Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 65
Issue # 65 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)
Check out th’ “new” Zzaj “diary“
Harlan Mark Vale – IMPROVISATIONS: It’s been quite some (many) months since I have had the time to sit down & focus enough on an album to write a review… & what a joy to have picked up (one of) Mark’s most recent efforts! He actually recorded these tracks for a collab with another improviser.. & when the second party listened to the tracks, he felt like they were “in/of” themselves already… I have to agree. This is some of the very best work I’ve ever heard Vale do, particularly the keyboard improvs… clear, succinct & with an infusion of spirit that will catch your ears immediately. H.M.V. has always had a flair for the unanticipated (I mean, what is good improv, anyway?), but he outdoes himself on track 2, “”Shoji Screen”… very eastern flavor, expressing a calm that can only come from a player who has delved deeply enough to grok their place in th’ universal schema. “Reverie At Twilight” is a synth piece that captures the whole scenario of awakening, more beautifully than you might imagine… simple, yet majestic! One of the reasons why I find “IMPROVISATIONS” so attractive is because it’s, well, really improvised… no “standard licks”, just straight-ahead layin’ it dow-un! Very diggable. This is one of the sweetest musical experiences you’ll have in ’04… We give it a (definite) MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! GET IT, by visiting Kramtones’ catalog, or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Greg Segal – AN AWARENESS OF FRAMEWORKS: If you didn’t have such an awareness before you spun this CD – you’ll either turn it off after th’ first (short) cut, or you’ll be totally aware when you wrap up. An amazing excursion (23 tracks) into rockin’ opera that opens th’ covers of Pandora’s (proverbial) box, & will worm it’s way into your mind so firmly that you’ll (still) have snatches of it coursin’ through yer’ veins 20 years from now. This is not “simple rock”, or mindless dabbling; there is substance here, & (as th’ title suggests), building blocks for you to expand upon… to th’ degree that you’ll (either) meet your nitemares “head on”, or come out on th’ other side of th’ wormhole sorta’ “dented”. Obviously, with such music, you must avoid the temptation to categorize it… it must be approached with an open mind – so it can open your mind! Reserve some time before you pop this in th’ player, & I would (definitely) advocate using the headphones, so you can feel th’ totality of Segal’s vision! This ’round gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer, as it will from all listeners who want more than pattern! This is a GREAT CD. Contact via Greg’s PAGES, , or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Reed Dickinson – RUBY: I promised Reed (a coupla’ months ago) that I’d get this full CD reviewed before trekkin’ all over th’ world. Though my schedule’s been krammed, that’s not the only reason it hadn’t been reviewed yet. Once I put it in th’ CD player in th’ truck, I couldn’t take it out! He described it as “primarily a rock album”, & that fits it pretty aptly. The first track, “Ice On A River” is one of my favorites, & a large part of why th’ album stayed in my truck so long. There’s a lot of energy & talent displayed here, & though it’s not (by any stretch) an “improv” album, it has a relentless punch & enough driving rhythms to salvage it from any “bugglebum” categorization. College listeners will dig it, verzure, & even some of us old cats will find ourselves skippin’ back to toons (like th’ title track) that remind us of long-lost teenage loves. Dickinson’s vocals are clear & “up”, & he has a supporting cast of musicians that know xactly what he wants to convey. A cool lil’ album that makes for great cruising on down th’ road – gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something to groove to. Check it out at his WEB PAGE, or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Nathan Hubbard – SKELETON KEY ORCHESTRA: We reviewed some of Nathan’s crisp & tasty jazz/improv drum works (last summer, I believe), but he’s outdone himself with this double CD (from Circumvention Music). This is some of the most inspired improvisation I’ve ever heard (& as regular readers know, I’ve heard, & played, a LOT of improvised music). One of the most attractive features of th’ music(s) on Nathan’s CD’s is that the pieces are sort of “split”… a rhythm/pattern will kick off, & you’ll go groovin’ along, only to find that it is “interrupted” by (what you think is) a totally different piece… but when you check th’ tracking, it’s still on th’ track it started from. What’s cool about this is that after the 3rd or 4th listening, you “catch on”, & realize that the second (or third or fourth) part(s) belonged together. One of the things I really, REALLY dug on this outing was the poetry pieces woven in… the tracks are really LONG (one of them clocks in at over 36 minutes), too, so in order to totally experience th’ sonic picture they’re painting for your ears, you must reserve a couple of hours. Don’t expect to (be able to) absorb this one “on the fly”. This is (actually) the first “big band improv” album I’ve reviewed this year – but the levels of creativity & talent displayed already make it the PICK of ’04 for “best improvised band”! Definitely MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Contact via the web link above, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Clay Chaplin – SATELLITE STUTTER: It has been a few years since I’ve reviewed work(s) by Clay. I believe it was back in th’ early days of the Olympia Experimental Music Festival that I first reviewed him. At any rate, th’ title pretty much tells all… synth/sample structured improv that will (both) annoy & amaze you! This is NOT music for the timid, or uninitiated… don’t be expecting “sweet nothings”, or “grand orchestrals”. OTOH, if your ears have a sense of adventure, you’ll find this excursion into pandemonium most enjoyable. It reminds me (in spots) of some of th’ late-night adventures we used to have in grape-growing country (North East, PA), with the shortwave radio… fading in/out/between stations & makin’ our OWN forms of music. Many of the movements/rhythms are in a robotic vein (like a vacuum cleaner gone NUTZ), with little relationship to melody or harmony, but if you listen deeply, you’ll find a strange set of harmonics that you’ve never heard before. I enjoyed this one a lot – it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those listeners who aren’t afraid of a sonic challenge. Contact him via his SITE, or via snail to the label, at Artifact Recordings, 1374 Francisco Street, Berkeley, CA 94702 Rotcod Zzaj
Christmas Jug Band – UNCORKED: They musta’ pulled th’ whole stopper outta’ that bottle a’ J.D. when they were writin’ th’ music for this CD…. it opens with a rollicking rendition of “Santa Lost A Ho” (yah’, it’s just about what you think it is), a trak I really dug on… but, it’s “Boogie Woogie Santa” that yer’ friendly editor hadda’ put on repeat! They even include th’ animals, with “Lonesome Reindeer Blues”. There’s actually some great woogie&blooz on th’ CD, that will have you AND Santa dancin’ by th’ chimbley all nite long. They included “Silent Night” on there for sentiment, I reckon, but kept it pretty “regular”… as opposed to “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”, or th’ rawkin’ “Santa, You Got What It Takes”. A nice little package of highly original C-mas juke jumpin’. This gets a definite HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want a lil’ fun in their holiday season. Contact at Globe Records, POB 5523, Mill Valley, CA 94942, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on the site at www.globerecords.com Rotcod Zzaj.
