Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 38
Year after year, I’m amazed by the changes I (& all of us) am part of! I suppose (after all these years) that I should be less & less so… maybe I can chalk it up to always expecting the worst – so I’ll feel great when even something a little GOOD happens!
There are sites popping up all OVER the place that permit artists (not just musicians, either – if you do spoken-word, you should think about putting some poetry up) to upload their creations to the public domain. One of the best I’ve found yet is BANDDB.com, at http://www.banddb.com Oh, yeah, it’s true that ROLLING STONE has a site where you can upload .mp3 files, but after the first month, they shoved that section down so it’s really difficult to find. At the BANDDB.com site, there is virtually unlimited freedom to upload your music (& cover art), list it as you want it and present what YOU want to! They also have a great section (on each song page) where the staff can review it (sometimes they DO take a while to do that), but with the amount of traffic they’re getting, they can certainly be excused for that… & where YOU the listener can review it! A spontaneous spoken-word (song) piece I did with Ernesto Diaz-Infante recently was voted all the way up to # 2 a couple of weeks ago. Check our songs out at http://www.banddb.com/usrband.php3?artisteID=535
Net – 99MHZ AND HIGHER: This CD came to us all th’ way from Korea, my “home away from home” for the 12 years leading up to 1995. While there, I listened to many bands who were TRYIN’ to sound like “Net” does. Most of them couldn’t even hit a close third to what these guys are able to do! Some outstanding phunk-bass (Taehong Park), kick-butt drums (Zinku Zeong, which sounds more like a Chinese name to me), pretty precise keyboards (Minkook Kang) & some tasty vox by Yoonho Kim. Even though he’s often singing in Korean, you’ll UNDERSTAND his energy, if you know what I mean! That, in my experience, is pretty common for Korean people, though… whatever they do, they usually do with vigor. What makes this group stand out, however, is their clearly superior technical abilities with their instruments. I sat listening (especially on those finger-pop bass lines) for telltale slides or near misses – not a ONE! I’ve no doubt that this is a popular band in Korea – & no doubt that it can/will be VERY popular here! Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who enjoys funk-based music that is fun to listen to – OR dance to! GREAT music! No contact listed!
Inlakesh – THE GATHERING: You’ll feel you’re a part of this musical assemblage after only moments. Rob Thomas & Tanya Gerard are expert players of the digeridoo & lead a crew who are able to paint mental pictures with their intricately woven sonic magicks! I’m not hyping you there, either! This wonderfully deep trance music can only come from folks who have LIVED it! You’ll listen to cuts that will (if you concentrate) quickly have you wishing you were AROUND that tribal fire (“Fire Gathering”)… or that you ARE swimming with the whales… (“Subterranean Deep”)! The shallow listener won’t even recognize the connections between what these musicians are doing/playing and where our memories of music come from… but those who can appreciate the revolving and ever-present nature of sonic beauty will agree with me when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This musical journey is NOT for the timid or weak-minded soul. Contact through Musik International, 154 Betasso Rd., Boulder, CO 80302, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Inlakesh site at http://www.inlakesh.com Rotcod Zzaj
Baghouse – GROOVE EQUIPPED: A CD that will have you groovin’, for sure. As Jeff Rieter, who sent it in, says, it’s “not free jazz”, but represents their “interpretation of music for and of the moment”. There are moments on here when I’m reminded of the kind of pandemonium I heard on “Machine Gun” (no, not the Hendrix version, the improvisational model, with Sonny Sharrock). Others when I’m (somehow) reminded of old Curtis Mayfield albums. Deep-thump bass (Jeff Rieter) contrasts very rhythmically with James Blasingame’s electric guitars & Andrew Robison’s stellar percussion… also has guest shots by George Allison (tenor sax) & Wendell Mills (percussion). Cut 4, “Movin’” is one of my favorites, groove-based but very free & open to listener interpretation. Track 6, “138 West Glenn”, has some really nice percussive moments, too. All in all, this is th’ kinda’ funky jazz you’ll either love right away, or hate til’ death do you part. I give it a RECOMMENDED for those into a pleasant listen! Contact at 542 Godfrey Lane, Auburn, AL 36830, via e-mail to email@example.com or check out th’ WWW pages at http://baghouse.home.mindspring.com Rotcod Zzaj
