Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 70

# 70

Issue # 70 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples

We now have 2 TOTALLY FREE CD’s (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site!  The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW!  Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends… tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!

Check out th’ “new” Zzaj “diary

Shirim Klezmer Orchestra – PINCUS AND THE PIG:   It’s just not too often we get CD’s in for review that are advertised with a “bin label” of “Radical Jewish Culture”… but, that’s what this one is, & it certainly lives up to it’s name!  Definitely not “kosher”, but I hardly think that anything (Jewish) with a “pig” as th’ central theme of the tale could be considered as normal.  It’s a quite interesting story, told via a narrator & with each of the instruments acting the part of a character in the drama.  The intro calls off each of the instruments & what part they play in the drama… the narrator (children’s author Maurice Sendak) pops in occasionally to apply most comedic touches in, under & around the great vaudevillian tuneage, performed most energetically by the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra.  Yiddish “catch-phrases” that we’ve all heard, or read, are a big part of the humor, but the story line itself is funny thru & thru.  Don’t anticipate playing this as background at th’ next bar mitzvah, please… you’ll need to set aside (at least) 45 minutes without interruption to “get in” to the drama that plays out.  The recording is flawless, & played with a happy spirit that will entertain even the most drab listener.  This won’t be everyone’s “prime cut”, but it’s one of the funniest albums I’ve listened to (yet) this year.  “Pincus And The Pig” gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  Get more info, or purchase the album on their site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Katie Bull – LOVE SPOOK:   We love female vocalists, but the jazz & bluesy approach on Ms. Bull’s album was something we dug more than any other jazz vocalist we’ve listened to this year (& many other years, as well).  That may be due (in great part) to the fantastic cast of characters she has around her (Joe Fonda on bass, Frank Kimbrough’s piano, Michael Jefry Stevens’ keyboards, Matt Wilson’s percussion & Martin Wind’s bass), but after the third listen, you’ll begin to realize the high talent and, well, “spooky” qualities that Katie is able to milk out of a song.  My favorite cut is one called “Strange”, which opens with truly “different” percussion and a slow scat that seems (to me, anyway) to really define her vocal uniqueness and skill.  The best word I can think of to describe her style here on this song is “captivating”.  The title track is a fine piece, too, slow & slinky, with a real “down-home” feel.  It IS jazz, though, make no mistake… there is none of the slick musical spam that’s so prevalent on many vocal albums… original through & through!  If yer’ lookin’ to dip into th’ blues side o’ th’ thang, be sure & check out “Leftover Blues”, too.  Don’t expect “casual” jazz on this CD, you’ll need to reserve an hour to sit down & really absorb “Love Spook”.  Total cool that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!  To find out more about this album, visit her site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Avery Sharpe Trio – DRAGON FLY:   If yer’ a “smooth jazz” listener – get outta’ here… you won’t be able to comprehend the spirited & soulful jazz that bassist/composer extraordinaire Sharpe lays down for your ears (& your heart, I might add).   This isn’t jazz for the faint-hearted, but it isn’t so far out that it’s incomprehensible, either.  The title track is roiling with energy, & is my favorite cut on the CD.  Sounds (somewhat) like a train rollin’ on down th’ line (in places), but then takes you in directions you (just) won’t be able to anticipate.  Avery’s composition skills are finely honed & so full of brilliant energy that you won’t be able to stop listening (nor will you want to).  Onaje Allan Gumbs’ piano is both beautiful & mysterious on many cuts, but especially (I thought) on “Dragon Fly”.  Your ears will be more than surprised by Jeri Brown’s wonderful vocal on “My Favorite Things”, & the percussion support by Winard Harper is simply astounding…. when Jeri breaks into th’ scat (you knew was coming), you will be transported to th’ land of sheer joy that jumpin’ jazz like this is destined to take you to.  Another Sharpe original that shows the supreme talent he’s been endowed with is “”Now That’s What I’m Talking About”… you’ll hear somethin’ new each time you scope it out.  This is one of the most exciting jazz experiences I’ve heard this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ultimately jazzified ears.  To get more info on Avery, or to purchase the album, visit    Rotcod Zzaj