Jeff Song & Lowbrow – THE OTHER POCKET: Jeff’s music has been reviewed a great deal in our pages… mostly because he’s a superb jazz/improv musician. “The Other Pocket” is actually an older set of works, circa 1997, which he had sent to me for review in another package (some time ago). I probably received it in about 1999 or 2000, & though I’ve listened to it several times since it was received, just never quite got ’round to listening close enough to do a review. Well, that was my loss, & it will be yours (as well), if you don’t pick this album up. In addition to Jeff’s fantastic bass work, there are four other players in Lowbrow, including one of our favorites, cellist (and piano player) Matt Turner. They play intensely, but with a much calmer approach than you might imagine for an improv quintet. The inter-play between Jeff’s bass & John Mettam’s percussives on “Can’t Not Hide” is intricate & detailed – I enjoyed that track most, actually. Michael Gentile’s flute mastery is totally evident on “Suite & Sour”. There are (definitely) “new sides” (for us, at least) to Matt Turner’s keyboard work on “Requiem for a Ragamuffin”, which reminds me a lot of some of the great music that Jeffrey Morgan & Bert Wilson recorded (just) a couple of years ago in Olympia. Th’ title track is another favorite for me, distinctly “off-beat”, but firmly rooted in rhythms that are enchanting. All in all, this fine improvised CD gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us. Contact via his SITE, or via e-mail to Jsong@genetics.com Rotcod Zzaj
Riot Act – MANIACAL DISASTROPHE TOUR: This band is one of the earlier incarnations of our rock-tastic friend Rick Ray & his pals. Th’ material on here is somehow “rawer” than what I’ve heard him do on his releases under the name “The Rick Ray Band”. Definitely power in th’ rock here, as on all th’ (many) albums we’ve reviewed with Mr. Ray on ’em over th’ last 3 or 4 years. Even if you’re a hard-core improv fanatic, you’ll find some heavy energy here; oh, yeah, yer’ right, it IS rockin’, & it’s not “formless”… but I like to get my BLOOD UP ev’ry once-in-a-while, & THIS is th’ MUSIC to do THAT with! If you don’t ZOOM on Rick’s guitar on track 3, “Bonnie The Clyde” – there’s somethin’ WRONG with yer’ ears! Though I know (from listening to hours of it) that Rick has a message in his music – this is VERY danceable, too. If yer’ ears are hungry for a bit of REAL RAWK – get DOW-un on this trip. Gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants to FEEL those strings! Contact at
Convergence – MODERN MAN: A great little jazz CD that features a sextet some may have not heard before…. but you’ll want to continue hearing them. Heavy on the horns (trumpet by Greg Gisbert, sax/flutes by John Gunther & ‘bone by Mark Patterson, who is the most recent member), & joined by Eric Gunnison on keys, Mark Simon on bass & Paul Romaine on drums, they kick out some special originals. Tasty little morsels that your ears will munch on for years to come… the title cut is “groove personified”, tho’ “Five Years Ago” is my favorite trak (with “Tynerisms” coming in a close second). You can’t “classify” this as improv, but you certainly can’t lump it in with “standard” jazz, either… I’d just call it “focused energy”, I think. If you’re looking for something that will carry you on down th’ road, this will FILL the BILL! I enjoyed it (over & over & over) on my way to/fro & about town. Definitely a “keeper”, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of “non-smooth” everywhere. Contact at Capri Records, POB 892, Bailey, CO 80421-0892, or through their site at www.caprirecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
Eric Zibbel/Eric Wallack – GOOD NIGHT, EFFENDI: As many of you know by now, I’m a big fan of Eric’s music – but he absolutely SHINES on this outing. This CD provides a glimpse into a world (of music & improvisation) that few know about, & many wish to emulate (but can’t, because they’re “hung” on “getting it right”… experience in the improv arena, as well as to the listening of such music(s) tells me that you don’t “get” it right… it just is right – or it isn’t). The two Erics here lay down easy-sounding melodies that capture your ears & won’t let go. They play music that could be “classified” as “ambient”, but the guitar(s), synths, Chapman Stick & percussives have “down under” currents that draw your ears like a whirlpool… the most impressive track (& I’m sure they both knew it would be that way for my ears) along these lines was track 5, “Clockwork”; the organ on that tune is splendid! I’ve played this (in my truck) on the way to work for nearly 2 weeks now, & can tell you that it creates an atmosphere so sultry & relaxing that you almost forget you’re driving (not a good thang). So, listen to it with the headphones on, at home, where you won’t get pulled over for D.W.A. (driving while ambient). Great music, great spirit, great improv – gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at IMCR Records ,www.angelfire.com/indie/ericwallack/Eric_s_Homepage_1.htm or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Burgess Shale – IT’S NEVER ENOUGH, IS IT: Having been (both) an improvisor & an explosives/munitions officer for many years, I can tell you from experience that music CAN be like nitroglycerine… this CD, while not (at all) an improv extravaganza, is about as volatile as you’ll hear today. Vocals surround your ears like buzzing B-52’s, with solid rockin’ goin’ on behind, under, around & throughout. 17 tracks that will challenge your ears beyond belief…cut 4, “Lucky Punk” is a peek at th’ sonic majesties this lil’ band can achieve (guitars, I’m talkin’ about), but it’s track 6 (“Living In Ultrasound”) that kickz’ those GIT-arz into overdrive. The vocals are thought-provoking, close to what used to be called “psychedelic, man”. No matter what your preference in genre, you’ll find something that ignites your ordnance here. Th’ whole experience is a bit like a 21st Century “Mommas & Pappas” on steroids, with the orchestrals/arrangements you might have heard on “Freakout” from Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. Absolutely fresh & with the total motive of (either) destroying your mind or enlightening it, “It’s Never Enough, Is It” merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating in the immediate! GREAT music, folks! Contact at Space 380 Music Promotion, 1705 Doris Dr., Columbia, MO 65202 (my Alma Mater), via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on their site, at www.space380.com Rotcod Zzaj
