty – BRIGHTER DAY:  Yah, I know… when you look at the cover, & listen to the first few bars, you’re gonna’ be thinking “Oh, no”, to yourself, “another Kenny G” thang… but I can tell you that ShaShaty’s skills go much deeper than those olden melodies… for one thing, this is all original, and (as you’ve heard me say here hundreds of times), that makes all the difference in the world.  As you scope out his high-energy sax work on tunes like the title track, “Brighter Days“, you’ll hear (immediately) why I say that this is different… it’s clear that this player understands how to use the poignant personality of his horns to bring his message home to you (loved the backup singers, too).   The tune that I dug the most, & my personal favorite of the eleven offered up, was the spirited & down/funky “Let’s Go“… it’s only 3:43, but it will embed itself right down in your soul (I’m thinkin’ “Crusaders”, ya’ know?)!  I give ShaShaty a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the ShaShaty website.       Rotcod Zzaj  

Shashaty: Brighter Day

Pseudonym – REVOLVING DOOR:  We don’t often get “straight pop” stuff in here for review, but bassist Paul Desjarlais sent this our way, & I turn nothing down because of “genre”… the only criteria (as regular readers know) is the energy levels the players express for the playing, & tunes like the title track, “Revolving Door“, certainly meet that criteria… definitely more “poppy” than I’m used to, but there’s true talent and creativity evident throughout all sixteen songs – so some will dig this a great deal!  My personal favorite was the high-energy rawkin’ “Saving A Place For You“.  All in all, this will be pure nostalgia for some of us older folk, taking us back to bands like Beatles/Bowie/Costello/Pixies with lots of pop hooks in there. I give Paul & his cohorts a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at the Pseudonym Bandcamp page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Pseudonym: Revolving Door

Billy Mintz & the 2 Bass Band – LIVE:  Billy’s drums & percussion are a perfect counterpoint to the bass work by Masa Kamaguchi and Cameron Brown on this eleven song epic release.  Tunes like the perfectly paced “Bass Thing” will have you sitting on the edge of your seat for the next note.  It’s strongly recommended that you do your first sitting with the ‘phones on, so that you don’t miss any of the intricacies these great players create as they perform.  If you’re looking for something a bit more on the “jaded” side, you’ll totally dig “Free Thing“… true movement in jazz on this one.  My personal favorite was the high-energy “Flight“, perhaps because it fits my image of “traditional” better, & I just loved the horn work here (both the reeds & the brass).  Any way you listen, you’ll agree when I declare this one MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Billy’s pages for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Billy Mintz: The 2 Bass Band... (Live)

The Brown Edition – SOULPOCALYPSE:  There are certainly times when you find that the best kept secrets (musical or elsewise) have been staring you right in the face (or ear, in this case).  Tom Pell, sound engineer for my favorite jazz haunt in Olympia, Rhythm & Rye, handed this one to me & I put it in queue, where it languished until now.  I watched them perform a show a couple weeks back & was totally slammed/amazed… this is clearly one of the best bands in the Great NW… everything they do is “ON”, & their sense of showmanship is superb.  On this CD, tunes like “The Neighborhood” took me all the way back to mem’ries of down & funky times inspired by Tower of Power & (even) Paul Butterfield, maybe.  After reading the liners, it was clear that the addition of players like Joe Doria on B-3 & the super vocals on classics like “St. James Infirmary” makes this band one of the funkiest I’ve heard (yet) on the planet; but their own players (visit the linked-in page) are at the top of game, too!  They can change up styles, too… the rockin’ lead guitar & funky bass on “Chicken Shack” took me back to my years down Alabama way. (& was my personal favorite of the dozen tracks offered up).. if you have a chance to catch this band – DO it!  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” of (energy quotient) of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best blues/funk band”.  Get more information at their FB page (linked in above).         Rotcod Zzaj


