Issue # 164 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

NOTE:  I normally only do 30 reviews per issue… due to the high volume of submissions, & the long recovery period for my recent surgery, I will be reviewing several more (20 additional, for a total of 50) for this issue (and future issues, until our backlog is honed down)… “normal” review cycles will resume when I’ve got the QUEUE down to under 100!

We got our first review from a new writer in the last issue – please welcome my newfound musical friend, Jeremy Shaskus, to the “I.N.” fold… he will be writing several more reviews over the coming months, I suspect!

Monica Logani – SECRET GARDEN:  Monica’s masterful keyboard work on this debut album, combined with quite a few other instruments (strings, acoustic and electric guitar), makes for a great way to close out this issue!  Her original songs are full of love and emotion, and will call out to your heart in a way few other players can!  I particularly enjoyed pieces like “Amber Rust“… though short, as are most of the tunes on the album, her free spirit is plainly evident in the creation of such music, and her touch on the keys is unique in and of itself.  The string weave on the truly inspiring “Anthem” shows skill far beyond (many) other New Age artists… very pleasant listening, and the guitar solo lines just shine.  My only critique is that for the next release, it would be nice to have one or two of the tracks go beyond the five-minute mark.  My personal favorite of the dozen songs offered up is the closer, “Between Two Worlds“… some great instrumental contrasts on this composition.  I give Monica a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this very enjoyable music.  Get more information on Monica’s page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Jeff Pearce – FOLLOW THE RIVER HOME:  Jeff’s guitar style is really impossible to “pigeonhole”… and that’s a good thing, because we get quite a few guitarists who are just kinda’ “copying” someone else’s style, even if they are playing originals.  The “river” motif is a perfect one, especially as you listen to pieces like the opener, “Under Summer Stars“… so easy to imagine yourself next to a campfire, watching the constellations and considering the impact (or lack thereof) of your life… I want to say that it would have been nicer if it was a bit longer than the 4:00 it clocks in at, but when you listen to the entire 52:51 of the album – it all “fits” together, and Jeff has the timings “just right”.  The 6:13 “Outpost” surely reminds me of some of the remote assignments I lived through in my many travels ’round this ol’ globe… and though the promo sheet has Jeff has him billed as an “ambient” wizard, his music goes far deeper than “just ambient”… as I said before, it’s very difficult to “classify” what he’s doing here… suffice it to say that it is truly lovely.  My personal choice for favorite is also the longest on the CD – “Gathering Stars” (there’s that star theme again, eh?) is the most vibrant piece of “atmospheric” music I’ve heard (yet) in 2016; I give Jeff and his guitar/processors a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 – some truly wonderful music.  Get more information on Jeff’s page for this album.          Rotcod Zzaj


Peter Kuhn & Dave Sewelson – OUR EARTH-OUR WORLD:  Almost 30 years since these two reedists started playing together, and this early 2016 release captures their fantastic improvisations (together with bassist Larry Roland and drummer Gerald Cleaver) in one of the most forward-looking and energetic sessions I’ve heard this year (or any other, for that matter); think Wally Shoup and Transmuseq, & you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about!  What genuinely sets them apart from so many of the other improvisors I listen to in the course of a year is the RECORDING quality… every little nuance and each interaction is audible, so that you’re not left “wondering” what they were doing.  There only three improvs on the album, but it still clocks in at just under an hour… so put your headphones on, groove back & scope out my personal favorite on the album, the opener, “Our Earth“… it’s 25:22, so you will want to make sure you’re locked away where no one can interrupt you as you listen to them in live performance at the Arts for Art Evolving Series in New York… some truly amazing and engaging improvisation here; I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (especially for listeners who are “improvisationally inclined), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.99.  Get more information on the pFmentum Records page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Roxy Coss – RESTLESS IDEALISM:  What sets Ms. Coss apart from all the other sax players is her (almost) relentless pursuit of originality, and this ten-song release is nothing but Coss originals!  You’ll “get the sonic picture” as soon as you catch the first eight (or so) bars of her opening tune, “Don’t Cross the Coss“… & what you will hear, above all else, is that she doesn’t need to “try” too hard… her playing style is totally natural & jammed full of life.  I first reviewed her work quite some time back, in issue # 113, where she got a “PICK”… if anything, this latest release is just further proof that she’s one of those players you just HAVE to hear!  It’s very clear, too, that the players she has with her (Jeremy Pelt – Trumpet; Alex Wintz – Guitar; Chris Pattishall – Piano; Dezron Douglas – Bass and Willie Jones III – Drums) all understand how to move with her, and possess the superb skills required to keep up with her compositional and performance talent.  That’s especially true on my favorite of the ten tunes, the subtly high-energy piece “Breaking Point“… at nearly eight minutes (7:55, to be exact), it builds to the same kind of passionate climax the title implies – simply wonderful jazz!  I give Roxy another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99; you can get more information on the Origin Records page for this fine albumRotcod Zzaj

Thomas Marriott & Ray Vega – EAST-WEST TRUMPET SUMMIT 2:  Thomas is among the best trumpeters on the jazz scene today – no doubt about that… I reviewed him in issue # 152, and was impressed enough to give him very high ratings; on this new outing (January, 2016), he’s added B-3 organist George Colligan, and that organ makes all the difference in the world for this keyboard player… you’ll also hear trumpet/flugelhorn from Ray Vega and drums by Matt Jorgenson!  Their version of Lee Morgan’s “Totem Pole” adds new 21st Century energy to the original, & I thought I heard shades of Jimmy (Smith) in George’s organ, too… all I can say is – WOW!  The only “negative” thing about the album is that it’s just a tad short at 43:03, but that’s a minor criticism when you hear their totally together excellence on tunes like my personal favorite of the eight pieces offered up, their iteration of Cedar Walton’s “Firm Roots“… this is also the longest cut on the album, so that may have had something to do with why I picked this one… each player gets their turn to show their talent & energy!  Anyway you listen, I’ve no doubt you’ll agree with my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information on Thomas’s net site.            Rotcod Zzaj