Connie Evingson – LET IT BE JAZZ: I’m not usually a big fan of “cover” music… ‘specially when it’s The Beatles music that’s bein’ covered. Well, I’ll have to eat that opinion on Connie’s work…. this is one of the BEST albums I’ve heard this year (hits the streets/racks on September 2nd)! She has a real “way” with jazz vox, & (along with a ton of players), breathes total life into tunes from th’ fabz’ that I hadn’t listened to in quite some many years. This is one of those CD’s that just has to stay in th’ car rack! Her rendition of “Blackbird” (the opener, with some fantastic electric sitar by Dean Magraw), is truly inspired, & got my ears fired UP! Super energies, & her vocals seem to drive th’ band players to new heights – like an energy “spiral”, if you will. Her take on “Fixing A Hole” is true magic, & you’ll “hear” the words in a “new light”, methinks. Th’ Rhodes work on “I’m Looking Through You” (Mary Louise Knutson) is slick, & there is a real horn groove, too. The overall experience is a beautiful blend of jazz & rockin’ arrangements that will make “Let It Be Jazz” reside in yer’ “keeper” stak for years & years to come. This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, for listeners of all persuasions! Contact at www.connieevingson.com or via e-mail to CEvingson@connieevingson.com Rotcod Zzaj
The Rick Ray Band – OUT OF THE MIST OF OBSCURITY: I’ve been (highly) impressed with th’ churning rock that Rick’s band slams out ever since first contact. There’s nuthin’ disappointing on this round, either… PERFECT road music, with Ray’s high energy guitar wailin’ & his gravel-throat vox (somehow reminding me, at times, of Greg Allman) ranting his message out. If you “grew up” during th’ ’60’s (like I did), you’ll find many moments that remind you of bands you heard during those years… but they keep th’ energy going, no false starts, no drab moments. Rick’s ability to ride/soar along the scales is (by not) legendary to his fans, I imagine, & if you haven’t partaken yet, you owe yer’ ears th’ treat. This one stays in th’ truck CD rack… play it all th’ time… a definite keeper for fans of high voltage ‘lectricized rock vocals/instrumentals. There’s nothin’ “obscure” here, tho’ I’d imagine th’ “big companies” (those who sue consumers for downloading their trip) would prefer that Ray & company stay obscure. This album gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without doubt! Contact him on his site via email to email@example.com or snail to Neurosis Records, 20301 Ball Ave. Euclid, OH 44123!! & do it TODAY!!!! Rotcod Zzaj
Satoko Fujii Orchestra East – BEFORE THE DAWN: We are excited to listen to the latest antics from Ms. Fujii… totally unfettered energy, reminding me somewhat of Japanese opera… heh! heh! …but, like no aria YOU have ever heard before. We first reviewed her “east” orchestra (from Japan, of course) in issue # 43. This outing displays a high level of maturity for their “big band” improvised sound. Actually, there is a strange mix of big band, with fabulous bass underpinnings by Toshiki Nagata. 15 Japanese improvisors are featured, far too many to itemize here… let me just say that they “rival” some of the best reed or horn artists we’ve heard, whether from Europe or the U.S. Satoko is a master composer, who totally understands the dynamics (to include both calm and tornado-like) of free-style, & leaves (all kinds of) room for each and every player, without sacrificing any of the qualities of the group. Sort of a “cosmic” improv session… with elements of the “comic” thrown in…. these folks have (LOTS OF) fun, & aren’t hiding behind any demure postures… this is KICKIN’ play, th’ kinda’ stuff that will wake all those jazz giants who’ve moved on to th’ big “jazz tomb” inna’ sky. Just to be sure you understand, though… if you think “big band” means “Glenn Miller”, or even “Lawrence Welk” – yer’ in for a rude awakening; this is no-holds-barred music that requires listener involvement & focus. IF you enjoy such, you’ll agree with me – MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, without doubt! Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the site at http://www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~Libra Rotcod Zzaj
Fra Fra Sound – KULTIPLEX: Here’s a super-jazz band from Holland that weaves together elements of “world music” into a seamless & highly energetic blend that your ears won’t soon forget. I had to listen through the entire CD about 3 times to really “catch on” that th’ “spirit” is their source… elsewise, if you only listened once, you might think they were playin’ “smooth” jazz (not something to be admired, since that is like th’ “muzak” of th’ scene). This is NOT meaningless riff-stuff, however… in fact, the band name means “hybrid” or “mysterious” – & after you listen carefully through (at least) a couple of sittings, you’ll find that they have their own form of magic! The bandleader, bassist Vincent Henar, incorporates rhythms from his native Suriname with particular elegance on track 2, “Les Yeux des Tamashek”, one of my absolute favorites. I’m envious of folks on the east coast right now – ‘coz Fra Fra Sound is touring from Florida to Chicago to NYC in September & October, 2003… (when’s the “left coast” tour, Ann (I’d LOVE to do a “live review” of this band))? Seven players who’ve been performing together since 1980, & that’s a long time… this is their 8th CD, & it’s a winner! A true jewel for jazz listeners everywhere, this rates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us. A genuine “keeper”, verzure. Contact at www.frafrasound.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj..