OU – SCRAMBLED:  It’s just as true today as it was when I first interviewed/reviewed Amy Denio (way back, in issue # 20)… anything she applies her musical talent to just SHINES!  When I got to meet & review this great musical group from Italy (issue # 143), it only took a few bars to realize that she had picked another total winner to produce & tour with!  The range of the music on this new release is, quite simply, astounding… all the way from the walking bass & vocal on the 7:27 closer, “Jengi“, to the superb rhythmic adventures on “Destiny Sneezed“, it’s total fun – without the considerable weight of a bunch of unnecessary “political overtones”.  If you get no other music this year – GET this one!  For this listener, it was the high spirited horns, piano, bass & voices on “Gallone bocca larga” (Gallon wide mouth) that won my vote for personal favorite track of the nine offered up for your aural edification… entertainment with imagination…. nothing better.  I give the “OU” folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative music”!  Get more information at the Public Eyesore label page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj

Ou: Scrambled!

Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble – SUNSUM:  If you lay claim to being attracted to improvised jazz, you have no clue if you haven’t listened to Bill Cole’s work.  I’ve reviewed several of his works, and he’s always gotten astronomical marks.  On this outing, pieces like “The Dove Finds Peace Everywhere” take me (way) back to some of the great Charles Lloyd sessions I grew up to in the old days of jazz; the movements are fantastic, & each player is given ample space during this live recording to convey their message.  If you are truly a fan of improv, you won’t be able to do without this one in your collection… Bill’s work with wind instruments is unparalleled in today’s jazz world, & you owe it to yourself to have a listen.  My personal favorite of the five long pieces is “Evil Sown By A Man Will Grow On His Children’s Heads“… at almost thirteen minutes, it’s a true odyssey in all it’s improvised glory (there are moments when I can also hear strains of a live Sonny Simmons show I heard in the 1980’s here in Olympia).  Again, I can’t help but declare this as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of  (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised jazz”.   Get more information and purchase this CD from Bill’s page for this release.   Rotcod Zzaj

Bill Cole


Gene Argel – LUMINESCENT:  Gene’s piano work on this quartet outing is full of life and joy, yet he does it without a touch of embellishment… pieces like the opener, “Annette“, will make you introspective, but you’ll come away with a touch of nostalgia for music that could have been (if only you’d listened to the piano teacher – lol… talking to myself there).  Gene is joined by highly talented players, too… Jay Thomas on alto/tenor sax and trumpet, Chuck Deardorf on bass and Mark Ivester on drums; and it all fits together superbly.  “Hermosa” has some excellent percussion and (again) is full of the vibrancy that makes life work.  I’ll have to get up Tacoma way to check Gene out, since it’s so near to my home-base… would love to hear compositions like my personal favorite of the nine offered up, the 8:43 “Soul Leo“… if you didn’t understand soul before you started listening, you surely will by the time the song ends (& then I find out that I could have met him in Hawaii – since he’s lived there for the last 30 years).  I give Gene & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Origin Arts page for Gene.       Rotcod Zzaj

Lawson Rollins – TRAVELER:  It’s been a while (issue # 134), but I was highly impressed with Lawson’s excellent guitar work there & am even moreso now!  His new (January 2015) release displays both high talent and energy for playing, and I can guarantee that you’ll listen to this over & over again!  Tunes like the high-spirited “Barcelona Express” will have you thinking of bull runs and matadors, no doubt whatsoever.  The dozen songs he presents take you on a sonically guided tour that you’ll not soon forget, especially when you listen to the 4:50 “Marching West“… in fact, compositions like this are exactly what makes Lawson’s playing so very unique… no two tunes are the same, and he “paints” pictures of his travels for you with his splendid guitar.  My personal favorite of the twelve was the throbbing and beat-driven closer, “City Electric“; though it’s one of the shorter pieces, it got my blood moving (and at nearly 70 – that’s sometimes hard to do).  I give Lawson a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this wonderful release.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Lawson’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Errol Rackipov Group – PICTURES FROM A TRAIN WINDOW:  The true beauty of jazz that knows no bounds is that it’s often “not what you’d expect”… in my mind, though, that’s a part of what “real” jazz is all about – the unexpected!  Compositions like “Far Away From Here, A Long Time Ago” bring back memories of my own train riding days (all the way from Germany, to Holland, to Korea & many other places)… the pacing on this tune is absolute perfection… relaxing, yet ready to inspire even the most downtrodden of hearts!  If you’re looking for something with a bit speedier pace (like the Bullet Train), you’ll savor the heartfelt energy on the lively “Folk Dance“… pure fun, yet some of the best jazz you’ll hear this year.  Errol’s supreme vibe work is joined by great modern jazz guitar by Hristo Vitchev; pianist Maritn Bejerano (Roy Haynes), spirited sax and clarinet from Lubomir Gospodinov, great drums by Rodolfo Zuniga, and excellent bass work by Josh Allen… the grouping is perfect, especially on tunes like my own personal favorite of the nine tracks offered up, “The Other (Wrong) Way“… ’tis in the true spirit of jazz that these players offer up their talent for your aural appendages, & I’ve no doubt you’ll love it just as much as did I.  I give Errol & his group a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the First Orbit Sounds FB page featuring this release.   Rotcod Zzaj