Carlos Vega – BIRD’S TICKET:  In addition to Carlos’s totally engaging saxophone, you’ve got Victor Garcia on Trumpet, Stu Mindeman doing Piano and Rhodes, Josh Ramos with Acoustic Bass and Xavier Breaker on Drum set on this all-original set… the opener alone makes it clear that this is a jazz group you’ll want to listen to over & over again, and takes me (way) back to my earliest days in jazz listening… “A Confluence in Chi-Town” clocks in right at 9:00, and will have you avidly listening to each and every note!  Carlos has played with very notable jazz names, like Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan, & Tito Puente – so he’s got the creds to back him up – the music he composed for this release, though, is young, fresh & H-O-T, folks… just scope out the totally uptown “Chicago Eight” to hear why I’m so impressed with this one!  His reeds are rich with color, and deep in tone, but are so full of energy that you’ll find yourself tappin’ & movin’ right along with him & his mates.  My personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up is “The Wizard“… think Cannonball Adderley or Horace Silver, then add Carlos 21st Century jazz sensitivity, & you’ll know what I mean – absolutely SMOKIN’ jazz that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can read more about the players and Carlos’ unique music on the Origin Records page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Jerry Mitchell – EX MEDIO CENTRI:  The land of OlyWa is truly a land of magick!  The proof of that is the folks I frequently meet at my favorite hangout coffee joint, Caffe Vita, right in the heart of our fair city.  Michael was hanging out there one recent morning, and after we dialogued about his dogs, work-life and a few other “normal” things, he mentioned that he was also an author.  Being one myself made me wonder what he meant, so I asked him what he wrote… the result was this book – which it took a week or so for him to get a copy of for me to review.  He had mentioned that it was about mushrooms… OK… the book was about mushrooms, but had nothing to do with astronomy, astrology or Deuteronomy… hmmm!  I’d had one or two experiences over my many years with the fabled “power” of the ‘shroom (right here in Olympia, in fact, though that’s another story, far too long to tell here/now), but since my orientation is towards more “body-rush” kinds of journeys, I quickly backed away from them.  Back to Michael’s book… what I found most interesting is that it doesn’t (at all) read like a “trip guide”; rather, he uses quite extensive historical references and authors (Carl Jung, Jesus Christ, W.K.C. Guthrie, even Robert Graves) to enlighten us to the fact that many of our religious and mythological characters have been descended from (or, in some cases, created by) mushrooms.  It’s a very interesting read, especially if you live in the Great Northwest, where the magic abounds (as well as the plants).  Would I recommend this tome to a priest?  To my mom (rest her soul)?  Probably not… but if you’re interested, even slightly, in finding out just how much power these Fungi may have in our universe – Michael’s very interesting book is a great way to introduce yourself to the topic.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for folks who love to find out facts backed up by historical references.  You can purchase this book through Amazon (& tell him we sent you).

David Friesen-Glen Moore – BACTRIAN:  It’s not often you get to listen to two masters of the bass on one album… this is kind of a “reunion” recording… they recorded together way back in 1977, and have now captured the results of a recent tour through Europe together.  As you listen to songs like the lively “Hoe Down“, you’ll hear that from a jazz standpoint, there are few players that can equal their dexterity – they’ll have you up & dancin’ ’round the barn with glee; every note on this song is pure joy!  Glen also plays some beautiful piano on the intriguing “Free Play“… this tune may not be for everyone’s ears, but I loved it.  What’s so wonderful about their work together is that it demonstrates just how a jazz friendship can evolve… nearly 50 years of playing together since that first recording in the ’70’s.  My personal favorite of the eleven pieces offered up is also the longest (9:41), “Kontrast“… it couldn’t be more aptly named, and is proof positive that you’ve landed a sonic gem.  I give David & Glen a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid album.  Get more information at David’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj 

Gwendolyn Dease – BEGUILED:  For some reason, marimba doesn’t come across as something I think about a lot in the jazz arena… but in Gwendolyn’s talented hands, you’ll be amazed at the deep and rich textures she’s able to paint on tunes like the opener, “Beija-flor“, (penned by jazz bassist Rufus Reid)… one of the reasons (I believe) why this is so aurally attractive is because she takes a lot of time to develop the tune (it pegs in at 9:03).  “G.W.G.E.“, on the other hand, is totally in a jazz vein, and will capture your ears immediately (especially when the percussion kicks in)!  The thing that makes this album so interesting is that it is a totally unique sound… you (definitely) won’t hear Gwendolyn’s style anywhere else – tasty and timely jazz, for sure.  That originality is best reflected (for me, anyway) in my personal favorite of the seven long tracks offered up for your listening pleasure, the wonderfully illuminating “The Beacon Shines Bright“!  I give this most intriguing release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on Gwendolyn’s website.           Rotcod Zzaj

Parker Abbott Trio – ELEVATION:  It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an album with a keyboard duo, but Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott do very nicely on their joint keyboard effort, with Mark Segger doing a fine job on drums as well!  On lively cuts like “Octopus“, you’ll think you’re right in the middle of a jazz Hurdy-Gurdy, no ’bout-a-doubt-it… much FUN!  What’s sonically most noticeable is that the trio have a really diverse palette of genres, and aren’t afraid to use it for the listener’s benefit… in other words, they don’t get “stuck” in playing only tunes that “fit” into a particular mold.  One of the best examples of that diversity is the lively & peppy “Apartment“, which has some really nice juxtapositions between the keyboards… I really dug their energy on this piece.  You get over ten songs to groove on (eleven, to be exact), and my personal favorite is the mighty mellow “Disclosure“… I can’t exactly put words to why this one struck me so heavily, except to say that they weave lots of varied rhythms into a piece that is both lively and sonically creative.  A very enjoyable set that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Parker-Abbott website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Nick Fraser – STARER:  Note of caution… if you are a “regular” jazz listener, prepare yourself for a new experience (of course, if you were “regular”, you probably wouldn’t be reading our magazine, right?).  Nick’s drums are joined by tenor and soprano sax from Tony Malaby, cello by Andrew Downing and double bass from Rob Clutton in a sonic excursion your ears will remember for a long time to come! Their music is firmly rooted in the jazz I was first introduced to way back in the 1960’s (JazzKeller, Frankfurt)… as you listen to tunes like the title track, “Starer“, you will either find yourself totally attracted to their style of music, or you will recede back to your “comfort zone” (you know, old Peggy Lee and Andy Williams stuff, lol).  My only complaint about the album is that it’s only just under 37 minutes… would have been nicer to have a couple additional tunes on the CD.  My personal favorite of the seven offered up is “Jupiter (Sketch #15)“, which strongly reminds me of some of the stuff my pals in Transmuseq (Davey Williams, LaDonna Smith, Wally Shoup) used to do, but this one has more “body” in it somehow.  All in all a very edifying listen that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these old ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Find more information on Nick’s Bandcamp page for the release.       Rotcod Zzaj

Snaggle – THE LONG SLOG:  On this day of political intrigue and mudslinging, there’s nothing more refreshing than music from a band unknown (to me, at least), and this group from the land to the North of U.S. is just what I needed to hear on the day after our elections!  As you listen to pieces like the 8:19 opener, “Snaggle #7“, it will be easy to hear why I was so energized & renewed… the changes on this track alone are worth the purchase of the album… they roll from a 2-cool bassline right on into some of the “bluesiest” song material you’ll ever listen to!  I was totally smitten by the Rhodes intro from Nick MacClean on “Track 5“… the tune goes for over 7 minutes, so there’s plenty of room for each of the players to express their own take on the piece, too.  Of the ten compositions offered up for your long-term listening pleasure, it was the title track, “The Long Slog“, that got my vote for personal favorite… one of the best (and most fresh) jazz tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2016!  What’s most striking about this group is that they are continually challenging the “norm”, so what you get will be completely fresh and new.  I give this band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on the Snaggle Music site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Marcello Pellitteri – AQUARIUS WOMAN:  Though this is my first listen to drummer Marcello as a leader, I can tell you right now that your ears are (like, TOTALLY, people) in for a jazz treat on this high-energy thirteen-song release!  The opener alone, “Chasin’ the Zone“, will ramp up your energy for life & the living… I loved this track!  There are some mighty mellow moments on “Villeneuve“, with sax from Orazio Maugeri painting sonic emotions you’ll be glad you had the chance to listen to, and you will hear nothing but skill on Marcello’s drum solo on this tune.  After reading through the promo material a bit more, I realize I have listened to him before, in his capacity as a drummer for New York Voices, reviewed in issue # 131.  This new release, though, is i tribute to his daughter, Veronica, who passed away in 2014… you get to hear her (doing poetry) on the title track, “Aquarius Woman“, and it’s perfect, though short!  It was the magic mix of vocals and stellar jazz playing on “Ribbon in the Sky” that got my vote for personal favorite… very, VERY cool jazz for the true aficionado.  I give Marcello and his partners a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on Marcello’s page for the CD.      Rotcod Zzaj