Dan Susnara/Dan Sweigert/Dan Van Schindel/Frank Rutledge – 9 ON BALI: Long-time underground fans will recognize those names right away, in particular, our pal Dan Susnara. This debut CD is superbly crafted rock&folk that features excellent tunes… the only drawback is that there are only 4 cuts on the CD. We surely hope they will kick us th’ extended version when it’s ready. Nevertheless, there are some really rockin’ stretches on here that made perfect riding companions… the only caution would be that since Susnara tends towards such psych-oriented tunes, you’ll wanna’ be careful not to let your mind “drift” too much… his tunes have a tendency to “un-focus” your head & stir up memories that take your attention back to sweeter & better times. Some really nice harmonizing on “At His Cordial Best” (my favorite track on the album). These guys have been reviewed in our pages before, but it must’ve been in one of th’ “lost” issues… I’m quite sure it was from th’ “tape days”. Cut 3, “Who is Tripoli Adams”, had to be influenced by some kind o’ “orchestral shroom” substance, methinkz. “9 On Bali” is a nice sampling, but we really want to hear th’ full album… this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears, especially for listeners who “like a lil’ psych”! Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Eric Wallack, Bret Hart & Bob Jordan – THREE CHANNEL SWITCH: This is actually our first listen to Wallack on upright bass… he kicks some butt on these comps… & of course, long-time vets Hart & Jordan do, too. This one’s a bit hard to describe… it starts off with an announcer speaking about th’ marvels of stereo, which leads quickly into an improv bass/guitar/keyboard amalgam that simulates jazz, but isn’t. What (I though) was most striking on this title trak is how “relaxed” the interplay was… I don’t mean “lazy”, or “excruciatingly slow”… I just mean “relaxed”. To those who play improv, that will probably communicate… to folks who only listen, it probably won’t describe it well enough… you’ll just have to order/listen to the CD. It actually took us a bit of time to get ’round to reviewing this one, because it’s not one that you just toss in th’ player & ignore. You’ve gotta’ concentrate a bit; headphones are an absolute requirement to hear th’ shimmering talent displayed here. This trio plays very well together, & we hope they’ll be doin’ muchly more! If I had to categorize this, I’d put it in a “new hole”… “haunt jazz”… those basslines & their string/keyboard counterparts will come back & invade yer’ ears for years to come. This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all fans of creatively played odd-istry. Contact at www.angelfire.com/indie/ericwallack/Imcr_Records_Catalog.htm or via e-mail to any of the artists, via email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org or on Bob’s page at www.geocities.com/Hollywood/8372/bob.html Rotcod Zzaj
Larry Kucharz – UNIT 34 (assorted tracks): We have listened to and reviewed Mr. Kucharz for many years now… this is th’ first listen where “beat” is emphasized more than ambience. Fans of his will find this an invigorating & enchanting listen, though clearly different from anything they’ve (ever) heard him do before. Shades of Detroit-techno are right up there “in-yer’-face” from the opening bar… even on the cuts that follow, tho’ more oriented towards his familiar minimal textures, there is still a pulsating rhythmic structure that will take you in it’s grip & won’t let go! High-energy music that will make your soul (as well as your feet) move; raw talent is clearly displayed, & the new directions he explores make for a totally exciting & rewarding listen. Larry is a master at coaxing/painting just the “mood” he wants to express… your ears will be comfortable listening to this on (either) headphones or at full-tilt on th’ car stereo. I really, really enjoyed this CD, & rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners of all (musical) persuasions across the globe. A definite keeper! Contact via his site at the INTERNATIONAL AUDIOCHROME website, or via e-mail to Larry at email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Eric Wallack/Harlan Mark Vale – MOLTEN GLASS: IMAGES: OK, I’ll ‘fess up… I’m very (muchly) prejudiced in a positive direction on this CD, since I’ve played with both these gents – but that has nothing to do with my absolutely favorable impression of the improvisations they perform here. While Mark Vale was at my house (late in the summer), he played one of the cuts for me (that he had already added tracks to), & was about to play some of Eric’s originals… I said “Whoa.. let me hear (only) th’ MIXED tracks”. Am I ever glad I waited…. these two have the most relaxed style together, & it’s purely infectious. Delightful and delicious. The title track is the first cut, & it may make you think that the experience is going to be “slow”…. think again! By the time they move to cut 3, “The Gravity of Being”, you’ll realize you’ve been (ever so skillfully) manipulated to a mental state of improv, whereby you’re ready/willing/able to improvise ahead of the duo. It’s a spooky feeling, realizing that you’ve been cajoled into thinking that “out” is “normal”…. heh! heh! In point of fact, though, it’s one of the most skillful free-form musical experiences I’ve ever heard (& both Kram & Eric will tell you, I’ve heard a few)! This definitely gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants inspiration and improvisation in the same package. Contact at IMCR Records, www.angelfire.com/indie/ericwallack/Eric_s_Homepage_1.htm or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
The Jaz-Mobi Project – THE JAZ-MOBI PROJECT: Guitarist/composer Steve Thomas leads a whole host (like, a mob, mebbe’?) of players for this rockin’ & boppin’ CD project. The one thing that will strike you (around the 2nd or 3rd listen) is that though th’ riffs are somewhat “familiar”, Thomas & crew have arranged them so that they’re “different” than you’ve ever heard…. fused jazz blues, old-style be-boppin’ bangups & high-end percussive tunes that will make your ears soar in ways they never quite imagined before. I definitely would recommend headphones on the first listen, so you’ll be zoomed in, & totally without distraction, because this is not going to be something you can “anticipate”. The group is highly talented, but seeking new directions for their energies…. you’ll be pleasantly surprised, & (I predict) will fall in love with this album by the second go-round. This is a unique album, one you won’t soon forget, & will be proud to have in your collection. I enjoyed the music thoroughly, & it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for jazz listeners who want to taste aural treats with an aura of excitement about them. Contact at Atwood Media, POB 772, West Acton, MA 01720, on the site at www.atwoodmedia.com/ or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Robben Ford – KEEP ON RUNNING: Good Gourd-a-mightee, Gertie, there’s some great balls o’ fire flyin’ outta’ this Ford guy’s fingers…. I mean, th’ boy just BURNS! Blues-based git-fiddlin’ that just won’t QUIT, people! Road music if there ever was road music…. this cat has lived his music, I’ve no doubt, ‘coz th’ flames reach out thru his strings & touch yer’ head & heart. There are R&B standards on here, & since Robben’s played with some of th’ great stars whose tunes are covered here, it’s a tribute you won’t put in that dreaded ol’ “back stak”. “Keep On Running” (released on 7 October, 2003) is a keeper, for sure! The list of name players on th’ trax is far too long to itemize here; you’ll just have to run out & BUY th’ sucker. I’ve heard (& played with) lots of heavy riffin’ guitarists, but none have this level of smooth in their screamin’. If you dig red-hot blues that won’t fade away over time, you’ll agree when I declare this as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…. in fact, it will be going to Iraq with me (& there’s only about 20 CD’s that have that honor). Robben’s great blues playing makes this CD the “PICK” of this issue for “hottest R&B”, too! Contact Jo Foster at Concord Records, at 310-385-4218, on the site at http://www.concordrecords.com/ or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Daniels, The Kings & Friends – SPARK: Sweet, sweet country-rawk-ers that’ll GET you up offa’ yer’ feet (or at least tappin’ yer’ toes after yer’ first margarita). No improv here, this is more oriented towards “down-home” style story-tellin’, in a decidedly “rock” mode. This is perfect for when yer’ out on th’ road. You’ve heard tunes like this on yer’ favorite FM station, no doubt… but if you’ve not heard Chris before, you’ll want to get this one. Th’ mix of full horn sections with well-arranged guitars & drums makes it a unique experience that illumines their shining high-energy talent! This round is much less “blues” influenced than their “Louie Louie” CD, reviewed in issue # 36. There are moments when you’ll think “Eagles”, or “America”, ‘specially from a lyrical standpoint… but as you listen (over & over) to their hooks, you’ll find this to be a favorite album… a “classic”, if you will. The title track is a genuine winner, with lyrics that make yer’ ears sit up & pay attention! Chris & The Kings have crafted an album that definitely has th’ “fire”; rates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for listeners who dig a lil’ “twang” in their rockin’. Contact at www.chrisdaniels.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Kathy King – WELCOME TO PLANET ECHO: We reviewed a CD that Kathy had done with our long-time guitar-playin’ friend Mark Kissinger in issue # 63. This round is all Kathy, & from th’ standpoint of “space”, “Planet Echo” will take ya’ OUT THERE. Her guitar(s) are beautifully layered over home-based rhythm-traks, & will make your soul soar to heights you never thought you’d reach. I’d love to hear what she & Kissinger & Bret (as in Hart) might brew up together… this isn’t for you volkz who’re lookin’ for “poppy”, though there are moments where some “poppies” might enhance the experience. Th’ toon along those lines that I particularly dug on was “Schizophrenia”… just imagine yourself imagining… free-form, brain-shades in burnt-blue, with touches of tonal torture… heh! heh! – one of those tracks that comes back to wake you when you least expect it. There were a couple of cuts that had a bit more emphasis on drum machine that I prefer, but Kathy’s astral guitar lines on tracks like “all along bourbon street” bring th’ focus back to dreamland – where they belong. Highly enjoyable for those enchanted by guitars that just won’t QUIT (bein’ psychedelic), this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
The Mark Kleinhaut Trio (with Bobby Watson) – A BALANCE OF LIGHT: This is, without qualification, the best jazz CD I’ve heard (yet) in 2003! Mark plays guitar, & is the leader of the quartet. Watson’s alto work is a feature (as it should be – the guy is just amazing), but all 4 players are “in balance” at every note. There are lots of trade-offs for solos, all totally seamless! I must have listened through the album (at least) 10 times on the way back/forth to th’ day grind… made for some mighty pleasant rides. None of the players (Jim Lyden on bass & Les Harris on drums) are pushed to the background; they all contribute with verve & gusto. They’re able to sense each other’s movements, & never leave the listener dangling, whether on a slow bloozy number (track 2, “Long Look Back”) or a kicker (the opener, “Ferdinand and Isabelle”). Bobby’s sax is totally unique, able to evoke mental mem’ries of other players (Getz, f’r’instance) & yet tell the story his way! Most of th’ trax are fairly long (the shortest is 5:41), so there is lots of room for them to explore every nook & cranny of a composition… there are no “bad” tunes here, ev’ry one’s a winner! I just loved th’ call/response between Kleinhaut & Watson on cut 4, “South of Mason”, & th’ bass intro on cut 6, “Start It Up”, is as sweet & low as a player can get! If you don’t purchase another CD this year – get this one! It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of 2003 for “best jazz quartet”! Contact through INVISIBLE MUSIC or e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Alan Licht – A NEW YORK MINUTE: Strange sounds for strange ears, I presume. A “studio” CD, then a second disc that features “live” performances. Alan’s guitar works & found sounds are fantastic, but can only be appreciated “properly” with headphones (at least on the first outing). I tried this in th’ truck CD player on th’ way to work, & found that th’ concepts just won’t “work” unless the listener can be totally focused on the sonic nuances that are going on here. Thought th’ studio cuts were interesting, I found (as I suspected would be the case) myself much more easily immersed in the live tracks. Licht has played/performed with some improv heavyweights, including John Zorn, Jim O’Rourke & Thurston Moore, & his skills at sonic imagery are clearly reflected here. This is not “sweet” or “easy” music… it requires much of the listener, but those who take the time to “grok” his odd-istry will find themselves in a zone where few fear to tread… new turf… truly out enough to merit a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners in search of something sonically different! Contact at XI Records, POB 1754, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013, via ee-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on the site at www.xirecords.org Rotcod Zzaj
