Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 63



Issue # 63 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples

Bluer Than Blue (Ernesto Diaz-Infante; poetry,  Zzaj; keyboards)

Continuum – (John Alkins, solo piano)

Each Speech (John M. Bennett; wacked-out poetry, Zzaj; keyboards)


INTERVIEW with ZZAJ ROTCOD – IN Dead Angel # 58 check it OUT!

Check out th’ “new” Zzaj “diary

Dalaba/Frith/Glick/Rieman/Kihlstedt – Dalaba/Frith/Glick/Rieman/Kihlstedt:    We have opportunity to listen to all manner of improvised music(s), compositions (often) as strange as they are scintillating… this particular CD is the cream of the crop!  Many albums of this nature feature players who are (constantly) rushing for the “edge of the cusp”, so to speak, with music that’s so “on”, it never leaves any “open space” for the listener to “hear” their own notes.  Not so on this excursion… each player is totally sensitive to where the others are going, and they are able to compose “on the fly” without overdoing any aspect of it.  My favorite cut on the album is track 4, “Worm Anvils”, which will definitely inspire you to think of subterranean sweatshops where worm-smithys hammer out their own shoes.  Frith’s guitar is (as you might expect) a great part of the wonderment you’ll hear, but Eric Glick’s odd use/manipulation of the Rhodes (along with all the other players, too) creates an atmosphere you have never heard before!  I (personally) have only performed with a couple of players who have the level of comfort with improvised music(s) as is expressed here… this is, without doubt, the best (recorded) improvised music I have heard this year; it (not only) gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, it is also the “PICK” of this issue for “best recorded improv” of 2003.   Contact at POB 81973, San Diego, CA 92138, via e-mail to  or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj


Eric Wallack/Greg Segal – ASLEEP OR SOMEWHERE ELSE:    More intriguing music from Eric on this great lil’ CD, along with veteran Greg Segal.   Wallack stretches out & plays a few other instruments on this outing – keyboards, flutes, reeds & even a taste of trumpet.  Greg is (still) inclined more toward strings, though ie does a little percussion & some vox.  This music will (& is) rapidly form the basis for the “new generation” of listeners… not one “tired” lick, ev’rything is “new”, in the sense of (musical) discovery, at any rate.  Having listened to & reviewed both of these artists (& even played with Eric on one album), I can guarantee your ears will be excited, perhaps even to the point of (the dreaded) involvement!  You’ll find yourself (after the 3rd or 4th listen) to (track 2), “Tape Before Dawn”, picking up your instrument (& mushroom) of choice & improvising ’til th’ sun sets!   A very relaxed feel, yet with full & great power/energy to inspire.   This CD comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who are disgusted with the boring schlock being promoted as “popular” on most stations these days.   GREAT music to educate your children with!  Contact at Phantom Airship Records, POB 82525, Portland, OR, 97282-0525, or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj


Facing East – FACING BELOVED:    You would be hard-pressed to (ever) find a melding of eastern music(s) with jazz/fusion as powerful and enchanting as you’ll hear on this CD!  Our friends at Creative Services Company (promoters) have picked a definite KEEPER here.  Too many players to itemize here (get the CD, man… it’s GOT th’ credits on it); fluid playing, & th’ players are RIGHT in th’ same ZONE!  I have listened to many albums that attempted to go where these gents travel, but NONE of them are as “together” as this.  Your ears will be enveloped in a sense of love that will (in spots) bring tears (both joy and yearning) to your eyes… perfect music for any time of the day.  Electric & bass guitars join with John Wubbenhorst’s flutes & percussives/rhythmmic vocals of an eastern persuasion that will keep you joyful & celebrating the gift of life you’ve been granted.  When they whip into their “Irish Raga”, you’ll be (simply) amazed.   I am mightily impressed, & that’s much harder to do these days…. enough so that I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as making it the “PICK” of 2003 for “best culturally integrated music”!  Contact at  or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj


Miles Donahue – STANDARDS, VOL I-IV:    What an absolutely pleasant collection… 4 CD’s worth of what would’ve been called “hip” jazz, back in th’ day (late ’60’s through early ’70’s)…. & Donahue’s wonderful reed work is only a part of the over-the-top energy.  You’ll have to “have” the spirit of jazz to appreciate what he’s done here… hours upon hours of listening pleasure (I listened to it a whole week on the way to/from work), & though they (truly) are “standards” & “traditionals”, they still have th’ “power”. There are some pieces where I hear shades of one of my favorite sax players, Stan Getz, but with more “soul”, if you will… really GREAT energy here.   Nice vocal integrations on several of the cuts, & the real key (for my ears) is that Miles’ arrangements (& playing, along with all the other players) convey pure joy & enchantement with life!  If you’re looking for something to add to your collection that you’ll never tire of, this gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact at   or via e-mail to      Rotcod Zzaj


Jack Wright & Bob Marsh – BIRDS IN THE HAND:    If you’ve never listened to our friends Jack & Bob before, you won’t realize just how much the prove the axiom ’bout “birds of a feather”… in this musical excursion, they definitely “flock together”… bending, twisting, turning… evermore into the ether they fly, turning “tradition” on it’s ear.  This is the kind of music you have to be prepared for… it is definitely not what you will hear on yer’ local AM station… which is a fantastic thing!  Wright’s reeds are subtle on this recording, tho’ (as always), challenging… th’ best word for Marsh’s cello/violin/vox playing (I think) is surreptitious, almost subliminal.   There will be sections of these pieces that sneak back into your head in places you never thought you’d hear them… church, your local cellphone store, maybe a basketball game… & when they arrive in your head, you’ll be drawn back to the album for another listen.  Classic improvisation, with nuances for ev’ry listener… gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those enchanted with new sonics.   Contact through the site at   or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj


Eric Wallack and Don Campau – WRECK A LILAC:    As you listen to the opening notes, you will think you’re around a gypsy campfire…. Eric’s guitar(s) have a very “folk” feel on the first two trax, tho’ th’ musics move into different (darker) territories by cut 3, as you might imagine from the title, “Jake Gets A Gun” (which I wouldn’t be surprised to hear was composed/designed by Don).  As the CD moves on, you will hear (even) more of the “experimental” works that Campau has been composing of late… never a dull moment for yer’ aural appendages, high talent throughout the album!  One thing I found most interesting is that each of the trax is extremely short… the longest clocks in at 3:32… & that puts the listener in a situation where they must adapt to ever-changing & evolving ideas… definitely a good thing.  For those listeners who want something new, something different, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!   Contact the artists direct at or  You can purchase via post at POB 9162, Santa Rosa, CA 95405     Rotcod Zzaj


Deanna Witkowski – WIDE OPEN WINDOW:    Cool & lazy summer afternoon… country setting, lookin’ out at cool green forests, sippin’ (or smokin’) on wotever is yer’ “juice”… with Deanna’s powerful fingers strokin’ th’ keys – you couldn’t ask for anything better, people, I’ll tell you!  This is one slick (not bad-slick, either) CD, that will have jazz fans across th’ globe rushin’ out to get THEIR copy.  Witkowski plays with firm hands, prounounced stylings, but not (at all) overbearing.  She has a wonderful group supporting her – Jonathan Paul on bass, Tom Hipskind doing drums, & some masterful tenor/soprano sax by Donny McCaslin… tight, TIGHT, folks.  As you listen to that sax on cut 2, “New August Tune” (a Witkowski original), you’ll find yourself wanting to look out that window forever… never wanna’ leave… great jazz energies that merit a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!  If you have friends who dig on jazz that sticks in your mind – recommend this to them; a keeper!  Contact through  or direct to      Rotcod Zzaj