Satoko Fujii – KITSUNE-BI: We have reviewed quite a bit of Fujii’s work over the last couple of years… quite simply, because it’s THERE! I mean, every time I turn around, B&K Communications has a new release from Satoko. Now, don’t take that in the wrong light… if you’re an improvised jazz fan (particularly one who plays improvised piano), you’ll fall in LOVE with her music on the first cut. This outing seems to emphasize the interactions between instruments (that’s especially true with Mark Dresser’s bass & Jim Black’s drums/percussion), but Fujii’s piano still is (& should be) the major focus. She is an EXPERT at tension/release playing, as well as composition… there are times when the highs are so frenetic you’ll wonder if she hasn’t sorta’ gone over the E-D-G-E. The “gentle spots” will have you pondering B-I-G things. A very emotional improv set that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at B&K Communications, 411A Highland Ave., Suite 353, Somerville, MA 02144, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Fires Were Shot – FORM THE HEARTH: Time to settle back and stoke up when you slide this CD in th’ tray! Acoustic guitars & (LOTS of) effects from John Wilkins & Clay Walton. This is not a “classifiable music”, no genre you can pin on it. If it were in th’ store racks, it’d probably be filed under ambient, but that doesn’t do it justice, either. Sagebrush trails & nights on peyote come to mind somehow (maybe that’s just th’ picture on the inside of the insert, though. Slow moving (tho’ not plodding), I can imagine a horse & rider who’ve (both?) gotten loaded up on loco weed & can’t find their way home. The music has a warm quality, but it doesn’t come across as “drony”, or in any fashion boring. It IS music that requires you to actually listen to it, not dime-a-dozen pop! This gets our HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, for those willing to take a relaxing aural timeout! Contact at 1502 Westmoor, Austin, TX 78723-3141, or via e-mail to email@example.com They’ve also got this CD for sale at http://www.manifoldrecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ann Clinton & Llewellyn – CRYSTALS: This is the kind of CD that you’d be likely to find highlighted on Letterman as a gag, or languishing somewhere in the bins of a used CD rack. & you’d miss true beauty! It comes with a booklet that explains much about the healing power of crystals, though I can more readily accept theories that proscribe music as the healer. Llewellyn composed this music especially with the vibrations of crystals as the focus, and it is TRULY relaxing. For anyone who can let themselves relax, or for a therapist (of any ilk) who needs something to settle the spirit, this albums is definitely RECOMMENDED by this reviewer. It is not a musical experience that those looking for high-energy jam would much appreciate. Contact at Musik International, 154 Betasso Road, Boulder, CO, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Pierre Bensusan – NICE FEELING: You won’t have to be an acoustic guitar player to fall in love with Pierre’s majick fingers – but it’ll help! This fellow & his music are testimony to the fact that (despite all the ugliness) musical vision is (in & of itself) a healing force. It’s not just technical skill I’m talking about, either. Bensusan has an intimate feel for many styles of music. So often, acoustic guitar albums wind up being strictly a “one style” affair; this ranges all the way from (the expected) flamenco to upbeat jazz (those saxophones are SWEET) to (even) borderline rock & roll! When you hear Pierre scattin’, you’ll understand that his love of music goes far beyond artform – it’s his LIFESTYLE that’s shining through the art! Joy like this can only come from one who LIVES & LOVES living! If you don’t get ANY other CD this year – GET THIS ONE! It’s a classic, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (along with the PICK of this issue for most creative acoustic set of the year). Contact at Musik International, 154 Betasso Road, Boulder, CO, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ken Pedersen – DEJA VIEWS: This CD (in from Creative Service Company) features Ken’s skillful piano compositions in a near classical mode. The pieces are improvised in a mode that Ken calls parameter improv, or structured improvisation. The results are not what you might think of for improvisation… sounds much more like chamber music to me. That’s not a bad thing, though… the pieces are all very beautiful and played with strong emotion. For some reason, it made me think I was sitting in church – a very “methodist” kinda’ feel! Those who love piano music (at any cost) will find this quite attractive… the music isn’t bad, but the spirit didn’t move me, either. It gets a thumbs-up, but no gold ring. Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org) Rotcod Zzaj
The Taliesin Orchestra (performs the music of Enya) – MAIDEN OF MYSTERIES: If you love orchestral music, the swirl of strings & violins, you’ll be enchanted with this CD for a long time to come! It’s a followup to one the orchestra released earlier (also the music of Enya), called Orinoco Flow. There aren’t a lot of folks in the improv/jazz crowd who will be highly energized about this, but they shouldn’t turn it off without giving it a listen first. There are surges of power (albeit in a slower fashion) throughout the CD that pack just as much punch as the best spontaneous stuph I’ve heard. Though this isn’t normally the style I’m greatly attracted to, either, the energy levels (and the beauty of the arrangements) are high enough to merit a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – & that goes double for those listeners with a classical background! The package came with a video… truth be told, though, the CD (especially with the headphones on) was far more impressive! Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to email@example.com) Rotcod Zzaj
Lee Johnson – TRAIL OF TEARS: An amazing (and very sad) tale of the forced movement of the Cherokee people (by the government) to Oklahoma. No matter how much you know about this historical tragedy, this music will move you! Johnson uses orchestral movements, piano, flute and the Cherokee Choir to paint the pain for you. You could place this CD in the classical category, though many would (also) classify it as “world music”. The label isn’t really important, though. Any listener who sits through all 10 compositions will be deeply moved… perhaps not to tears, but moved nonetheless! If I were trying to teach children about some of the wrong-headed moves made by our government (& other governments as well), THIS would be the way to do it! No sermons, no long-winded discussions… just play this CD! If you’re not a fan of classical crossovers, this may not be your cuppa’ java, but we give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org) Rotcod Zzaj