Hans Fjellestad/Peter Kowald/Dana Reason/Jason Robinson – DUAL RESONANCE: An absolutely enticing improvisational blend that will have enlightened listeners ecstatic! Synths (Hans & Dana), electronics (Jason), piano (Dana & Hans), tenor sax (Jason) & contrabass (Peter, who, unfortunately, has passed on to bigger/better adventures since this was recorded). Those inclined towards “regular” music (you know, structure & simplicity) will not enjoy this experience – but those who are attracted to the invisible explorations of the joy of the moment will not be able to stop listening to this. These folks are ultra-sensitive to each other, & definitely “move with the flow”. The interplay between the contrabass & the piano on track 3, “Viscous Matter”, is superb… high energy, movement that (somehow) seems frenetic, & it just KICKZ! The compositions are all quite short, which will make for a much easier listen for the uninitiated. Totally new landscapes are explored, & I found many exciting moments here; my favorite cut was the aforementioned “Viscous Matter”, probably because of the keyboard(s), but this is the kind of album that you will find yourself “discovering” (perhaps “re-discovering” is a better word) each time you listen to it. For those listeners who want to experience musical discovery, this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact at Circumvention Music, POB 948609, La Jolla, CA 92037, on their website at www.circumventionmusic.com or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Flight 09 – FORBIDDEN LULLABIES: A brand-new release (their second) from this band out of Uzbekistan, this CD is one RAWK-in adventure (released under Neurosis Records, by our pal Rick Ray). Their style appears to be bass-driven, with heavy backing drums, & (o’ course) some HIGH-END guitars There are some really nice ballad-oriented tracks; in fact one of my favorites was “Look Around”. This is th’ kinda’ music that is based on th’ rhythms of life – no “death-wish” killer instincts driving destruction to new depths. A clear spirit of hope & future comes shining through, along with raw & unfettered energy for life & the living of it. The synth-intro on cut 4, “Both To Be Alone” is simply beautiful, & the vocals that follow will take you back to the times of innocence (something we all long for in this horrendous world of today). Very strong arrangements, clear musical directions are easily communicated to the listener. This is a GREAT rock album that deserves much attention… it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears. Contact via email to firstname.lastname@example.org , snail to Neurosis Records, 20301 Ball Ave. Euclid, OH 44123, or visit the band’s pages at www.progressor.net/flight09/ Rotcod Zzaj
Mark Kissinger – IDLE MIND, IDLE HANDS: A homespun guitar-rockin’ CD from our friend Mark, this is one STANDOUT album. He made it in a limited edition, mailed off to a few friends in th’ hometaper underground circles… I’m not sure, but I don’t think he has it up for sale… which is way too bad. He sings on this one, along with fantastic guitar solos that will soar you off into the ether! I just LOVE this music, though (as many of you know), I’ve always been a big fan of his. Highly original lyrics, inspired arrangements & energy that just won’t quit! Anyone who “runs down” the great “American music scene” has only been listening to th’ tripe promoted by th’ “big music” corporations… “IDLE MINDS, IDLE HANDS” shows that talent is abundant in the land, & will not be suppressed by media-hype that focuses on the “acceptable” & “that which can be sold”. This is music with guts, & any rock fan with a taste for th’ creative will be doin’ their ears a dis-service if they don’t get this one! 13 tracks that get our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best creative rock”! Contact Mark via e-mail to M-K@worldnet.att.net Rotcod Zzaj
Brazelton/Naphtali – WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT: Kitty Brazelton has produced, along with Dafna Naphtali, a totally amazing sonic experience. Take your furthest out punk/techno studio thang (over the last 20 years), combine it with strands of odd/wack orchestrals & blend in a séance or two with th’ spirit of Unka’ Frank (Zappa, that is), & you may have some idea of where this is all headed. The album is a challenging listen – because the energies are so high that even the “initiated” may not be able to keep pace… it took me (at least) 5 listens before th’ sonic picture was clear enough to discern (maybe it was all those dark caves that th’ bats came from that obscured my sonic vision?). ANY self-respecting “odd-ist” will find (after listening to this on headphones, not in th’ car) that this is a must-have for their collection. Some listeners will be scared off by the frenetic pace(s) & odd vocal twists/turns taken, but patience will reward their aural appendages with music that is totally unique! One thing that album is not, is “categorizable”… this is purely original, like nothing you have ever heard before. Only the listener who desires different music will agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Check her site out at the following sites: www.kitbraz.com, http://www.whatbat.org and www.tzadik.com or contact her at email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
CALL for SUBMISSIONS!!!
ALL artists! I am very, VERY happy to announce that IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION is ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS again. I have been granted a (possibly long-term) stay of execution for my trip to Iraq. I will still be traveling all over the U.S., so new issues may be a little less timely, but (as always), we will review your materials as soon as possible after we receive them. Look at the guidelines for submission below, please:
MUSIC: All formats accepted. Snail mail to: Zzaj Productions, c/o Dick Metcalf, 5308 65th Avenue, Lacey, WA 98513 The only criteria for music you submit is that it MUST HAVE high performance energy… if you submit lacklustre material, it will be reviewed accordingly
POETRY: Poems are accepted for publication ONLY via e-mail. Poems submitted in any other fashion will NOT be published. Poetry that includes some reference to music is granted first priority for publication.
BOOKS: We will review some books; books about music are PREFERRED. We will NOT return any books submitted for review. Snail them to the address listed above for MUSIC.
the skeletal anomalies
of my 3-D skull.
linked to a computer
searching – searching – searching
for lost cells.
eyeing my grey matter.
sitting in a chemical clean
Light a Kubrick white
except my eyes and
the hot infra-red screen.
scanning the scan.
to wonder where I am.
where we are
connected by dissection.
still searching for
– Timothy Jos. Nelson
You said I was below the salt.
If you were the base
I was the acid.
No harmony in our salt box.
Imbalance of electropositives
Unsavory and unsalvageable.
Few saltatory moments.
Except for the one we rubbed
A belated beautiful salvation.