Errol Rackipov Group: Pictures from a Train Window

Dewa Budjana – HASTA KARMAIf Dewa’s electric/acoustic guitar doesn’t thrill your little jazz heart all to pieces – I’ll be very surprised!  He’s joined by Joe Locke on vibraphone, Antonio Sanchez on drums & Ben Williams on upright bass (with special guest Indra Lesmana).  If you haven’t listened to Dewa’s musical magicks yet – this is the album to do it with.  Tunes likew the 8:01 opener, “Saniscara“, will transport you to lands previously unknown, and your appreciation for what a true jazz artist can do will be enhanced a thousand-fold.  There are only six songs on this outing, but the quality of the compositions makes them pieces that will rise to the very top of your playlists – & STAY there… my personal favorite was the percussion-driven funkiness on “Just Kidung“… I’m not sure about what the title means, but the song had me up & jazz-dancin’ ’round my little studio the whole afternoon… how cool is that?  This is some of the best modern progressive jazz you’ll hear in 2015… it comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Moonjune Records page for this release.   Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Heald – CHIAROSCURO:  You’ll get a dash & a taste of everything that’s been good about music over the last 30 years (or so) when you listen to Jim’s new release… a whole cast of characters join to make his album a success (Jim Heald: Acoustic Guitar, Telecaster, Bass and Vocals; Lea: Backing Vocals; Jack Reale: Bass on Juliet, and kibitzing at the drum sessions; Lisa Sawyer: Backing Vocals on Journey into Light; Greg Lowry: Lap Steel on Don’t Know Where I’m Bound; Steve Bloom (Music by Hand): Drums and Percussion; Jim Heald: Midi Drums on Great 2B Alive and Somebody Else’s Problem), and that’s exactly what it is.  The laid-back guitar on “I Had A Dream Last Night” is excellent… very enjoyable.  The swing mood on “It’s Great 2B Alive” is total cool – but it was the lead guitar on the 4:32 “Somebody Else’s Problem” that got my vote for favorite track of the eleven offered up.  It is jazz?  Hardly, but Jim’s music definitely represents the kind of Americana I (& many of us) grew up on… high-energy & FUN!  I give Jim a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information at Jim’s website.   Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Heald: Chiaroscuro

Sherry Finzer & Mark Holland – FLUTE FLIGHT:  I reviewed another CD from Sherry back in issue # 135…. was impressed then, and am even moreso on this new release with Mark (he plays Native American flute, while she is doing silver flutes).  As I told her when she sent this one, the work here reminds me of some of the work from the Makoche label I reviewed many years ago.  Tunes like “Planetary Drift” immediately reveal the high talent and ability of these two great artists… make sure you’re listening with your headphones for this one, as you will want to catch every nuance.  Of the thirteen songs, it was one of the shorter pieces (2:48) that got my vote for personal favorite – “Luna’s Dance” will put you right out there in the desert, and the percussion will have you dancing ’round the fire in no time!  I give Sherry and Mark a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of a (perfect) 5.00; meaning that his also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best flute duo work”.  Get more information (and purchase the tunes or the album) at the CD Baby page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Sherry Finzer & Mark Holland: Flute Flight