Daria – STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER:  I’m not a really strong fan of “cover” albums, but Daria’s swingin’ high-talent vocals on these classics from the Fab 4 caught my ear as soon as I started spinning them… her take on “When I’m 64“, for instance, is really upbeat & timely… very cool!  I’ve no doubt that all four Beatles would be snappin’ their fingers right along to the beat on Daria’s jazzy rendition of “Cant Buy Me Love“… very nicely arranged, and you’ll hear her total talent for scat on this one, too.  Her list of players is way too long to itemize here, but I’ll tell you right now that she (definitely) picked the right artists to contribute to her vocal work.  Of the eleven tracks offered up for your nostalgia and entertainment trippin’, there was no doubt for my ears as to what my personal favorite is – Daria’s performance on “Come Together” is right-on dow-un & funky cool.  I give her a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent jazz vocal trip down mem’ry lane (that organ on this track is KILLER, folks!  Get more information about this fine jazz performer and vocalist on Daria’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Steve Heckman – LEGACY- A COLTRANE TRIBUTE:  If there ever was a time to get excited about a “sax tribute” album, Steve’s album is it!  As you listen to the high-energy & high-movement on the opener, “26-2“, you’ll hear exactly what I mean… this one will rock your jazz world, to be sure.  Grant Levin’s piano, along with bass by Eric Markowitz and drums from Smith Dobson V, also help to keep it all moving in absolutely the “right directions” for jazz listeners the world over… you’ll find this one of those “treasured” albums that you play over & over.  Steve’s original composition, “The Legacy“, will definitely have you tappin’ toes & gettin’ on up to the splendid rhythms on it… I just LOVED Grant’s keyboard work on this piece, too – true talent from each of the players on this 6:38 gem.  Of the ten tunes offered up for your long-term jazz pleasure, it was “Fifth House” that got my vote for personal favorite… & that’s probably true because Steve’s sax playing is just superb and absolutely stunning on this piece!  I give Steve & his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great release.  Get more information on Steve’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj 

Dewa Budjana – ZENTUARY:  Over the course of a year, I review a LOT of guitarists, but I can tell you right now that this is ABSOLUTELY the very best I’ve heard in 2016!  Dewa is (now) a “regular” here, and our friends at Moonjune are to be congratulated for their wisdom in adding this one to their label.  As you listen to masterpieces like the 9:18 “Solas PM“, it will be easy to hear why I love his music so deeply… of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has true jazz masters playing right alongside him, like Tony Levin and Jack DeJohnette – along with a whole host of other greats!  The short synth-wash intro on “Suniakala” will totally “wow” your ears, and carry you away into territories uninhabited by the “normals”, lol… I just loved this and hit repeat often on the player for the track; &, MAN, folks, when that guitar solo kicks in at about the 3-minute mark, you’ll have tears in your eyes, I can assure you!.  Plus, this is a double-CD, so you’ll get nearly two full hours of his high-talent composition and playing skills… and I’ve no doubt that for the jazz listeners out there, you will concur with my pick of “Uncle Jack” as the personal favorite… this piece surely soars to the outer reaches & right on THROUGH the damn wormhole!  I give Dewa & cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ’ (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this one also got the “PICK” (of the year) for “best all-original guitar-led jazz”.  Get more information on Dewa and all the other great artists at the Moonjune Records site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Azzolina, Govoni, Nussbaum, Zinno – CHANCE MEETING:  Though these four players are brand-new to my ears, they are in that “timeless” jazz mode, where every note they play will stick in your head… You’ll get to hear the refreshing chops of drummer Adam Nussbaum, bassist Dave Zinno, guitarist Jay Azzolina, and saxophonist Dino Govoni in all their splendor… tunes like the fantastic opener, “Problem Child“, will show you what true jazz talent is all about – Dino’s reed work on this tune is just killer!  If it’s back-alley gut-funk & DOW-un blues you’re yearning for, you’ll just dig right down deep into “Jimmy’s Blues” – definitely one of my favorite blues-oriented jazz tunes for this year, & this tune surely spotlights Jay’s excellence on jazz guitar.  Of the ten tunes offered up for your long-term listening pleasure, it was the down & funky “My Maia” that got my vote for personal favorite… these players are really together, whether they met by chance or not.    I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most enjoyable release.  Get more information (& purchase the album) at the Whaling City Sound page for Chance Meeting.      Rotcod Zzaj

Lupa Santiago 4teto + Ed Neumeister – UBUNTU:  This is definitely some of the most “full-bodied” jazz I’ve listened to (yet) in 2016!  Lupa’s guitar work is magic, weaving in, ’round & through a plethora of horns, percussion and keyboards to give you a most unique experience with both high energy and talent!  Despite the fact that this is his 17th release as leader/co-leader, for some reason I hadn’t heard his work before.  His music is also going to be far, FAR different from what you might expect for a Brazilian jazz master… you will hear immediately as you listen to songs like “Daphine” that this is not (at all) like the “Brazilian jazz” you’ve become accustomed to… totally solid jazz that those who are hardcore jazzers will want to get & keep in their collections.  The one drawback was that I couldn’t find sample tracks on Amazon or CD Baby… it might be a good idea to put those up before promoting it next time (it might also be worth reading my article on “Getting Your CD Ready for Release“… up to you, of course).  Here I go digressing again… the music is deep, rich and full of life, and when you listen to my personal favorite of the seven tunes offered up, the bright & lively “Trails“, you’ll realize why I’m giving Lupa a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information at Lupa’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

David W Donner – ETERNA:  David’s guitar work has something most of the others don’t… it is TRULY original… his feel, his touch and even his rhythmic sensibility is definitely unique, and I’m loving it.  One of the best examples of his ability to craft tunes that grab hold of you deep down is the 4:55 “Tribal Dance“… you’ll easily have visions of brightly burning night fires ’round windy lodges with this song, I’ll tell you.  According to his bio, he did some film work, too, and I’ve no doubt that helped to hone his majestic styling!  The incorporated sounds (like little bells & whistles) on “Rite of Passage” made it a very enjoyable listen, too.  Of the dozen songs David offers up for your aural enjoyment, I found the opener, “Avesah“, to be my personal favorite… he actually “creates” moods for you, the listener, on this one, and it’s a very transcendent piece that will elevate your spirit, and make you look at the life around you with new ears (and eyes).  I’m very impressed with the power he’s able to project, and give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this splendid work.  Get more information about this fine guitarist and his new album on David’s website.     Rotcod Zzaj