– Timothy Jos. Nelson
I S C R E A M
the world overloads Me
chimes, bells, dings, buzzes,
rings, yells, talking, talking, whispers,
baby crying, why is baby crying
I spell my name with
it makes sense to me
Your words come too loud
the music, the beat
the rhythm rocks Me
I rock into comfort
sense only the music,
My body rocking,
fingers dancing before My eyes
You can be Me with the music
like the pendulum of time
swinging rocking swaying
I am dizzy with life
hold me! let Me go!
let Me rock, rock
replay My memory
ocean, candy, fries, Jim
baby crying, laughing,
ride a long time
I can’t forget
you – I replay Your movie
moving in My mind
I have new friends
– Timothy Jos. Nelson
My brain is a superphysical
rolling enduringly along
Bluesmen live in my soul.
Dogs bark at my passing,
afraid of my energy.
Cities and towns falling
behind as I move forward
to the setting sun.
This day gone but just
This train never stops,
riding iron rails,
through tunnels of dreams,
and over bridges to new
– Timothy Jos. Nelson
from the universes stranded
unreaching in a salt-shaker,
the broken gatherings of stars
where no new light breaks out
until a thunderous birth,
I call to you without raising my voice,
and my call is the breath of a canyon,
the pure teeth of snow lashing against life
in a deep valley between deep pines,
my call is the cutting plow in all the skies,
the night’s fire and the day’s rain,
whirlwind of human flesh, living echo.
I smile at the hard-earned shape of a house.
because I’ve been sexless
I weep on the shape of a girl.
because I’ve been friendless
I make a home in the air for a friend’s face,
and frame it in a light like wine from the sky.
because I’ve been starved and cold
and felt the moon kill my words above
branches that held nothingness up
to the rippling black-purple sky
and had no food to stop my spirit
from quaking in my body
I torch each gram of food with tastebuds
made sensitive to the air itself.
I can taste the shape of the earth and each footstep
is a probe into frightening silences where voices
bubble like boiling tar to burst and be heard again.
because I’ve been asleep for deathless centuries
I laugh with joy to be dying and so awake
for one mortal minute at cleansed midnight
in this boy’s body on an empty sidewalk
where the tides of the sun
set fires to the trees and leave my flesh alone
to make their homes in my awoken nerves.
and all the world was a flight of geese.
and all the world was a heap of stones.
all of earth’s force gathers
and trembles in your nerves to reach me.
the unhappy workplaces in a rainstorm of dried rice,
the newspapers crumpled like dead pigeons on every sidewalk,
do not touch you, they relinquish their hold on your race
as your walk commands them to draw back their ink-stained hands.
you speak like a dry space of quiet in a heavy rain
birds grow eyes in their sleek bellies
to peer down at you through crimson air
the orbits of moons serve you quietly
in their chalky climb through voiceless space
and my mortal arrogance bends
like a straw in warm water
to follow their paths around you
daughter of oceanic silences
I will cup your pale feet in my hands
and with a waiting mouth
blow all the dust from your skin.
INTERVIEW with improvisor Eric Wallack
Zzaj: Having experienced your improv style (quite) a bit, I can say that it is “quick”… no second thoughts, no hesitations… what (makes it that way for you) & why (do you enjoy improvised musics)?
EW: I love the elements of danger and surprise within improvisation. I feel strongly (spiritual, in fact) about the value of impulsive responses – that they are direct transmutations of our subconscious minds, and that those responses teach us a lot about ourselves (good and bad) as human beings. As an improviser, if I can surprise myself it’s like I’ve gotten a precious glimpse into a part of me that I didn’t know existed. There’s a revealing of the truth there. This is true self-discovery, and of course within collaborations there’s the profound sharing of these discoveries among the group. In front of a receptive audience, REAL magic can occur!
Zzaj: How long have you been playing/performing/recording? Where did it all “start”?
EW: I was lucky enough to go to a public school that valued music and art enough to provide instruments and lessons free of charge. They started all the kids on band instruments in the fourth grade. I was handed a trumpet, a weekly lesson and a solid foundation in the mechanics of music. However (like many kids) I didn’t deal well with the discipline of practicing etc, so I quit playing the trumpet in junior high (an ugly marching band uniform didn’t help). Not long after, someone gave me a hand-me-down guitar and it was like being reborn. This was different because then it felt more like “my” instrument than the trumpet ever did. It was liberating because I felt free to invent and create on my own terms. I was my own teacher and pupil. This was the beginning of that “self-discovery” stuff I was talking about before. I was hooked! To this day, though I play many instruments (including the trumpet again), I feel pretty close to things with strings.
Zzaj: Do you think there’s a possibility that “underground” will ever catch up and outdistance “mainstream”? If so, why? If not, why?
EW: Well, yes and no. Remember, rock and roll was “underground” music in the early 50’s and that’s certainly not the case today. Even underground movements within mainstream rock (like punk) have become popular, mass-marketed genres.
I think there are a lot of music lovers of all ages out there who are getting sick of being force-fed the industry-driven tripe, but it can be hard for them to gain access to the hidden passageways to the underground unless they know where to look. They can’t find our CD’s in stores, they can’t read about us in the easily accessible magazines, and they don’t get to see us at gigs since there just aren’t that many gigs/venues for this music. On the other hand, for those who are REALLY hungry, they’ll find it or luckily someone will eventually turn them on.
Certainly, the biggest boon to the underground has been the Internet – it has single-handedly revolutionized and catalyzed the scene. Plus, we’re entering a time where the concepts of “success” and “making it” are changing. For example, right now I feel like talking to you for this issue is a big, personal step forward – certainly something meaningful and important to me. I also did an interview with our friend Jerry Kranitz over at Aural Innovations this month and man, that’s really gratifying – two interviews in one month with people whose work I greatly admire and appreciate! To me, that’s “making it”. So is working with people whose music I’ve loved as a fan. Let’s face it, there are few financial rewards in our contemporary society for “being different” so we may as well take what we can get and offer as much artistic integrity to our few-but-loyal fans as possible.