Darrell Katz & Jca Orchestra – WHY DO YOU RIDE:  There are times when even the most jaded of “free jazzers” (& I certainly include myself in that group) realize that it’s sometimes necessary to scope out some good orchestral jazz – & as you listen to Darrell’s work with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, you’ll realize that you’ve gotten just what you needed to listen to!  Their performance on “SamiBadGirl” is simply stellar… no, it’s not “free” in the sense of something you would hear from Sonny Sharrock’s groups… but it certainly transports you (bicycle or no) to jazz-land the instant you begin listening.  My (absolute) favorite of the eleven star-hot tunes is the vocal-laced “Riding A Bicycle“… as you gaze at the cover & listen to the great music on this composition, you feel like you’re right inside Albert E.’s head!  This would make a great gift for someone you wanted to introduce to the beauty of jazz.  I give Darrell & all his katz a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Leo Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Oster – NEXT:  There’s truly a good reason why Jeff’s “Surrender” album (issue # 118) was chosen as a “PICK” for that issue… the one-sheet with this new release declares that his trumpet/flugelhorn is a cross betwixt Miles & Pink Floyd… though that sounds like an odd comparison – nothing could be more accurate.  As I listen to the beauty emanating from the title track, “Next“, I can’t help but be “transported” into “the zone”… I can tell you right now, you simply MUST listen to this entire set with your headphones on… no interruptions, only the calming tranquility that a true artist can evoke.  “Turn Left At San Pancho” is slightly more upbeat, and will melt the heartstrings of any true jazz lover… every note is “right on” the mark, folks! A part of this excellence may be that Will Ackerman co-produced it, but when you listen to Jeff’s mastery on my personal favorite of the dozen tracks, the 4:04 “Ibiza Sunrise“,  you’ll know that the tunes on this CD will stay on your playlists – FOREVER!  I give Jeff a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of (a perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this outing also receives another “PICK” for “best trumpet/flugelhorn” album of this issue.  Get more information at Jeff’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Oster: Next

Deuter – REIKI,  HANDS OF LOVE:  There are always times when a break from all the great jazz and blues I get in for review is called for… Deuter’s CD release will do just that.  Since “touch” is part and parcel of the Reiki practice, it’s totally fitting that the kind of music you hear on tunes like the 4:58 “Cloud Surfing” is so beautiful.  “New Age” isn’t necessarily the kind of music that many in the jazz world will thrive on, but I can tell you after listening to the wonderful sonic beauty on the closer, “Free Forever“, that Deuter clearly understands how to reach down into your heart and meld the spirit of his music into your being so deeply that you will never forget what you heard… this is my absolute personal favorite of the nine creations offered up.  By the way, massage therapists are bound to love this for integration into the total experience.  I give Deuter a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on this beautiful music at the New Earth Records page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj 

Christian Finger – ANANDA/THE WORLD IS BLISS:  Well, it may not always be blissful, but it certainly is when you’re able to listen to great jazz like Christian & his (rather extensive) supporting cast play for you on this January 2014 release.  Christian does drums, as well as Jeff Ballard… a whole host of other players keep the energy levels up high, and you won’t soon forget pieces like “African Skies, Drumming Lives: Boubacar’s Son’s” – certainly one of my favorite percussion-based tracks ever.  The light & lively “For Now” is just killer jazz… you won’t be able to stop playing this one!  Though Christian says (in the liner notes) that he considers this less “standard jazz” than other releases he’s done, there’s still a pervasive jazz spirit that shines right on through, particularly on tunes like my own personal favorite of the thirteen offered up, “African Skies, Linear Lives“… high spirit & talent abound!  I give Christian & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this fantastic player/composer and his music at Christian’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Christian Finger: Ananda