Freeform – CIRCLES OF LIGHT: We reviewed this vocal jazz ensemble from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington in the last issue. On this outing, the outstanding lead vocals of Carmen Bradford carry them to even greater heights. Some writers/reviewers might tend to lump this in with smooth jazz – which would be a terrible mistake! We’ll call it energy jazz & hope that conveys the difference to you! A lot of that high-powered krank comes from the group leader, Dave Cazier, but with Carmen fronting, I imagine it was much easier for him! Their rendition of Miles’ All Blues features slowscat from Carmen that will knock yer’ sockz’ off – great improvisations & energy left OVER! She really rawks out on “Some Of These Days”, too! This CD comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! It’s a KEEPER here at Zzaj Productions! Contact at 2600 N. 20th Ave., Pasco, WA 99301-3379, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Lucia Hwong – GODESS AWAKENING: I’ve been listening to a LOT of very exciting music over the last month. Ms. Hwong’s CD is a prime illustration of the excitement and energy that comes from a deeper awareness of what tomorrow will bring. The turn of each century has generally heralded some form of revolution, & her music embodies the sonic revolution that is waiting just around the corner of the millenium. It would probably be filed under new age in the store racks, abandoned to a fate no musician would want. That would be a terrible waste. While some strains of pattern, i.e., form, creep through, she’s a talented composer with an intimate knowledge (along with the other dozen musicians) for how her instruments breathe! While this is not a terribly complicated experience, it’s fully rewarding, musically and on an experiential level. These are people who are in love with music and the rich rewards it can bring! GREAT percussion throughout, gentle (& not so gentle) chants to enchant you – must be listened to with the headphones ON! Nice combinations of world music with healthy strains of phunk down under. You will be immediately captivated – and find yourself agreeing with me when I declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Just EXCELLENT! Contact at Musik International, 154 Betasso Road, Boulder, CO, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Geela – THE VEIL OF LIFE: This lady songstress from Iran blends ancient rhythms with today’s standard pop licks (and her highly qualified vocal adventures) & comes out with a very listenable experience… OTOH, it’s (just) a little bit too poppy for most in our readership, methinks. What probably will be attractive to your ears are the very sensitive integrations of piano/strings/guitars. The package was marked truly exceptional… I imagine that depends (totally) on what you compare it against. If you’re looking for totally focussed high-energy improvised music, you’ll go elsewhere. If you’re a hardcore dedicated fan of worldbeat that’s quite danceable, it surely merits a RECOMMENDED. Contact at Global Vision Records, 805 Malibu Meadows, Calabasas, CA 91302 or through Musik International at email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
David Boston – DAVID BOSTON: I thought that name was familiar… David was a weekly winner at http://www.homemademusic.com with his Pressure Drops track (which is also on this CD. Feels homemade, sounds homemade – but, th’ difference is… wotta’ L-O-N-G way we’ve come in 10 years, people! No mo’ cheez! High-quality guitar, vocals & toonz with great energy & craft! One of my fave cutz’ is Trouble Coming, with it’s spooky vox overlays. Moments when I’m reminded of th’ earliest Beatles, but only in th’ manner of style… David’s music is uniquely his, with a strictly original energy & lyrical bent. Anyone who enjoys music from th’ heart will love this. A pairing I’d (truly) enjoy hearing would be David with Dan Susnara, as they’d really compliment each other! Only crit was that th’ CD had (1 or 2) pops on it… not enough for any but th’ most attentive to worry about, though! GREAT – gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on th’ first spin! Contact at 565 Barberry Ln., Louisville, KY 40206, on his WWW site, at http://www.backroombeats.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Abby & Norm Group – THE BOOK OF NORMAN: Youthful players of jazz that will capture your ears (& heart) on the very first track. Professionally trained (& professional trainers as well), they met in New England. Norman’s guitar takes one (old phart like me, anyway) back to the heyday of masters like Montgomery, & Abby’s bass is right in th’ groove at all times. The quartet is rounded out with Bevan Manson’s energetic and tasteful piano chops and Brooke Sofferman’s crisp (yet full-bodied) drums. The guest tenor sax player (George Garzone) is well integrated & (at times) reminds me of some of the almost mystical early stuff from Getz. It’s clear from the outset that these folks are “educated” musicians, which often can be a detractor… not here, though… these compz’ clearly originate from the heart & soul! In fact, several of the original compositions give you an impression of old-fashioned jazz (th’ good kind), but without today’s too slick renditions. Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! We hope they keep sendin’ US their stuph for review! Readers of this ‘zine will ALL be better off knowing when new releases from A&N are coming out! GREAT jazz for the dedicated listener. Contact at A to Z Music, 965 Centre St., Jamaica Plains, MA 02130, via e-mail to email@example.com or on the website at http://members.aol.com/atozmusic/ Rotcod Zzaj