Perversely, for me there’s this sense that I’d like to keep the underground scene a bit secret and hidden away – like a jewel that’s worth hunting for, discovering and sharing only with a small-but-loyal community. All we need are some industry guys in lousy suits “discovering” us and wrecking it all forever.
Zzaj: Of the many instruments you play, which is your favorite (& why)? Which is the least favorite (& why)?
EW: I take a sort of Zen approach to the many instruments I play – my favorite instrument is the one I’m playing at any given moment. I try really hard to get into the persona of the “ist”. When I’m playing my bass I’m a “bassist”, when I’m playing my flutes I’m a “flautist”, etc. Ultimately I see myself as an improviser who has a lot of sonic possibilities at his disposal.
Zzaj: Are you in another “zone” when improvising? Or does your training influence the outcome (more)?
EW: Oh, I’m in the zone all right! Like I said earlier, for me improvisation is spiritual – like prayer or meditation, so there definitely is a zone to get into. I see musical improvisation as a microscopic inspection of daily life – things don’t always work out for the best and (like everybody else) I have bad improvisations and good improvisations. I accept them all and take pleasure in sharing the good ones with others and trying to learn from the bad ones.
My musical training is something that I’m not conscious of when I’m improvising. Obviously it’s given me part of my “vocabulary”, but as with any other language there’s a lot that can’t easily be taught, like all the subtleties and innuendo that make our “voices” unique even though we’re speaking the same “language”. There are other languages to learn too! I’m still exploring what sonic possibilities exist within my instruments, even if it means approaching them from an unconventional standpoint. I love banging on acoustic guitars to hear what’s rattling around in there.
Zzaj: I notice that you “play out” (in other words, perform live) quite a
bit… which is more enjoyable for you (most of the time)? Live or
in-studio? Or, is there any difference?
EW: Well, I don’t play out nearly as much as I used to when I was younger. I love the real communication that can occur in a live performance with an audience who’s listening and giving the music a chance. On the other hand, my live performances tend to lack the subtlety and detail I’m able to achieve at home in the studio. All sorts of factors seem to work against me in most live performances – bad P.A. systems, noisy expresso machines and my own insecurities. Plus, with this music there aren’t that many venues willing to offer me a gig – even in a college town!
Zzaj: My wife has suffered through many (different) exploratory stages… does your family share in your projects in any way, or do they (only just) “tolerate” the madness?
EW: Ha! No, my family’s really terrific about letting me do my thing. In fact, they’re really my biggest fans and they always want to hear the latest projects. My wife’s particularly helpful with valuable criticism and she’s very supportive. Two of my stepsons (Eric and John Zibbel) are successful independent musicians in their own right, and I have records with each of them on my label. We were recording together and putting on little “concerts” at the house when they were kids. I feel really lucky to live like this!
Zzaj: We (until Shrubbie & Penis Cheney) supposedly have “separation of church/state”…. would the world be a better place if we had “integration of music & state”? Where one of the REQUIREMENTS for serving politically was to have played some or any (kind of) music?
EW: I think they should be required to have proficiency in ANY of the arts! Simply stated, it’s hard to justify killing a bunch of people as a way of solving a “problem” if you’re awed by the beauty of their culture. The arts offer avenues for humane, creative problem solving as opposed to blind, ignorant dismissal.
Remember when Clinton came out with the saxophone on MTV and late night television? He was more like a “real guy” than a presidential candidate, and I think a lot of people voted for him because he acted like a normal human being, like a guy who could have some fun and still relate to Joe Lunchbox. Of course he WAS a normal human being and got caught shagging groupies in the Oval Office, but after the saxophone I kind of expected it. Sax players are always getting laid.
Zzaj: You’ve often told me that you’re finding great enjoyment in being part of this (fine) “underground” community? I’ve often found that I have a better time with (musical) folks I’ve never (or only briefly) met than those players in my local arena. What is your feeling on that? Why?
EW: I’m honored that I’m considered part of this community – it’s thrilling to meet and collaborate with the most amazing and inspiring artists from all over the globe! Yes, most of the people I’ve collaborated with are folks I’ve never met face-to-face, yet we end up e-mailing each other talking on the phone like we’ve known each other forever. I think it’s because of the improvisational nature of our work – we develop and relate to TRUST. As for the local area, I mentioned that I’ve worked with my stepsons and I guess that’s different – a special case. Like I said before, I live in a college town so there’s a steady influx of young musicians but the problem is that they usually don’t stick around long enough to develop a good musical hookup, or because of their training they are afraid to “break the rules” before they’ve learned ‘em.
Zzaj: Your “parting shot”, in the sense of advice to those who aspire to play/record the music of tomorrow, please?
EW: That’s easy! Trust yourself and do what comes naturally. Let things happen “in the moment” and enjoy being surprised by what comes out. Definitely share it!
Please do NOT send any more submissions to Zzaj Productions! I will be “suspending” publication until around September of 2004, due to personal obligations
Usin’ th’ rant section to let you all know that I.N. will be “off the air” for a few months… I’ve accepted a new job with a military unit (up at Fort Lewis), & will be fully occupied learning some things about their systems. This also (probably) involves trips to exotic work locations across the globe, so I’ll (pretty much) be out of communication until next fall.
Please do NOT “write us off”… “Improvijazzation Nation” will be back… I’m not just “closing up shop” & abandoning my music, reviewing or production… but I am going to take a little hiatus for a while. I’ll be back in touch as soon as I’m ready to begin publication again.
In the meantime, back issues, & the basic site, will still be available for your pleasure. Our catalog will still be up with samples, though you won’t be able to order the CD’s until I get back home on a more permanent basis.
Please DO spread the word to others who may be interested… when I’m “back in full swing”, I’ve no doubt I’ll have a TON of writing to offer, with impressions from the (far) corners of th’ globe… & who BETTER to report the “jaded views” of th’ “news” than yer’ friendly “Rotcod”?
Till next time…,