Flesh Fair – WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?:    Bible-quotes against deep-trance-rant-techno… you have to listen to this stuph with th’ ‘phones on, & must have th’ appropriate amount of “rebellion” in that silver-bloo blood coursin’ thru yer’ veins.  Main attraction (I think) is th’ vox laid over th’ techno synth & beat stuph that runs down under it all.  To look at th’ liner/promo notes, you’d think you were gonna’ get some foam-at-th’-mouth death-metal, but it’s really a message submerged in beats that don’t necessarily take you to th’ “edge” of it all.  Somewhat like Ozzy joining up with some Floydian group(s) from th’ ’70’s.  Much weeping/wailing/gnashing of teeth in th’ under-mix, definitely be good for th’ mush’room’d among us… gets a RECOMMENDED for those listeners who just sucked down their ‘ludes & are ready to step off th’ cliff!   Contact through    or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj


Jacey Falk – FROM A PLACE WITHIN:    Definitely “groove” material here!  Jacey sounds (even looks) a bit like Lou Rawls on a few of these cuts.  Falk sings with vigor & pizazz, with a voice that (though clear & energetic) has an edge that will keep your blood moving through those tubes. Jazz with strong “church” roots – definitely a southern flavor!   Picture yourself in a dark, smoky den in uptown Manhattan, late night & after hours… now take away th’ smoke & (just) listen to those finger-snappin’, toe-tappin’ hep-katz kickin’ along while this strong voice over sax/guitar/trumpet/drums & keyboards tells you blue stories that put you (immediately) in touch with th’ joy/pain/groove that a life lived in touch with th’ spirit can (& will) bring.  This guy radiates original soul, no glitz/gloss that will captivate your ears & make you dig it!  A well-recorded CD that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz/blues fans around the world… GREAT music that will stay in yer’ collection!  Contact at      Rotcod Zzaj


Pinkeye D’Gekko – RHYTHM & WESTERN:    Muchly fun rawk album…. if yer’ dinna’ ‘ave “pinkeye” when ya’ started, ya’ will after this!   Definite rock flavor, reminds me (on th’ first cut) a bit of a late ’70’s album by a group called “Touch” (which was one of my all-time favorites).  There’s some pretty basic rhythm stuph, but it’s well enhanced by some great organ sounds!   Despite th’ title, there’s not an overemphasis on Country or Western, just good ole-fashioned rawk-’em-up toonz.  Where’d that band name come from?   Hard to tell, since th’ prime player is named Steve Richards Mahoney & even after readin’ th’ bio, it doesn’t lead me to any logical lizard conclusions.   His musical comp style is solid, tho’, & there were a couple o’ tunes that will stay in th’ “permanent” collection… “Possibly”, “Galore” & “Another Quick Store Robbery”.  Nice variety in th’ paces, highly original energy, an all-round winner that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at 1705 Doris Drive, Columbia, MO 65202-3146, or here!    Rotcod Zzaj


Natsuki Tamura Quartet – HADA HADA:    I’ve been a fan of Tamura’s horn antics for many years now, & fortunate enough to get (nearly) every release he’s done… this CD is the most energetic “out” grouping I’ve ever heard him do!  There is nothing “standard” about his trumpet leads, & he’s joined by his wife (Satoko Fujii, another favorite player for me) on SYNTH this time around.  Takayuki Kato furnishes some scorching guitar & Takaaki Masuko does drums.  Rapid bursts of trumpet punctuated by strange & alluring underpinnings from the rest of the quartet.  The synth work is a first for Fujii, & she explores dark corners of the mind with bright shades… the overall experience is sort of like listening to Sonny Sharrock, but with a HORN lead!  One thing I can tell you for sure – you have not heard music like this before.  Conservative listeners will find this more than a “challenge”… they won’t be able to handle it… you must have ears that are able to bend.  There are voices in there somewhere, little demons trying to plow new furrows into the landscapes of your brain.  This is some of the most original playing we have ever heard; it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, ‘speially for listeners who want nothing but new!     Contact at   or on the site at     Rotcod Zzaj