Dreampipe – NURSERY FRUIT HISTORY: Don’t know why, but this strange improvisation CD (with drums a bit too heavy) takes me back to the earliest listens to DimThingShine. Not hard to imagine wot kinda’ pipe these dreams wuz’ comin’ from! No doubt that it’s home-produced, & not a question that the musicians (whoever they were, Steve Zimmerman’s the only one listed) were having a grand time doing it. The guitar(s?) & drums are the better sounds… synth seems to be rovin’ ‘round in there (somewhere) too, but it didn’t have enough of a “voice” to be recognized. No liner notes, no bio… Steve said they were “extremely poor”. Taste of thrash, nothing that stands way out in the experimental zone, pretty much “basement” orientation. Good enuff, & plenty of high-energy, but not for the uninitiated! Contact at POB 1198, Hightstown, NJ 08520, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Also on the WWW at http://www.orangeentropy.com Rotcod Zzaj
Wound – OUT FOR BLOOD: CD with heavy gui-tarz that’ll have yer’ eatin’ off th’ mistresses’ plate – & it better be inna’ HURRY, slave! There are parts of this that remind me (strangely enuff) of a sped-up kinda’ Zappa (early) album… not sure why! From th’ standpoint of RAWK-in’ music that WILL get yer’ blood up, this is an excellent choice. “Isolationist”, ranting on about “Everybody leave me – the fuck alone”, kinda’ captures th’ attitude of th’ band. Then they turn right around with a sweet&neat ballad-bases thingie called “Comatose Love”. This album certainly won’t be somethin’ to attract th’ hardcore fan of improvised music, or (even) experimental ears… but if you like ta’ ROCK-ON, you’ll agree when I say it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. You’ll BE hearin’ from this band again. Contact at 8855 White Oak Ave., Northridge, CA 91325 Rotcod Zzaj
The Osgoods – ASSISTANT MANAGER: This is one RAWK-in lil’ EP/CD! Amazing that this much energy can come out of a trio. A Tucson (recently relo’ed to Hollywood) pop-rock grouping that doesn’t get “stuck” in any ruts. They may not agree with the comparisons (their choice, to be sure), but I heard strains of way-early brit-rock bands in there. The guitars are strong, but not mixed so high that they bend your head out of shape. It’s pretty fast-paced stuff that forces you to either listen, or relegate it to background (which would be a filthy shame). They wave their home-produced flag in yer’ face a bit, & let you know that this isn’t bubblegum! I particularly liked “Thinking Out Loud”. Strong musicianship throughout, this outing gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those who want a taste of the abnormal in their rockin’! Contact at 5804 Whitsett Ave., Hollywood, CA 91607 or via e-mail to ANigro1707@aol.com Rotcod Zzaj
Cheryl Gunn – THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT – Very pretty synth-centric dreamscapes painted by Cheryl. We reviewed her initial release, “Vanity of Venus” in a (much) earlier issue, quite favorably. Her simple, yet elegant, piano lines are woven through & through. Her husband Nicholas joins her with some pleasant, yet haunting, spoken lines, & there are (at least) a few tunes that hint quite strongly of the Irish in us all! Some HEAVY percz’ in those pieces. In the overall I’d say this is a FINE CD… it won’t appeal to everyone, ‘specially those in the crowd who are more oriented to improvised music! Those who love music for the beauty that comes from a heart at peace with itself will be thoroughly enchanted! There are many in the synth-composition scene… Cheryl stands out in front! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (e-mail to email@example.com) Rotcod Zzaj
The Nonchalants – DRIVE: CD in from “the artists formerly known as Kick At Heaven”. No less energy than on that release, reviewed in these pages (of course), “Live At Sun Mountain”. If anything, there’s newer & fresher talent shinin’ thru, people! This is th’ kinda’ stuph that got Dylan started on th’ road to fame… no doubt that’s where Jean Synodinos & Steve Uhler are headed, too! Jean’s vox leave nuthin’ to be desired… th’ FIRE is in there, whether it’s th’ kickin’ title track, or th’ heart-tuggin’ bloozy ballad style on “Home”. Steve’s acoustic guitars hold the same magickal attraction for your ears, too! Though I’m normally not a folk/blues fan, there are certain musicians who know what SPELL is all about… & these 2 got it in SPADES! They’re based in Austin, but you WILL see/hear ‘em in yer’ hometown! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who loves good rawk-in kick-butt music (& won’t hold their chart-toppin’ abilities against them)! Contact at Found Dog Productions, 2503 East Oltorf St., # 1831, Austin, TX 78741, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on their site at http://www.thenonchalants.com Rotcod Zzaj