Adrienne Fenemor – BLUES JAM:  & that’s just EXACTLY what Adrienne & her players create for you here… a superb jammin’ session that sounds an awfully lot like some of my favorite ol’ Jimmy Smith albums – probably ‘coz of Adrienne’s Hammond work is KILLER – but with her own unique style!  Tunes like the rockin’ opener, “Got My Mojo Workin‘” are all the proof you’ll need to convince you that Ms. Fenemor & her cats belong on your playlists – every day & every tune!  When this lil’ band rips into “Let The Good Times Roll“, it WILL be a party… so, keep this music spinning ’round the clock – you’ll be very happy you did – this lady keeps those organ keys just JUMPIN’, folks!  This isn’t my first time reviewing her work… see issue # 163 for my previous thoughts.  One of the coolest things on this release is that Adrienne lends her significant vocal talents to most (if not all) of the songs… in fact, my personal favorite of the ten songs she offers up is her rendition of Robert Cray’s “Playin’ With My Friends“… I can tell you right now, you WILL be hearing much, MUCH more from this talented keyboardist in the months (& years) to come.  I give her another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this classic jazz/blues album.  Get more information about Adrienne and all her work at Adrienne’s discography page.        Rotcod Zzaj

 Al Conti – MYSTIC:  It’s been a bit since I last reviewed Al’s fabulous works (issue # 132, to be exact)… this exciting new release from him is assuredly the best I’ve heard from him (yet)!  Al is joined by some fabulous talents on this sonic adventure – Charlee Brooks (vocalist, David Arkenstone); Pamela Copus (Top Billboard duo 2002); Grammy Winner Ricky Kej and Award Winning Jeff Pearce – and together, they will transport you to another time – the far (and immediate) FUTURE!  As you listen to the mysterious tones and percussives on “Trance“, you may think you’re walking through a Suq (market) somewhere in ancient times.  I found the wonderful flute work on “Visions” to be totally engaging, and it’s the type of music that “haunts” your head… you’ll find yourself coming back to this one often.  Per the one-sheet notes, Al says that the music took four years for his inspiration, based on the life 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen, together, and it’s clear from pieces like my personal favorite of the nine compositions on the album, “Contemplation“, with the beautiful harp intro, that he realized his dream on this fantastic musical journey.  I give Al and all his players 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 inspiring release”!  Get more information on Al’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Kori Linae Carothers – FIRE IN THE RAINSTORM:  There are times when “just the essence” of a player is enough to inspire thousands (if not millions); the last time I reviewed Kori’s fantastic keyboard work was in issue # 95, quite sometime back, and it was on a multi-instrument album… on this recording at Will Ackerman’s studios, she’s down to the bare essentials… just the piano keyboard!  Songs like the totally calming opener,  “A Day Like No Other“, will transport the listener to the highest planes of spiritual awareness, making life as grand as it should be.  This is a “catch-up” review (my apologies for the lateness of the review, Kori), as she released this in July 2015, but her music is timeless, so it will have all the power you need for years to come.  My personal favorite of the dozen tunes offered up for your aural enjoyment is one of the shorter pieces, “The Kindly Beast“… simple, yet fully flowing with the energy that keeps us alive and inspired.  I give Kori a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this great solo piano recording, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this high-talent player at the Kori Tunes website.        Rotcod Zzaj

David Lindsay – NIGHTBOUND:  Yet another beautiful release recorded in Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studios, featuring some of the prettiest guitar work I’ve ever heard from David!  You’ll find pieces like the 4:01 “A Boy and a River” most refreshing and inspiring, I can guarantee it! You won’t find any scorching Sonny Sharrock-like riffs, but you will hear the sounds of a soul at peace, especially on tunes like the stunning title track, “Nightbound“… David’s pacing is sheer perfection, with no rushes to judgement, and plenty of open spaces/notes for the listener to fill in with their own dreams.  Even the shorter songs are fully packed with life, as you’ll hear on the 2:47 “Dreamwalk“… you’ll definitely be hitting the “replay” several times on this one.  Of the thirteen sonic adventures offered up, it is “Unspoken” that got my vote for personal favorite… highly impressive music that will inspire you to the depths of your soul.  I give David (as well as his guests, like Eugene Friesen, Tony Levin and Will Ackerman, just to name a few) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on David’s website (& of course, tell him that you read about this release here).          Rotcod Zzaj

Samer Fanek – WISHFUL THINKING:  Your dreams & wishes will come alive as you listen to this high-talent young pianist, originally from Jordan, but now residing in the U.S.  This July 2016 release proves his ability and unique playing style, especially on tunes like “Freefall“… the skillfully woven strings backing up his masterful keyboards bring a sense of hope, and as some elements of pop-rock emerge in the tune, your spirit will ascend right along with the music.  The recording on the “Ready To Go” track is totally flawless, and again makes you feel as though you are a Phoenix rising!  My advice for all thirteen songs is to listen with your headphones on at relatively high volume,  This is far more than “wishful”, it is the realization of Samer’s own dream of creating music that has (in his own words) “an enduring emotional impact”.  You will find yourself inspired to turn off that stupid TV, rise up and go forth to conquer when you listen to my personal favorite piece on the album, the dynamic and powerful “Escape“… a perfect demonstration of the influence well-played music can have on the negative forces in this ‘ol world!  I give Samer a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid debut release.  Get more information on Samer’s official website. (tell him you read about his album here, too, eh?)       Rotcod Zzaj

Lawrence Blatt – LONGITUDES & LATITUDES:  Lawrence does some highly notable guitar work here (as well as some synth), and is accompanied by a whole host of notable players as well (Will Ackerman, Jeff Haynes, Jeff Oster, Premik Russell Tubbs, Sam Bevan, Kori L Carothers, Eugene Friesen, Charlie Bisharat, Lila Sklar), and “nails” another fine musical set for your ears!  I’ve reviewed quite a bit of his playing, most recently in issue # 153, and I can tell you that he loves the music and knows how to dig down deep into your heart with it!  Songs like “A Place In Your Heart“, though short, will stick in your mind and have you repeating it on your playlist over & over again.  You get a total of fifteen musical adventures, both long and short, reflecting Lawrence’s love of world travel, with lots of variety in style and phrasing… my personal favorite is the 5:00 “Open Fields And Running Water“… his guitar on this piece is simple, yet stunning, and it will be easy for you to visualize the landscape he was (musically) painting from.  I give Lawrence a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid release.  Get more information on the Lawrence Blatt website.         Rotcod Zzaj