Kathy King & Mark Kissinger – ONE NIGHT IN ANN ARBOR:  This wonderfully psychedelic CD features Kathy King’s “stratospheric” guitar… our long-time playing partner Mark Kissinger plays behind her soaring leads as masterfully as you would expect (from him).  King rides in ranges you seldom hear these days, coaxing a beauty out of those vibrating strings that will give you a taste of how we were intended to live!  She is able to use her instrument like a voice… telling stories that are filled with wonder, love, pain and (some level of) sorrow.  The most impressive feature of the experience is (despite tempos) the relaxed & easy mood(s) it conveys, though so totally electric that it will feel like the lightning portrayed on the cover has touched your soul.  You must do this with headphones… I mean, it works fine out on the road (I listened to it 5 or 6 times through on the way to work), but to be truly transported, you will want to be totally focused on the spatial (and spacial) aspects they project.  For collectors of classic underground original music, this will be a must-have!  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears for adventurous listeners everywhere!  Contact at 347 W. State St., #4, Sharon, PA 16146    Rotcod Zzaj


Andrew Barker/Matthew Shipp/Charles Waters – APOSTOLIC POLYPHONY:    Pretty basic trio affair, but their music goes far beyond basic… if you’re looking for a “label”, something to make th’ music “fit” into a neat little category you can relate to – you’re probably not going to be the kind of listener who enjoys this music anyway.  Clear-cut & straight-ahead free jazz that doesn’t start & stop (right) where you think it’s s’posed to!  This is (actually) our first listen to Shipp’s keyboards… great chops, but somethin’ more than that, as well… once he starts playin’, he can’t stop… which made for some nice extended listens on th’ way to th’ salt mines.  His playing style is definitive, with strong touch & the ability to keep movement going (at all/any cost(s)).   Barker’s drums work smoothly to support this whole idea of motion that whirls & whirls, & Waters’ reeds express a sense of abandon not often heard (these days).   A great free jazz trio that gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ears!   Contact at POB 69044, Hampton, VA 23669, via email to or on the site at    Rotcod Zzaj


Positive Knowledge – LIVE IN NEW YORK:    You don’t get more soulful than this!  Our friends at Edgetone Records know what to publish on their label (always have)… seems to be a distinct leaning in recent releases towards music that uses poetry/scat to enhance the experience for the listener.  Ijeoma Thomas does the spoken-word/scat in “free-spirit” mode, riding the waves like th’ surfer of soul(s) that she is – most enjoyable for those who understand the intimate twining that can (and should) occur when wedded with well-played jazz licks.   Oluyemi Thomas’ reed & wind performances are totally complimented by drums from Michael Wimberly & bass by Wilber Morris.  This was a live recording at New York’s “VISION FESTIVAL”… crystal clear, it caught ev’ry little nuance of the quartet’s gig, & will inspire any listener who is open to the possibilities that spirited performance can bring.  What you hear from the audience (stone silence, except between pieces) tells you what you need to know… this kind of rapt attention doesn’t (even) happen unless the players are able to captivate audience imagination!  A great jazz & poetry outing that gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating… it’s a classic that you’ll have to have!  Contact at Edgetone, c/o Gert Rude Music, POB 2281, El Cerrito, CA 94530, on the website at  or via email to  Rotcod Zzaj


Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Apt. 0258, Jeff Sipe – TEMPORAL ANALOGUES OF PARADISE:  If you think you’ve “heard it all” before, you’d better give this release (when it comes out – mine is a pre-release review copy) as soon as you can get yer’ digitz on it!  As regular readers  know, I am very much a fan of Hellborg’s fantastic bass work, & have reviewed a pretty fair amount of his CD’s.   There are only 2 cuts on this album, both clocking in at around 30 minutes, titled (logically enough), 1st & 2nd Movements.  It is the 1st movement that I find myself most aurally attracted to… for some reason (maybe Sipe’s drums, not sure), there are shades of “Eat A Peach”, if you substitute Lane’s guitar for Allman’s keyboards; anyway you listen, though, this is some of the most kick-ass bass-driven rock you will ever listen to!  Th’ trio is zoned in, communicating (musically) with each other as tho’ they were digitally hooked up to each other… never a missed beat, high energy from th’ opening bar to th’ last snatch.   Jonas is constantly down under with bass lines that go through th’ normal “popping” all th’ way to slide/echo range, literally driving th’ train, but the players constantly evolve from each other, forming creative and “new” ideas for each other (and certainly for th’ listener).  If your ears are craving creative sounds, this IS the album to turn ’em on… gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, for listeners who know good energy when they hear it!     Contact  at City Hall Records, 101 Glacier Point, Suite C, San Rafael, CA 94901, or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj


Serah – LATE HARVEST:   Another nice CD in from Serah… your ears will have to be in th’ mood for a bit of “adult contemporary” (not somethin’ these ears are terribly used to anymore)… what salvages this musical experience from th’ “new age” lump/label is her incorporation of African/world backing vocals & other nice little twists on standards like “Stand By Me”, among others.  Serah’s voice conveys the spirit of love needed ’round the world today, & has enough conviction/energy behind it to make it meaningful.  Maybe it’s a sign of “gettin’ old”, or “mellowin’ too much”, but I like this CD… for ears that aren’t interested in “out”, & want something quite pleasant to listen to, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!   Contact through her site at     Rotcod Zzaj


Virginia Mayhew – PHANTOMS:    It’s been quite some time since we reviewed Virginia’s reeds… she shows just as much (if not more) power now as she did on “Nini Green”.  She seems to be in a more “compositional” mood on this set, but that doesn’t diminish th’ power she composes/plays with… she gives a lot more space to the brass (Ingrid Jensen) on this outing, too.  Forceful bass lines are in evidence (Harvie S) & drums (Allison Miller) that speak volumes, as well.  If there are any ghosts on th’ album, they’re in Harvie’s bass, methinks… a definite presence, but in mysterious tones.   This is th’ kinda’ jazz you listen to on th’ commute home… gives you th’ sense that yer’ OWN th’ road, & alla’ those other commutin’ plooks best be movin’ on over…   heh! heh!  This one won’t be for fans of “smooth jazz” (which is a good thing), but it isn’t xactly “out jazz”, either.  Best listened to out of “quiet” mode, headphones even better!  Due to hit the stores on June 24th, 2003,  this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears!  Contact and/or purchase at      Rotcod Zzaj


Kat Terran – LION & BLUE:    I’m reminded (somehow) of my earliest listens to Janis Ian as I listen to this great folk/rock-oriented CD from Ms. Terran.  Great & vibrant guitar works (of course), & far, far more.   Her lyrics & delivery have a haunting quality about them that will make you think thrice as you wander in/around & through the massive acoustic/electric strings that surround the words.  Like any good songwriter, she is able to paint pictures (with her words) that your ears can see (though often the images will elude you until the second listen… in other words, something new each time you listen).  The arrangements are beautiful, & feature near-orchestral sounds – far more than (just) a coupla’ guitars strummin’…. your ears are in for a treat!  Kat’s voice is strong, but not annoying… sort of a “gentle yet strong” quality that conveys a degree of energy I find highly attractive as intro to the exciting challenges that await us as we progress into the 21st!  This gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Contact at Little Roar Records, POB 31253, Seattle, WA 98103, via e-mail to or on Kat’s pages at    Rotcod Zzaj


Jack Wright/Nick Sondy/Grant Strombeck – CLOSE FIT:    There couldn’t have been a better title for this fantastic improv CD!   You’ll have to be a fan of improvised jazz, I s’pose, ‘coz “smooth jazz” listening style ain’t gonna’ cut it here!  This is the best recording I’ve ever heard of Wright’s work – & believe you me, I’ve heard a LOT of his music(s).   Th’ new element (for my ears, anyway) is Sondy’s bass & electronic work… just superb in creating that “fit” alluded to in th’ title.  That’s not (in the least) to disparage the percussion work by Strombeck, which is precise & exciting all ’round.  & then, there’s JACK, people… whoever recorded this grand outing captured th’ sonics as well as th’ spirit of freedom that Wright’s playing (on both reeds and keyboards) conveys most clearly.  Lots of lil’ bells, clanking things & subtle electronic scratching keeps your ears on edge, but it is really the (almost psychic) radar of the players that will make this an improv collector’s gem!  A definite keeper that gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best electro-improv of 2003”!   Contact at or via e-mail to        Rotcod Zzaj