Steve Rochinski – A BIRD IN THE HAND: 4 piece jazz CD release by Jardis Records. Steve’s electric jazz guitar abilities are far & above the pale. This could easily take one to dreams of bein’ “by the fireside”, or in th’ heart of a smoky nightclub somewhere. From a musical standpoint, this clearly merits a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us… those who love energetic jazz guitar will enjoy this thoroughly. The problem, however, is that the recording was somewhat on the low side. There’s nothing flawed with the music… it’s just RECORDED too low – & that’s no minor criticism. If you’re still interested (& you should be, this is really a good album), contact through B&K Communications, 411A Highland Ave., Suite 353, Somerville, MA 02144, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
J-Bird Records – SPIRIT FOR THE MILLENIUM: A very pleasant mix of easy-listening ambient/new age oriented compositions (from various composers) on this CD. “Sure Religous”, by Honeyhead is a standout that mixes tribal mystique in with the heavenly strummings & drum trax quite effectively. Saw Revenge’s “Overture” has strong bass lines and deep fuzz guitar, something you wouldn’t normally find in a new age composite. In fact, that tune is (for this reviewer) a H-I-T! This compilation is a pretty clear representation of the new directions that ambient is taking… you will NOT get bored listening to this! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us (& we will look FORWARD to more like this from J-Bird). Contact at 5 River Road, Suite 301, Wilton, CT., 06897, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on on their site at http://www.j-birdrecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
Mark Sherman – HIGH ROLLIN’: Mark’s been reviewed (2 CD’s, I believe it was) in these pages before! Kewl jazz that’s sure to hit yer’ “sweet spot”. “Kyranda” (second cut in) is compositionally the most solid, I though, reminding me at times of my friend Remus Glaude’s style. It has some really neat high-end guitar workin’ sort of in the background to complement the basslines & sax (Tim Hegarty)! Mark’s vibes shine through on nearly all the cuts… very relaxing style, clear enunciation without being overbearing. Pianowise, I thought “Wind From A Hill” was the best track. There’s really a lot of variety in these compositions, so Mark’s well able to avoid being placed in any pigeonholes! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us. Contact at 531 West 235th St., Riverdale, NY 10463, via e-mail to email@example.com or on the website at http://www.jazzcorner.com/sherman Rotcod Zzaj
Jackie King – MOON MAGIC: We received this CD from Indigo Moon Records (I mean, who else, right?), who can be found at http://www.indigomoon.com It features some wonderful high-energy (he’s got some of those fast fingers, when the tune calls for it) jazz guitar works by King, all focused on the magick of the moon. It’s a trio, with bass & drums accompanying him, but it’s clear to these ol’ earz that it was Jackie’s affinity for toonz like “Moon River”, “Moonlight in Vermont” & “Moon Rays” (a Horace Silver original) that attracted the label. There are a couple of times when the bass seems to peak a bit high in the mix, but it’s nothing to stop you from getting this is you’re looking for a relaxed & personable jazz style. I enjoyed it enough to give it a RECOMMENDED, but not to improv/out fans! Contact at Indigo Moon Records, 20 Sunnyside Avenue, Suite A 372, Mill Valley, CA 94941, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Rich Norman – BETTER THAN IT LOOKS: Well, it’s better than it sounds! This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed music from Rich. In fact, we reviewed quite a flurry of them last year (about this time, I’d say). This CD has a lot more “straight” jazz on it, & features some really nice bass work from Nils Molin. Keyboards by Casey Filson are quite notable, too. Th’ highlight of any outing with Mr. Norman, of course, is his drumwork. The trio manage to fit some nice lil’ slots in for solos, as you might expect. Though his exuberance is still plainly evident, he seems in a more “relaxed” mode on these cuts. Very, VERY enjoyable, & for those with a taste for high-end (well recorded) jazz, you’ll agree when I declare this as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (our highest rating, BTW). A really pleasant listening experience! Contact at Plain Brown Wrapper Music, PMB 252, 25 NW 23rd Place, Suite 6, Portland, OR 97210, or on his WWW site at http://www.richnorman.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Speed – DEVIANTICS: Those who enjoy improvisation will fall in love with this CD on the very first cut this quartet (Chris on tenor sax & clarinet, Cuong Vu on trumpet, Skuli Sverrisson on bass & Jim Black on drums & melodica) plays! Sverrisson’s bass was a highlight for me, probably because it seems to serve as an anchor point for several rhythm-driven pieces. ALL the players are featured, tho’, in the sense that they are clearly accomplished (& trained) musicians who understand how to communicate clearly in this language few comprehend well enough to make it come off as any more than noodling. This is some really together improv! My favorite track is Wheatstone, which has Speed’s tenor at the forefront a good part of the way through; believe it or not, comparisons could be made to some Amy Denio compositions; very “near-eastern”, tho’ at full-tilt! These are all original compositions, mostly by Chris, that will have those who live for freedom in music thirsting for more! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as in get this now! Contact at 1003 – 2323 W. 2nd Ave., Vancouver, V6K 1J4, Canada, on the WWW site at http://www.songlines.