Period – 2:  Experimental improv for the hardcore listener… this isn’t for the weak ears among us… the seven pieces feautre long-time collaborators Charlie Looker – Baritone & Acoustic Guitar and Mike Pride – Drums & Percussion, with Chuck Bettis – Vocals & Electronics on 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7; Darius Jones – Alto Saxophone on 3, 4 & 6; Sam Hillmer – Tenor Saxophone on 3 & 4.  This is best illustrated by the 11:32 “4“… TOTAL assault on your aural appendages… you’ll swear your player has been possessed & go looking for a sonic exorcist immediately!  When you contrast that with the haunting vocals on “8”, you’ll know that this is solely intended for listeners who aren’t afraid to try something new.  It was actually the sound craftsmanship on the 6:24 “Eleven” that got my vote for favorite, though… very cool guitar intro, with snatches of many other elements (especially the saxophone) woven in to provide the attentive listener with a very enjoyable and engaging piece.  I give these gents a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Public Eyesore page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj  (You can order it here):

Period – 2


Alex Belhaj’s Crescent City Quartet – SUGAR BLUES:  If it’s been a while since you were down N’Awleans way, & you have the same kind of hankering for the “original jazz”, as does Alex, you’ll find this music quite refreshing.  Tunes like “Careless Love” will put you back in a gentle mood… Alex’s guitar & vocals take you back to those days of yore, when jazz was only about havin’ a blast, dancin’ a bit & spinning ’round the floor.  “Four or Five Times” is as simple as it sounds… nothin’ complicated, just that good old foundation blues & jazz that’s such a tradition down south way & the vocals are superbly relaxed.  It was the gentle sway on “My Man Rocks Me” that made if my favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up for your jazz enjoyment… much fun, to be sure.  I give Alex & crew a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine debut CD.  Get more information at Alex’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Alex Belhaj


Pete Oxley – Nicolas Meier – CHASING TALES:  If your “thing” is jazz guitar, you’ll be getting double the fun on this great jazz guitar CD from Pete & Nicolas.  Superbly energetic tunes like “Breezin’ On” will bring th’ thrill back into your life, and the almost “hot-club” vibrancy of “Chasing Kites” will have you pullin’ on your spats & dancin’ right on around th’ floor.  I do strongly recommend that you do your first sitting with your headphones on… you’ll hear why I recommend that as you scope out the intricate weaves on my personal favorite of this dozen-song guitar extravaganza, “Looking West“… you surely won’t want to miss any of the gentle nuances these artists are painting with.  To be quite frank, I haven’t heard a guitar jazz duo to equal their energy (yet) this year.  I give Pete & Nicolas a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00.. meaning they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz guitar duo”.     Get more information at Nicolas’s page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Mike Osborne – DAWN:  This great alto sax set from Mike is a piece of history, to be sure… the recordings were first recorded in the ’60’s & ’70’s, & are clear evidence of the musical genius Mike was.  Pieces like “1st” will give you spine chills and make you realize that our British brothers (like Osborne) had the “jazz sound” down even way back when.  For something you might consider in a more “trad-jazz” vein, you’ll love the high-energy trio on the opener, “Scotch Pearl“… 6:53 of pure jazz bliss.  Mike’s rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Jack Rabbit” is my personal favorite on this ten-song adventure, & (to be perfectly up-front), I believe it’s my favorite jazz piece (yet) for 2015.  Before his death in 2007, Mike was beset with many sorts of trouble (mental illness being the foremost) which prevented him from playing, so the recovery of these great sets is a true service to the jazz world – definitely some of the most exciting sax work you will ever hear!  I give Mike & crew(s) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can get more information about this great release at the Cuneiform page for this release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Birnbaum – THREE OF A MIND:  If you’re looking for music that will refresh your spirit and catapult you into the joy zone, Adam’s got the hand already dealt for you; Adam is joined by bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Al Foster in a trio session you’ll be playing over and over (guaranteed if you love jazz with energy)!  The opener, “Binary“, gives a perfect example of that… nothing over-complicated, but each of the players is totally on-mark & they play “oh-so-well” together!  Adam’s piano work is prominent on my personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up, “Stutterstep” – & if pacing is everything in jazz, then these gents have it all, to be sure… an aurally attractive jazz adventure that you will be elevating in your playlists every day to the very top of your jazz stack!  I give Adam & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this February 2015 release.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98… in fact, I’ll go as far as to say that you won’t find a better piano-led jazz trio release than this one in 2015.  Get more information at Adam’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Adam Birnbaum: Three of a Mind