Bradley Leighton – JUST DOIN’ OUR THANG:   The word that comes to mind only 4 bars in to “Sonny” is “subtle”…. which, if you look it up in th’ Thesarus, shows words like “delicate” & “fine”.  That’s kinda’ how I hear Bradley’s flute here… as well as th’ Hammond by Rob Whitlock, & th’ guitar by Bob Boss, as well as the percz from Allan Phillips & (even) drums from Duncan Moore.  The players are so dedicated to making a pleasant experience for th’ listener that their solos come across as laid-back & easy.  That’s not to say th’ energy is (in any way) low-end, ‘coz this is some of th’ finest jazz you’ll hear today.  My favorite cut on th’ album was a Leighton original called “Carefree” (track 6).  There is a feeling of “gentle” in the overall spirit of the tune that tracks totally with the title of the album, & will let you relax no matter how much tension you’ve brought home with you.  The arrangements on “Deep Sea, by percussionist Allan Phillips, evoke images of sandy Caribbean beaches & lazy afternoons in th’ sun.  My favorite track (of all) on the CD, though, is another original by Bradley, “Easy Morning”.  The combination of subdued & laid-back B3 with Leighton’s joyful expressions on his flute won’t soon escape your ears, & will come back (days later) to recharge your mind.  I suspect that if the B3 weren’t there, this might be put in the “smooth jazz” bins (thus relegating it to NEVER-land for listeners like me), but it can NOT be placed in that (dreaded) pigeonhole, ‘coz you can hear th’ soul shining through!  Some GREAT tunes & very tasty listening for years to come… this one is a KEEPER, without doubt.  It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for dedicated jazz fans everywhere.  For more information, or purchase info, visit the site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

William Paul – HORSE DREAMS:   I’m not sure how you’d tell if these were “authentic” dreams of horses & unicorns… but, William’s music will inspire your imagination to see unicorns taking gentle steps, especially on the opening track (which was my favorite, by the way), “Dance Of The Unicorn”.  A taste of fairytale themes weaves together (quite nicely, I might add) with nice little bell sounds that open up visions of the great horned ones (I still haven’t been able to figure out why those “bells” did it, but they DID).  Though “gentle” (as you might imagine these creatures to be), there is a lot of power in the music… Mr. Paul clearly loves communicating his feelings/dreams through music, & you will be transported, I can assure you.  The pace is a little slower than music(s) I (usually) listen to, but everyone needs to slow down once in a while.  He integrates some VERY nice percussion work about 3/4 of the way through “Pegasus Flight” that meshes seamlessly with the melody.  When track 9, “Dreams”, comes on, you will hear a very “different” orchestral, that integrates a strong sense of “classical” with thoughts you may have had while reading of Marco Polos’ adventures, or something like that.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who likes to hear “enchantment” come alive.  Contact through the website at   Rotcod Zzaj

Rene – SOULMATES:   The keyboard work will put you in a romantic mood, no matter where you are, or what circumstance you’re in, when you listen to this.  Rene’s keyboard style isn’t “simple”, but it’s not “complicated”, either.  Excellent cello & strings back his compositions, and put you in mind of the classical pieces his compositions are modeled after.  Those in our readership who come here for “out” music, or improvised madness, will probably not find this all that attractive… but you will find it inspiring, even if it’s not your “normal” cup of tea.  This is our first listen to Rene’s compositions, and we were pleasantly surprised, to say the least.  This is the kind of music I would spin when the frustration levels have reached peak levels & I need something to “unwind” with… it will put you in the right frame of mind to overcome trials and tribulations.  The focus is (as it should be) on the solo pieces, rather than on overburdening the pieces with heavy orchestration, & that’s a big part of what held my attention.  This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me for any listener who wants to experience the simple pleasures of music.  Contact through the site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Amina Figarova – COME ESCAPE WITH ME:   From the opening bar, you can hear that this will be a total jazz experience!  Amina’s piano skills are clearly evident, but it’s really her compositional expertise that shines through on this septet grouping.  The flutes by Bart Platteau swirl in, out & around the opening (title) track, in one of the most highly energetic outings I’ve heard (yet) this year.  Wiro Mathieu’s acoustic bass work on “Come Escape With Me” is not only supportive, it lays a foundation for Figarova’s strident keyboard styling that is superb.  All of the players are great & there is no one “stepping” on other players.  This is the kind of group you have been looking for, & to watch them live would be pure joy, I’ve no doubt.  Unfortunately, right now you’d probably have to go to South Africa to do that, as they’ll be playing at the Capetown International Jazz Festival for a few months, as well as UK & Israel.  You might be able to catch them (just a bit later in the year) in New Orleans, though.  Amina’s writing & composition style take me back years & years, to jazz greats like “The Crusaders”, “Cannonball Adderley”, even Lee Morgan… some really H-O-T jazz licks.  I just DIG on her keyboard playing, & I know you will too.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our overly-jazzified ears… a truly classic “KEEPER”!  Contact through her site, at  (& be sure to tell them Zzaj sent you)!   Some really GREAT jazz!    Rotcod Zzaj