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Omara Portuondo & Chucho Valdes – DESAFIOS: Ms. Portuondo’s outstanding vocals are matched (perfectly matched, I might add) with some amazing keyboard work by Chucho Valdes. Jazz flavored with latin rhythms, & certainly influenced by the language (vocals are all in Spanish). That’s (actually) the highlight of this beautiful album, though… doesn’t matter what language it’s in when the players understand the tools for communicating! Omara says more to your heart in just one song than a whole chapter in a book could express. The other notable thing (I would think) is that age is no limiter when it comes to talent… these two are clearly not 25 (or 35, for that matter), but their energy comes through shining like crystal! Great jazz, great singing, great music! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at POB 62043, Durham, NC 27715-2043, on their pages at http://www.alula.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Big Meteor – WILD RIVER: Title track takes you on one fine ride thru th’ rawkin’ turf of David Wimble (vox & rhythm guitar) & Larry Wayne Church (lead guitar & backup vox). They’re joined by about 6 other folks to take you through several different pace changes, all th’ way from good ole’ gut-based R&R to ballads that will make ya’ cry in yer’ beer for a year! I especially liked Wild River & Wall of Ice, for their sense of abandon & outright rockin’! If you’re after free-form jazz, or space music, go elsewhere. This is music that appeals to th’ soul in many ways, not meant to be “out there”. It’s a fun listen, be just perfect for spinnin’ while cruisin’ down th’ highway! Gets a RECOMMENDED from us. Contact at POB 6043, Ottawa J, 1365 Richmond Road, Ottawa, ON K2A 0A0 Canada, or look at their pages at http://www.bigmeteor.com or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Natural Selection – SAMPLER CD: Zebra acoustic brings you (as you might expect) pieces culled from all over the world… what makes this compilation stand apart from the others is that it doesn’t only focus on one acoustic arena (like guitar), as you might think. Live strings of all sorts are featured, too… as well as some outstanding recording of vocal works from Bulgaria! The best guitar work (methinks) was by Pierre Bensusan, who has (of course) been reviewed in these pages before. As samplers go, this is above average, especially in the music provided… I’m still not a big fan of these, as I prefer to hear the whole collection of an artist’s works – BUT, I can give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, because Zebra chose such excellent pieces (& combinations of different types of music) for it! Actually, the vibrancy & life of the pieces by Bensusan in/of themselves make the buy worth it! Contact at Musik International, 154 Betasso Road, Boulder, CO, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Diane Lum – BEAUTIFUL HATE: Diane’s debut CD has a unique feel of “self-production” about it that really appeals to me! Very strong D.I.Y. orientation! There’s a very hard edge to her pop vocals/lyrics (she wrote all of them herself) that just SCREAMS survivor! “So Ugly” (first cut) is a prime example… bit of language in there that ya’ might not want yer’ 10 year old scopin’ on, but it sounds (& feels) like a pretty good description of real life. She’s accompanied by Loren P. Nikkei… credits list him as guitar, bass & keyboard. In other words, he (pretty much) does it all! Strong compositions throughout the album, some GREAT fuzz guitars (track 12, Beautiful, is the best example of that for me), good synth/keyboard work. This duo has crafted a very listenable & danceable musical experience. I’m impressed enough to give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who want music with a rawkin’ EDGE to it! Contact at 93 Farnham Drive SE, Calgary, AB T2H 1C7 Canada, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Andrew Vasquez – V3: AN AMERICAN INDIAN: Those who read this ‘zine on a regular basis know that we’ve reviewed Andrew’s wonderful music(s) before. This outing is no exception, but it’s significantly different than others we’ve listened to. Though he holds (firmly) to his musical heritage, other American forms of music (many, many, not just jazz, or rock, or C&W) are smoothly and tastefully integrated with his amazing flute & vocals. The second cut in, “Sky Runner”, is the most rock-influenced composition I’ve ever heard from him… & that’s NOT a negative comment. VERY listenable, with some FANTASTIC organ work by guest artist Jovino Santos Neto. My favorite piece, without doubt! Mr. Vasquez’ willingness to experiment with different forms & combinations in concert with his own first-rate musical heritage makes (as it did on his “Wind River” CD) music that will inspire you, even at (or perhaps because of) it’s quietest moments! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! It also gets the PICK of this issue for “best stylistically integrated” music! Contact at 208 N. 4th Street, POB 2756, Bismarck, ND 58502-2756, on the website at http://www.makoche.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ben – MARCHING: Very indie, very home-produced CD in from Orange Entropy Records. Ben Chatrer does vocal accompaniment against his piano/keyboards on pieces with titles like “Hunting”, “I Love the Pigs”, & “Barnyard Hell”. This kinda’ home-produced stuff is much fun, but doesn’t take you on any great musical journeys. Can’t recommend it very strongly unless you just can’t find ANYTHING else to listen to! Contact at POB 1198, Hightstown, NJ 08520, on the WWW pages at http://www.orangeentropy.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