Larry Wilson – NO SECRETS, NO LIES:  There’s one word in the promo sheet that stands out above all the others regarding Larry’s extreme jazz drumming and composition skills – EXCITING… & that’s exactly what his high-energy, high-talent music is on the sixteen tunes he offers up for your betterment!  As you listen to the opener, “On The Move“, you’ll hear what I’m raving about, & I’ve no doubt your ears will agree with mine.  His 6:56 arrangement/rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” is jazz perfection to the ‘n’th degree… pretty, pretty.  As so often happens (for this reviewer, anyway), it was an original Wilson composition, “Blue Skin“, that made my ears stand up & salute his jazz ability… a beautiful drum/percussion intro that stands on it’s own as some of the best drum-led jazz work you’ll hear on the scene today.  Of course, with that many songs, you may find others that make you go “Wow!”… actually, the upbeat & rabble-rousing “Tuti’s Jig” came in a close second for me, too… superb energy on this piece!  I give Larry & his musical cohorts (far too many to itemize here) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that this also gets my “PICK” in this issue for “best & most fresh jazz album”!  Get more information on this astounding young player at the Larry Wilson website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Ira Hill – TOMORROW:  This young jazz vocalist (he’s only 19 as of this debut release November 2015 – my apologies to Ira for taking so long to get to this wonderful musical adventure) is definitely one to keep your ears on… his renditions of tunes like the opener, “Afro Blue“, easily stand up to some of the greatest jazz singers, like Lou Rawls & Bobby McFerrin… on the other hand, he’s got his own very unique style – one you’ll fall in love with right away!   The core players backing Ira up (pianist John Proulx, bassist Kevin Axt, and drummer Dave Tull) were a superb choice, and their energy matches Ira’s vocal exuberance, especially on tunes like the totally alive “Billie’s Bounce“… man these cats can COOK that jazz!  I’m more impressed than usual, and that takes some doing, since I listen to so much music!  You surely won’t want to procrastinate, get your copy TODAY, folks… when you hear my personal favorite track of the ten offered up, the 6:39 “Minuano“, you’ll immediately know why (despite my sometime aversion to jazz vocals – there are just so MANY of them on the scene today), it’s easy for me to declare Ira’s debut as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information about this high-talent young vocalist at Ira’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Rik Wright’s Fundamental Forces – GREEN:  Folks who visit our pages often know that Rik’s music has (truly) found a home here… I last reviewed him in issue # 152 (the RED album), where he got high marks from me, and this newest entry in the “color” series he embarked on in 2013 is even more fantastic than the others!  Playful & high-spirited tunes like the 5:07 opener, “Contradiction“, are a fine combination of jazz and creativity!  The usual suspects join Rik’s fantastic guitar work, too… James DeJoie (alto & baritone sax, clarinet, flute); Geoff Harper (bass); Greg Campbell (drums, percussion).  The keyword for all eight tunes offered up is “tasty” (sorta’ like all those green veggies you’re supposed to enjoy, eh, lol), & that was especially true for the longest tune on this release, “Harmonic Tremor“… the energy is palpable on this tune, bringing sonic soundquakes your way every day.  I give Rik & his partners in crime a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid album… the promo notes describe it as “a balance of abandon & meticulous control, which is what made this track my personal favorite.  Get more info at Rik’s Bandcamp page for this fine album.      Rotcod Zzaj

Rich Halley 5 – THE OUTLIER:  The line between composition and improvisation is very thin. It has been said that composition is simply improvisation slowed down. You would think that with so many jazz musicians today focusing on presenting their own voice that we would have a plethora of great albums. Fortunately for us there is Rich Halley and his latest release; The Outlier.  Rich Halley’s The Outlier is not just an album but a hour long sonic play in two 30 minute acts. Time flies by as the tempos and moods shift in a cohesively chaotic manner, exhibiting the raw angst of the 1960’s avant-garde movement captured in a slightly more modern vein. Upon my research I’ve discovered that Rich Halley is very accomplished as a musician with NPR’s Kevin Whitehead describing his sound as “…a big, full-throated sound that may recall prime Sonny Rollins.” not to mention other publications praises (and also making the same comparison). As great as this is, NPR and All About Jazz have it wrong! As I listened excitedly to this album and Rich’s solos I was not so much reminded of Sonny Rollins but more of an amalgamation of John Coltrane, Sam Rivers and Albert Alyer. How is it that a respected media outlet be so uneducated about a style of music that they play and promote (and even focus on)? But I digress…  from start to finish, Rich Halley’s 5; The Outlier is a total treat to listen to. From noise band improvisations to twisted yet grooving compositions reminiscent of the Avant-garde movement of the 1960’s. This album is a necessity in every modern jazz aficionado’s collection. I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with an EQ rating of 4.99/5.  Get more information on this fantastic player at Rich’s website.      Jeremy Shaskus