Chamber 3 – GRASSROOTS:  How absolutely splendid it is to listen to this sorta’ “homegrown” trio… Seattle drummer Matt Jorgenson first hooked up with German guitarist Christian Eckert in the ’90’s, they have done multiple projects together… in this case, it’s a trio with Steffen Weber on saxophone, & they “nail it” on each of the nine tunes offered up.  As you listen to the lively interplay on “E-Flat Stop“, you’ll get (right away) why I say that… every single note is “on time”!  There is a slightly darker tone on the great “Enemy of Inspiration“, but the changes they weave into the piece take you through all kinds of different moods & emotions.  The beautiful sax work on the intro to the 6:21 “Song For Sam” is what made it my personal favorite of the pieces… again, every note is woven seamlessly & great changes abound (both rhythmically and harmonically).  I give this fine trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Origin Arts label site for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

C. Mehrl Bennett John M. Bennett – A HAMSTER IN YOUR SANDWICH:  As strange as it may sound, this is the first time I have listened to John’s wife (C. Mehrl) working in sonic mode with him… ’tis brought much closer to home, since I was just in their home a week ago when they handed me this fantastic duo work of poetry, word and sound art!  As expected, the sound quality is near perfection, especially for a recording that involves spoken-word… that’s because the recordings I’ve done with John (there are many, by the way) have always been superbly recorded, whether from a live studio effort, or an exchange via USPS.  Images just fly by on my personal favorite, “A Hamster In Your Sandwich, Track 1“… lines like “fast food, faulty meatball” will leave no doubt that you are truly in the presence of wordly wizards that won’t let up until you surrender all your olives to them… lol!  Zeriously, this is among the best work I’ve ever heard John do, and you’ll certainly agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of (a perfect) 5.00… that also means, of course, that this one gets the “PICK” of this year for “best spoken-word/sound art”.  Orb-viously, if your tastes only run to “standard”, you’ll freak after the first few bars, but if you’re into experimental at all.. GET this one.  Get more information at the HALTapes label page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet – INTENTS AND PURPOSES:  Though this is his tenth release, this is the first time I’ve listened to Rez’s great acoustic guitar work… though based on other great artists’ tunes (Herbie Hancock, Weather Report), Rez and his mates (Bill Ware on vibes, Stephan Crump on acoustic bass & Eric McPherson on drums) hone these timeless jazz tunes into something of their own via their high-talent and clean re-interpretations!  The performance on “Joyous Lake” will pull you up out of any depression(s) you may have been in and bring you (right on) back to life.  There’s no pressure for the listener, either… each of these pieces is played to enhance your enjoyment, rather than to convince you that the players have instant communication between each other.  Of the eight tunes played, it was Larry Coryell’s “Low-Lee-Tah” that got my vote for personal favorite… beauty just shines through on this one.  Rez & his com-padres get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more infroamtion at Rez’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Ben Bennett – Jack Wright – TANGLE:  Oy, wot’ webz we weave… I’ve listened to Ben (John M. Bennett’s son) only a couple of times, and have enjoyed his high levels of creativity… I’ve been listening to & reviewing Jack’s sax work for many long years now.  The wandering/random percussion hits that Ben performs against Jack’s reeds on “Bogus Ferret” will challenge even the most seasoned improv veteran, but what emerges (at the end of this 18:57 piece) is something that can’t be compared to any other artists… you’ll be able to hear each little ferret frustration as these two go through a mating ritual like you’ve never heard before.  Though there are only three tunes included, it was easy for me to recognize my personal favorite only a few bars in to “Embroiled”… the entire 22:09 sonic painting just “cooks” as you listen to it, with plenty of time for each sound to mature and take on a life of its’ own.  Ben & Jack get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who can’t go a day without some sound creativity in their life.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at the Public Eyesore page for this release.     Rotcod Zzaj