The Side Project – THE HOUSE OF BURRL: Here’s another example of home produced music in from Orange Entropy. Actually some really nice guitar work; decent rock with a lil’ ballad-stuph mixed in. Still pretty tongue-in-cheek kind o’ stuph, but quite listenable. I really WOULD like to see some better credit lists on these CD jackets next time around… like, who played what instrument! This one gets a RECOMMENDED for listeners that just wanna’ hear somethin’ different! Contact at POB 1198, Hightstown, NJ 08520, on the WWW pages at http://www.orangeentropy.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – WELCOME HOME: The thing that’s odd about this heavy funk-oriented jazz CD is where it CAME from… Oklahoma! & this isn’t any weak sister imitation jazz-candy crap either… this is jazz with GUTZ! At first, I thought they had th’ bass kicked up way too high… then I finally realized – it’s that Rhodes from Brian Haas! Second cut in reminds you a LOT of early Weather Report & Zawinul influenced stuff! JFJO varies the pace often, just REFUSE ta’ let you get in any rutz! I especially enjoyed Kyle Wright’s trumpet on track 7, “Seventh Greenbelt”… really nice punch-bass lines down under the sliding trumpet/trombone combo to make you shake. There are some really pleasant/fun pieces on these all original compositions. If yer’ got ANY jazz in yer’ blood at all, this will MOVE you! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us (something pretty hard for a first listen to do)! In fact, it gets the PICK of this issue for “best phunk-jazz” CD! Contact at 288 Norfolk St., Cambridge, MA 02139, on the label site, at http://www.accuraterecords.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Sue Ann Harkey – FULCRUM: This brand-new CD release features Ms. Harkey’s talents in a brand-new light! The light of shadow & undercurrent is in th’ forefront. Not the same music I heard her do (was it really 4) years ago at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival (which was way brighter acoustic sounding guitar harmonics); but still most enchanting and full of life! I fell in love immediately with “Mind Flower”, the third cut in, building slowly from sonic weave to high jungle rhythm! This is an artist who rides the waves of change effortlessly, surfing towards forever with an ear towards the black hole that yesterday was. Sue Ann paints in sonic hues that will have you coming back to view day after day, night after night! Her vocals on “As We Speak”, in combination with Fred Chalenor’s bass, will haunt you for years! This is EXCELLENT music, full of passion and emotional shadows that is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Clearly a KEEPER! Contact at POB 22922, Seattle, WA 98122, on the web pages at http://www.seanet.com/~cactusbones/fulcrum or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
P-DUB – 4 GIRL TROUBLE: Sugarpush label keeps us supplied with some o’ that dub-rawkin’ stuph. Bass mix (trak 1) is WAY too high! Great flow, & is jus’ th’ kinda’ stuph yer’ could dance yer’ azzoff to all night… but, I’m afraid all but trak 4 don’t cut it for me. That version (nut on contact) still keeps th’ proscribed THUMP goin’ on, but th’ bass is way back, more emphasis on th’ drums/percz. Zorry, can’t recommend any of th’ trax except cut 4… itz’ really a KICK, sounds like a cross between P-Dub & a nightmare Unca’ Frank (Zappa) once had! Contact at 2312 Marshall, Lubbock, TX 79415, or via
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Native American Meditations – MITAKUYE OYASIN (WE ARE ALL RELATED): Do NOT judge this CD by it’s cover. Looks a little gaudy, very colorful, & might make you think it was a back-rack cutout. Not the case at ALL! We have reviewed a lot of Native American music in the last couple of years, & I can say without qualification, that this is one of the most interesting I’ve ever listened to. It’s sort of like a compilation of D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) tribal meditation music. No slick production techniques, this features people from the Lakota, Navajo, Oglala, Cherokee, Chumash and other Native Americans… they speak the simple words, often accompanied by a lone flute, that have been passed down for eons. This may not sound like a highly-charged musical experience, but the energy is THERE! This is a KEEPER, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! In fact, this CD should be required listening in schools throughout this country (& others). It would go a lot farther than a symposium of scientists speaking in those schools! Contact at Musik International, 154 Betasso Road, Boulder, CO, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Jeff Robinson Trio – GETTING FIXED: This CD provides some musical & spoken-word insights into the lives of those hung on smack (heroin, for the uninitiated; & if you are uninitiated, thank yer’ lucky stars). Jeff Robinson, who also plays saxophone on the album, performs the vocals… liners say he worked very closely with Marc Goldfinger (an ex-addict), whose book (Wheels Out of True) the performance was adapted from. If you’re expecting sad & down & rotten & disgusting & filthy, & all of th’ things you might associate with th’ experience of an addict, you’ll have to go down another pathway. This is more a portrait of the experience… & (having been there myself, & not just “minimally”) I know that th’ experience (at least while you’re wrapped in it) doesn’t feel drab & down… in many respects, the addict probably feels more pure LIFE than s/he ever has before! The music PERFECTLY captures many of the feelings (including the pain), exactly as they would occur! This combination of real-life stories turned to spoken-word interwoven with music that SPEAKS the language (as closely as it can – you really have to LIVE the “down” to know it) is brilliant! Braithwaite & Katz sent this in… ANY more releases you have from this trio – we WANT ‘em! Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the PICK of this issue for “best spoken-word/jazz” I’ve heard in YEARS! Contact at B&K Communications, 411A Highland Ave., Suite 353, Somerville, MA 02144, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Texas Twister Radio Records – THE GREATEST INDIE ARTISTS IN THE WORLD, VOLUME 1: Elton Houck is a DJ (& accomplished musician) who spins some mighty fine independent label music. He’s hooked up with a LOT of folks over the years, I reckon. The first volume of this series has some high-energy artists… quite a mix! All th’ way from sweet Texas-style rawkin’ blooz (Johnny Schott/Balance All Stars on cut 2 has some FINE blues guitar) to strum ballads (Tex Beaumont on cut 5, Bells of Shoreditch) to a boogie BLAST (track 9, Little Frank & The Townbeats playing Big Lorraine). If ya’ don’t like music that MOVES ya’, stay ‘way from this! Sounded so good to ME that we picked it up in the Zzaj CD catalog http://www.olywa.net/rotcod/CDS.htm
There’s a decidedly “southern” bent to many of the tracks, but don’t let that make you shy away from it! Elton has assembled a cast of players from all over the WORLD (not just Texas)! As wacked as I’ve gotten (musically & elsewise) through the years, I can tell you that music like this is what it’s all ABOUT, people! Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at POB 380567, Duncanville, TX 75138, or purchase it at the Zzaj Productions CD site, http://www.olywa.net/rotcod/CDS.htm You can also hear Elton’s radio show at his website, http://www.ticnet.com/jbvjr/twister.htm or drop him an e-mail at email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Eason – VIA SATELLITE: There’s just somethin’ ABOUT this guy! Terry’s latest CD is a rompin’, stompin’ lil’ tour through turf that’s populated with some of the most audacious “pop” songlets you’ll ever hear – & yet, it (somehow) WORKS! He seems to have a healthy respect for the “cut-up” antics of some improvisors, & has some hilarious guitar interrupts on the first track, “foot down”. Just the right balance, too… you know, if yer’ gonna’ perform a certain genre without havin’ it come across as “spoof”, you’ve gotta’ know when to back off th’ funny parts – listeners in this genre just won’t TOLERATE too many wack-o-zoid detours! There are some KICKIN’ romps here, too… almost power-pop, I’d say (last track, “Silver Wolf”… just a gem… clockz’ in at over 25 minutes, too). Now, hardcore improv purists won’t like this (at first), but it’s in that zone where it can “creep” on ya’! Only (real) crit iz’ on th’ back insert cover, Mee-ster Eason… get that PRINT up… it’s too small to read! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who likes well-crafted rock with an edge! Contact at Reticulated Records, POB 580878, Minneapolis, MN 55458-0878, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
That’s it til’ next ish, kiddeez! Keep them cardz & letterz comin!!!
I mentioned the BANDDB.com site on the front page of this issue… but I must remind you that it’s not often that an opportunity like this (one) smacks you between the ears! These folks have gone to extensive length to make sure they answer any questions & help the artist(s) on their site keep .mp3 (& Real Audio) samples in perspective. I’ve already been on several other sound file sites, & this one (without qualification) is the BEST one I’ve seen (yet). Obviously, we have several tunes up there, & greatly appreciate it when you download them… even more important, we think, is that you REVIEW the selections you’ve downloaded. It helps us know what tunes you like (& which ones you don’t care as much for). We’ll look forward to seeing you there… point your browser to http://www.banddb.com & get started TODAY! We will probably feature an interview with these folks in a future issue!
Many of you are aware that Zzaj Productions has joined forces with GAJOOB (& Bryan’s brand new launch, HOMEMADEMUSIC.com) to make it easy for tape artists to preserve their tunes! One thing you might not have thought about, though, is those old tapes that YOU have! We can turn THEM in to CD’s for you as well. Send me an e-mail to talk about prices (we’re way below “scale”) on your project!
NEW RELEASES: Zzaj Productions now has several spoken-word/poetry releases (CD’s and tapes) available. This month’s FEATURE is
“WHERE SHADOWS SPEAK”. This features poetry by Rotcod Zzaj, with beautiful (and relaxing) synthesizer backgrounds by composer/perfomer Ernesto Diaz-Infante.
You can also order “PSYCHEDELIC LANDSCAPES”, a CD collaboration on which Zzaj does a spontaneous vocal/spoken-word piece titled “IS THERE REALLLY LIFE”. This piece clocked in at the #2 position on the BANDDB.com charts (which kind of amazes me, because many of the artists there are more “rock-oriented” than this piece is. You can order via credit card (SECURE), mail-order, or (new service) FAX! Check this all out at http://www.olywa.net/rotcod/CDS.htm Please help us spread the word about these musics far&wide. We NEED your support!
NO rant this time ‘round; rather a couple of poems from our longtime friend (and supporter), Joan Payne Kincaid. Joan is one of the few poets who accepted my challenge (oh, so many moons ago) to write poems with a music-related theme… so we will let HER “state the case” with her poems, in lieu of my normal diatribe:
RETURN to Zzaj Productions MAIN page!