Jeremy Warren – I CAN DO ALL THINGS:  & if, for some reason, you didn’t believe that title, let me tell you that Jeremy’s drum work makes it come totally alive!  Eight of the ten songs offered up are originals, including one of the HOTTEST drum pieces I’ve ever heard, “Drummer’s Blues“… though the blues form is evident, it’s one of the most rousing tunes I’ve heard in 2016 – the interaction between the bass (not to mention all the other instruments) and Jeremy’s drums is KILLER!  Be sure to keep your ears & eyes peeled for more releases fro this most highly talented player, for there will surely be more to come… I’m truly impressed, and with the amount of music I listen to, that’s saying a lot, folks.  Perhaps because of the lovely piano intro, it was easy to choose “Yet Faithful” as my personal favorite on the album… of course, the full-throat vocal helped a bit, I’m sure.  Jeremy displays talent in many ways and many forms, so it’s easy to declare his debut as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, along with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – meaning he gets my “PICK” of this issue for “best drum-led jazz”!  Get more information on Jeremy’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Julphan Tilapornputt – REGARDS TO YOU II:  Julphan’s jazz guitar work is totally unique and original, with what I suspect is a rather unique perspective on jazz, since he is originally from Thailand.  The nine original pieces on this release also feature tenor sax from Joe Wagner, bass by Jeong Hwan Park, and Ken Ychicawa doing drums… tunes like the 6:51 “Song For My Uncle” will stay in your head (and on your playlist) for months (if not years) to come, too!  He says in the promo sheet that “each song casts a totally different human personality”.  The totally laid-back atmosphere created on “Up To The River” will encourage your spirit and put you in the mood to journey on.  Of the nine tunes offered up for your listening pleasure, it was the full-bodied “Bricks” that got my vote for personal favorite; in fact, this is very high on my list for “favorite tunes of the year”… that’s probably why Julphan opened the album with it, eh  – lol.  I can assure you that you will be hearing more from this fantastic player in the future.  I give Julphan and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent jazz adventure.  Get more information on Julphan’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Jan Kus Quartet – FAITH:  Jan’s beautiful tenor & alto sax work is among the best on the scene today, no doubt… he’s based in NYC now, though he started music at the young age of 5 in his native Slovenia… he’s joined on this all-original epic recording by Sean Fitzpatrick (piano, Rhodes), Dan Martinez (double bass), and Joel Mateo (drums), as well as a whole host of guest artists… pieces like the 8:47 “Emptiness” will convince you that you are listening to one of the hottest rising stars in the jazz world today (though the title makes it seem that it will be droll, you’ll hear right away that LIFE is what this song’s all about)… & Sean’s Rhodes on this one is KILLER!  If it’s ultra-high energy you are listening for, be sure to scope out “Rhythm A Ning“… the instruments are truly talking with one another here.  Of the thirteen songs offered up, it is the 8:07 “Strength” that gets my vote for personal favorite… talk about evoking some emotional responses!  I give Jan, his players and his guests a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this outstanding release.  Get more information on this outstanding young player at Jan’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Antonio Adolfo – TEMA:  As I’ve so often said here, I consider myself to be among a privileged few who get to hear the music of “now” – every day, all day if I choose.  What makes Antonio’s jazzy piano/composition work so notable on this release is that he has re-arranged and revamped several of his earliest originals, and that’s especially evident in the kind of coolness expressed on the high-energy “SamboJazz“, truly one of the liveliest Brazilian jazz tunes I’ve listened to in 2016 (this was actually released in 2015, so I’ve really been listening to it since then).  I fell in love immediately with the wonderful percussion intro to “Natureza“, and the beautiful changes Antonio and his players take you through on this song.  What you are actually hearing is 50 years of musical expertise laid over tunes that were written in Antonio’s earliest years… I was especially impressed with the 6:09 “Trem da Serra“… it takes you through a whole lot of beautiful emotions and will certainly bring back fond memories of train rides into jazz oblivion… in fact, I chose his as my personal favorite of the ten grand sonic adventures offered up on this CD.  I give Antonio and his friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great album.  Get more information about this great artist at Antonio’s website.      Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Weinstein – IN JERUSALEM:  Mark’s flute work is the perfect music to wake up to on an overcast Pacific NW morning… he’s joined by Steve Peskoff on guitar, Gilad Abro on bass, Haim Peskoff on druims and Gilad Dobrecky doing percussion in an eight-song session that will definitely stand out in your memory, and repeat often in your playlists!  This is a “catch-up” review, as he released this back in June of 2015, but tunes like the 7:26 opener, “Berditchever Nigun” (a teaching song, if Wikipedia is correct), are timeless (as is most great jazz composition) – I just LOVED the percussion on this one!  The mellowness of “Mizmor L David” is a substantial piece, as well.  Though very short, “Ozidanie” evokes a whole range of emotions for the listener (this one, anyway).  It was the laid-back pacing and ever-changing sonic landscape of “Adayin Chashoock” that made it my personal choice for favorite… as I said, perfect music to wake up to and start my day with.  I give Mark and his high-talent crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information on the Zoho Music page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Michelle Lordi – DRIVE:  One of the great pleasures of having done this magazine for so many years (rapidly approaching thirty now) is having the chance to hear some of the greatest players & vocalists on the jazz scene today… Michelle’s vocals are backed up solidly by Orrin Evans and Tom Lawton on piano, Larry McKenna on tenor sax, Dan Moneghan doing drums and Madison Rast’s fine bass work… her skill and talent are clearly evident on tunes like the opener, “You’re My Thrill“, a laid-back & bluesy number that keeps you coming back to listen to over & over again.   Despite the CD title, most all the songs are in that dark-cellar, late-night blues vibe, rather than pull-out-all-the-stops full-tilt ahead.  A tune that seemed a bit “shinier” than the others was “My Ideal“, though it’s still in that layback zone.  Of the ten songs offered up, it was “True Love” that got my vote for personal favorite… it’s definitely full of life and a breath of fresh air, to be sure.  I give Michelle and her partners a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96 for this totally listenable album.  Get more information at Michelle’s web page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj

John Tropea – GOTCHA’ RHYTHM RIGHT HERE:  It only took 2 bars of the title track opener, “Gotcha Rhythm Right Here Part 1” to realize that this is one of the best in my “catch-up stack”… a May 2015 release that just KICKS the jazz jams’ out.  His guitar is right at the forefront of the thirteen-song killer album, but he’s joined by a cast of players far too long to itemize here (Chris Palmaro, Steve Gadd, Keith Carlock, Shawn Pelton, Cliff Almond, Lou Marini, Leon Pendarvis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Neil Jason, Will Lee, Zev Katz, Dave Mann, Clint de Ganon, Lee Finkelstein, Larry Farrell, Tommy McDonnell and others, just to name a few)… songs like the down & funky “Chili Wa Man” will have you up & dancin’ ’round the room like a crazy man in only seconds, & the organ on this one is KILLAH’, volkz!  The key piece of advice I have on this album is – HEADPHONES! HEADPHONES! HEADPHONES; at least for the first sitting – you will want to catch every little nuance of the talent & energy going on here.  My personal favorite on the release is the absolutely superb “Hip To The Hips“… every player is ON for this track, & it falls right into the groove.  I give John & his extensive list of players/friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 for this one – meaning that it also gets a “PICK”  for “hippest jazz release in 2015”.  Get more information on John’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Ron King – TRIUMPH:  If your mind is in the mood for some all-original jazz compositions featuring trumpet/flugelhorn at the lead – this is your ticket to paradise!  All eight tunes are written by Ron, and he features a variety of styles, and pieces like “Luv Vibe” will easily have you wrapped around his finger in only a few bars!  As you can see from the CD cover, he has a whole host of very talented players performing with him, making your sonic enjoyment even fuller.  The 6:29 “Celtic Horizons” is most decidedly in a different vibe, though the jazz is still very much present, despite the title.  This is (as far as I can tell from my database) my first chance to hear his thoroughly enchanting work, but I’ve no doubt we will be hearing far more from Ron.  Tunes like my personal favorite on this release, the upbeat & snazzy “A Long Home Home” will make your ears stand right up at attention – this IS jazz – full-bodied, rich & full of a true zest for life & the living of it!  I give Ron & his bandmates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information about this truly fascinating and highly talented player at Ron’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Tom McCormick – SOUTH BEAT:  There are actually only a very few albums that I have to listen back through in order to figure out what’s got me so “hooked” on the music being played (of course, I definitely DO listen to each & every one of these releases many times)… in Tom’s case, I actually listened through the entire album before I figured it out… the mixing/mastering on these ten tracks is so tightly woven that you often don’t even realize Tom & his players have moved on… just scope out the transition between the strongly Latin-flavored “Iridescence” and the mellow “Mantra“… it’s just flawless… plus, they are McCormick originals, so all the fervor for an artists’ composition is right up front, and his tenor/soprano sax work is simple, yet amazing!  It was Tom’s tune “Feel the Spirit” that got my vote for personal favorite, though… strong beat, and some great guitar work (Leo Quintero) as well… if you’re not feeling the rhythms of your soul by the time this 6:33 masterpiece is complete, you probably just don’t HAVE any soul – sorry!  I give Tom & his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine release.  Get more information about Tom and his marvelous music at Tom’s music page.         Rotcod Zzaj

Ray Obiedo – LATIN JAZZ PROJECT, VOL. 1:  Yah, I know, that title could use some work, to be sure… BUT, I’m pleased to report that Ray’s guitar and compositions skills on this excellent release are far above average… songs like the ultimately danceable “Vera Cruz” will get your blood up & pumpin’, regardless of whether your “roots” are Latin or not.  As you can see from the credit list on the CD cover, Ray has a whole host of high-talent players joining him, and their energy levels are superb on each of the eleven tunes offered up.  It won’t take but a song or two for you to be totally captivated (as in hip-notized) with what you’re hearing, especially on pieces like the funky opener, “Picadillo” (the bass lines that open this tune up are stellar)!  As often happens on CD’s that are Latin-oriented, it was the percussion lead-in on “Cubo Azul” that made it my personal favorite of all the tunes… of course, part of it is that the tunes stretches out to 7:20, giving each player space to express themselves en toto.  I give Ray & his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine album.  Get more information at Ray’s page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj

Dave Stryker – EIGHT TRACK II:  New releases from Dave and his high-energy jazz guitar playing are always welcome, and this newest one is total enjoyment for those who grew up “back in the day” (like me).  The whole idea was to take some of the hottest tunes from yesteryears and infuse them with Dave’s (& his group’s) unique talents.  As you listen to the opener, “Harvest For The World” (Isley Brothers), you’ll quickly realize that you’ve stumbled on a pure jazz gem!  He’s joined by Steve Nelson (vibes), Jared Gold (organ) & McLenty Hunter (drums) in a truly stellar set that includes a marvelous rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man“… this is just the kind of jazz you’ll want to introduce to your kids to get them as enthused as you are about this wonderful music.  It was The Temptations down & funky “I Can’t Get Next To You” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up – the organ & vibes just flow together on this track.  I give Dave a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent guitar-led adventure into jazz that’s (above all) FUN.  Get more information about this top-of-the-line player on Dave’s page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Damian Draghici – THE AMERICAN DREAM:  Your ears (and your soul, I might add) will be both pleasantly surprised as well as astounded by Damian’s masterful playing of his pan flute on some of the greatest jazz tunes ever created.  The opener alone, Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee“, makes the purchase of this album totally worth it, plus there are a dozen more sonic treats for you to enjoy over & over again!  He was only 17 when he first heard a jazz set in Bucharest (originally from Romania), and was hooked forever.  The power of jazz is totally evident on his rendition of ‘Trane’s “Giant Steps“, and it is truly amazing how well his pan flute fits into the overall scheme of things.  Of the thirteen songs offered up, it is the simple beauty of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Modinha” that got my vote for personal favorite… vocals and superb strings enhance the arrangement/performance, but it is his pan flute that evoked the most emotional response I’ve had to a song in many years.  I give Damian and his fellow players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid jazz adventure.  You can get more information about the album, listen to samples, and purchase the CD on his CD Baby page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

C.C. – IN THE MOMENT:  C.C. (aka Cornell Carter) takes you on a retro-soul trip, to be sure!  I can’t help but think of The Temptations (who he played with back in the day), O.J.’s & a whole bunch of other groups we used to groove on back in the day as I listen to the opener, “Beautiful“; pretty easy to dance to as well!  The down-home funkiness of “My Folks“, and the beats Cornell gets going on this one will definitely have you finding a corner to shake your hips in – reminds me of “A Family Reunion”, no doubt.  You get a total of thirteen songs to snap your fingers to & reminisce about… & that’s especially true on pieces like my personal favorite on the album, the 7:32 closer, “Zoom“… he’s got brass, beats & that general soul thang DOW-un, folks on this cover of The Commodores!  I give C.C. a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at C.C.’s Bandcamp page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

The Claudia Quintet – SUPER PETITE:  John Hollenbeck’s excellent composition and drums lead this most uncategorizable grouping, with clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Matt Moran, bassist Drew Gress, and accordionist Red Wierenga joining to make it a MUST-have for any serious jazz collector!  Songs like the super-short “JFK Beagle” will not let you pigeonhole them into any convenient slot, so you need to listen to this one (as well as all the songs on the album) with your headphones on to catch all the wonderful little nuances (based on actual, real-live drug-sniffing dogs at airports, lol)!  The 5:13 “Philly‘ is much closer to traditional jazz, but totally tears apart the be-bop it was based upon – a seriously upbeat tune.  Of the ten pieces offered up for your sonic discovery and enjoyment, though, it was “Rose Colored Rhythm” that got my vote for personal favorite… this one delves deeply into the fascinating work of master Senegalese drummer/composer Doudou N’Diaye Rose, and is definitely “cutting edge” listening.  I give John & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fantastic jazz experience.  Get more information at the Bandcamp page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Marconi Union – GHOST STATIONS: An astounding trio this is, featuring founding members Richard Talbot and Jamie Crossley with keyboard player Duncan Meadows… they’ve been reviewed here before, in issue # 148, and got high marks from my ears, to be sure!  The percussion on the opener, “Sleeper“, is far, FAR from something that will make you dream, in fact, it will re-awaken your senses to the point that you will never sleep again, lol!  I didn’t realize it, but they have been performing together for (over) fourteen years – this is their ninth release… songs like the 14:21 “Abandoned/In Silence” will take you right to the edge of ghost’s territory, and have you wondering why you’ve not discovered these spooky presences previously.  It was the 10:06 closing track, “Riser“,  that got my vote for personal favorite, though… dense, thick washes and sounds that will definitely have you looking over your shoulder (all night long) – plus, there is a horn weave in there that is, quite simply, amazing!  I give this astounding trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information at the Marconi Union website.       Rotcod Zzaj

Ciro Hurtado – SELVA:  Ciro’s splendid guitar work has been reviewed here many, MANY times, most recently in issue # 148… each new album is welcomed here, but this one especially, since the songs seem to reach back to his homeland in South America (Peru, to be exact).  The recording on this one is absolutely flawless, and songs like the lively “Asi Eres Tu En Mi Corazon” are absolute proof that he hasn’t forgotten where he hails from (the addition of vocals on this tune was a stroke of pure genius, and truly helps to make the song come alive)!  The deep & strident tones on “Un Pacto de Amor” are both full-bodied and demonstrate absolute grasp of the power of his music.  The title of the album means “a tract of land covered by dense equatorial forest, especially in the Amazon basin”, and you can hear the influences of that lush landscape in tunes like my personal favorite of the thirteen offered up, “Suavecito” – it definitely shows just how cool Ciro (and his music, of course) is – of course, the great percussion on this track had something to do with it, as well!  I give Ciro a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, was well as a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – meaning that this release also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best guitar-led jazz album”.  Get more information about Ciro and his totally cool music at his web page for this release (there are also a couple of very nice videos there to check out).  Rotcod Zzaj

Anthony Nelson – SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK: Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak, one of the many variations of what someone who has dedicated themselves to the art of improvisation is constantly reminded to do, SHUT UP AND LISTEN!   However this proverb’s importance transcends just the craft of music and is one of the many lessons of life that we all must learn in order to achieve some type of inner peace, a lesson clearly learned by band leader Anthony Nelson.  In my mind, this set of recordings isn’t just one album. It’s really two or three EP’s. This being not the first time I’ve seen a scenario like this, I am left curious.  Why, as jazz musicians, do we feel obligated to produce full length albums? Why does the world need to hear/buy an hour of our music? When most of the recordings we as musicians produce are either distributed/downloaded online for free or cheap, wouldn’t it make more sense to put out shorter length records? Are our ego’s so out of whack and our heads buried so deep in a tradition of embracing technology that we lose sight of what would be more economically ideal?  Without getting to stepped up in the esoteric ponderings of production, programming, marketing and so forth I feel that if Nelson had taken a purer position of renaissance (shorter album lengths with or without analog recording) he would be able to have enough material to at least release a follow up record and allow himself to run with this group. In my humble opinion, being that this is his fourth release I thought he would be privy to this idea.  The second issue I took with this record had to do with the contrast in instrumentation. In this one album Nelson explored every possible combination that comes with a straight ahead small group in jazz history. He starts off the album as a sextet utilizing the arranging techniques of big bands. Though the instrumentation sounds thin from not having enough horn players to support his voicing, the melody still shined through and a beautiful one at that.  As the record continues one hears Nelson in a quartet, quintet and trio (bass, drums and sax) format. Though I am one for contrast it wasn’t until half way through that I forgot I was listening to an album and instead imagined myself as an ambassador to a festival listening to a well produced demo or audition tape.  It would have been more effective and clear if the record started half way through at Isaiah 40:31, a twenty second clip of a church choir in Newark NJ singing and dancing. This was a nice segue into Those that Wait. If I was to choose a hit, this would be it. On this take Nelson finally sounded at home in his improvisations.  Another standout number is the humbly titled tune I’ll be a Fool. This nice and easy medium up tempo swinger, though sounding more like a rearranged hymn, was a nice break from the RH Factor/Blakey vibe of the rest of the album. Everybody sounded excellent!  Overall I would have to give this recording a “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” with an overall EQ rating of 4.5/5  Jeremy Shaskus

Kenny Carr – EXIT MOON:  When I think of jazz I don’t normally think of thick summery grooves and wailing guitars but I must say, Kenny Carr sure knows how to get your toes tapping. If this group had a vocalist, and released 40 years ago there would be no doubt that this would be a hit record. Unfortunately we are in 2016 where popular music has more or less…”evolved”… and we don’t get the complex harmonic colors combined with the feel good vibes, unless it’s a throwback group and even then it still seems like the music is missing something. I guess that’s a continuous problem of trying to imitate a time you have not lived in; this is not the case with Kenny Carr and his blissful sounding quartet. Again, what reminds me of a killer instrumental blues or RnB group is now considered jazz? Thanks Michael Brecker (R.I.P) and Pat Metheney! But all jokes aside I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon in Seattle then by listening to this current well produced release.   Carr being the front man, he holds no prisoners as he shreds through each tune with ease. It is obvious that this is the work of a master instrumentalist. Carr has no problem showing off his mighty and very versatile chops as well as his sensitivity on quieter moments. Making each solo tastier then the last, it’s impossible to pick just one track to highlight. You just have to buy the album and these amazing musicians (though you can hear samples of each of the tracks at  Kenny’s page for this release).  Joining him on keys is the amazing Andy Hess. Like Carr, Hess holds down the accompaniment with expertise, ready to explode when it comes his time to blow. Holding down the groove down effortlessly are bass player George Laks and drummer Tony Mason. With these two the pocket is tight and the groove is fat. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that these guys are all 1st call studio musicians in LA.   I would give this a rating of “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” due to the fact the material is dated and can see the jazz elite deeming it smooth/easy listening with an EQ rating of 4.9/5.   Jeremy Shaskus

Kimberly Haynes – AWAKEN METhe promo notes describe Kimberly as a sort of “musical medicine woman”, and I think that’s a very apt description.  This is my first listen to her work, and it surely brought a new experience my way, especially on tunes like the lovely “My Heart Knows The Way“… if your heart was a bit “lost”, you’ll certainly find your way after listening to this full-bodied and high-energy tune.  Is it “New Age”?  Well, sort of, but then again, there are elements of some of the highest-flying rock divas you’ve ever listened to, so I’d call it “Healing” music.  The synth-washes on “The Dream” will thrill you, and Kimberly’s vocal is like a shining crystal lighting your way to wisdom.  Kimberly’s hope is that her songs will “bless all who hear them”, and with the rousing percussion on my personal favorite of the eleven songs offered up for your aural enjoyment, “Pathless Path“, I can offer a personal guarantee that you will find the joy and peace you’ve been seeking!  I give Kimberly and her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this splendid release.  You can get more information about Kimberly at her Music Medicine Woman site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Romain Collin – PRESS ENTER:  It’s been a while since I last reviewed Romain’s fantastic compositions and piano work (issue # 124, to be exact)… he got high marks from me there, primarily because he knows how to use his instrument (and all the rest that are playing with him on this fine album – Luques Curtis/double bass; Kendrick Scott/drums; Mino Cinelu/percussion (09); Megan Rose/vocals (01 & 08); Jean-Michel Pilc/whistles (05); Grey McMurray/guitar (04) and Laura Metcalf/cello) to project the POWER of music! As you listen to the 4:41 “Clockwork“, you will realize (right away) that I’m right about that, too… timing is everything, & every single note is right IN place.  The sense of melancholy, combined with a forward-looking outlook is palpable on “Raw, Scorches and Untethered” – quite simply, some amazing musical accomplishment on this tune.  Of the ten songs offered up for your listening pleasure, it was “The Line (Dividing Good and Evil Cuts Through the Heart of Every Human Being)” that clearly got my vote for favorite!  I give Romain and his collaborators a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this totally engaging set of performances.  Get more information on Romain’s page for this release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Landrus, Billy Hart, Lonnie Plaxico – THE DEEP BELOW:  Always pure pleasure to listen to Brian’s rich and deep tones on the baritone sax, but this time, he also performs on bass clarinet, bass flute and bass sax, doing some of the most inspired work I’ve ever heard him do (& believe me, I’ve reviewed a lot of his works).  Lonnie’s double-bass and the drums from Billy add new dimensions, to be sure, as you’ll surely realize when you listen to their wonderful rendition of “Giant Steps“… Brian’s flute on “Will She Ever Know” will hold you just as spellbound as I was for the entire piece – simple, but beautiful.  Lively pacing and crystal-clear reeds on “The Age” just add to the impression that you are beholding a sonic master (in fact, a whole trio of them)!  Of the fourteen songs offered up, though, it was the beautiful “Ancient” that got my (immediate) vote for personal favorite… short, but full of life.  Another total winner to add to your collection of Landrus albums – I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information about Brian and his projects at the Blueland Records site.        Rotcod Zzaj

Lefteris Kordis – MEDITERRANA (GODDESS OF LIGHT):  It’s not often we review jazz with a “Greek” orientation, but Lefteris’s wonderful piano work is strongly complimented by his guests for this effort – drummer Ziv Ravitz and bassist Petros Klampanis at the core, with John Lockwood joining on one song, as well as others he has included on the eight songs performed here.  The harmonica by Roni Eytan on the title track, “Mediterrana“, is totally engaging, as well as the other players, easily drawing you in/under his magical musical spell!  The wonders of life, and the joy it can bring, are easily recognized on the opening track, “In The Land Of Phrygians“… very “folky” jazz, if you will, and totally enjoyable… just love that flute work.  Your ears will quickly recognize that you are listening to a master of jazz, and of musical performance that both captivates and intrigues, especially on tunes like my personal favorite, the majestic 9:24 “Yota“… Lefteris’s piano is simply marvelous on this piece, and will make you a lover of his artistry immediately.  I give this release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on the Left Chord Music website.       Rotcod Zzaj