Mambo Mantis – THE ECSTASY OF PERFECT RECOGNITION:   If you’ve never heard music from the krew at W.O.O. (Whole Other Orbit) before, this is the chance of a lifetime to get onboard their jazzified, rawk-in TRAIN!  Listeners who have been checkin’ out “Sweet Caroline”, or “Mushy Mambos for Mommas” all their lives may have some kind of coronary thrombosis, or other disastrous medical dilemma occur when they hear the opening bars on “Sox1”, or “Mr. Science”, but if they make it through the O.B.E. this music will induce in uninitiated listeners, they’ll be fans for life.  These players (Bonnie Kane, sax/flutes; Blaise Siwula, sax; Ray Sage, drums; & Will Redmond, Electric guitar) have been favorites of our ears on multiple albums, most notably with our improvising friend Ernesto Diaz-Infante, but on this outing they will ASTOUND you, no doubts!  Pure tumult from the opening cut, you must scope this on headphones… to do otherwise would rob you of that ecstasy the title alludes to you.  I can tell you that if you’re looking for adventure in your music, this IS the place to start!  It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating for listeners who aren’t afraid to do battle with the obvious!  Contact through their site, at or e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Aaron Alexander – MIDRASH MISH MOSH:   You won’t find music like this anywhere else on the planet!  You may find “imitators”, or mideastern players that remind you of sections of what’s being played here, but nothing can equal the sheer wall of energy you’ll hear coming at you on the opener, “Kleyzmish Moshpit”.  Aaron is a NYC jazz drummer who brings his (Jewish) cultural roots to his jazz playing (or is it the other way around)…. either way, the energy of his spirit is voracious, yet comfortable.  An odd combination, to be sure, but you can hear both parts of his personality on this album, especially when you listen to th’ CD with your headphones on.  The cast of players is far too large to itemize here, but they all express that same raw energy in their playing… total dedication to the idea that they’re gonna’ take over th’ world without a shot being fired (except, perhaps for some of those rim shots… heh! heh!).  The fact that the album was released on Zorn’s “Tzadik” label tells you quite a bit, I think… “experiments in Jewish culture”, sort of.  I’m very highly impressed, & feel fortunate to have gotten this great album for review… truly cutting edge, & uplifting to the spirit!  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our jaded ears.  GREAT music, but be prepared for something “different”!  Contact through Aaron’s site, at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

9 On Bali – KITE HAWKER ON THE BEACH:   Our friend Dan Susnara (who we have been reviewing for many, MANY years now) made sure we got a copy of the new CD from 9 On Bali… this is one of the most refreshing musical experiences I’ve ever heard, & if you love hearing what truly creative spirits can make happen (musically), this is THE ticket!  The recording quality is FANTASTIC, among the best I’ve heard this year (& as I say quite often, I’ve already heard a LOT of recordings this year).  Dan’s lyrics are simple, yet wonderful!  Dan has been doing home taping (as indicated above) since I first “met” him through that scene in the late 1980’s, & he plays together with another veteran, Dan Sweigert, who did most of the mixing/recording on this one… & he’s proved himself a true master on “Kite Hawker”.  Other players featured here are Dan Van Schindel (drums), Ron Jagielnik (Chairs, slide guitar & harmonica) & Frank Rutledge (electric guitar).  The music incorporates musical styles all th’ way from th’ ’70’s, in a blend that will be attractive to fans of musical diversity… “Beatles”, “Nektar”, “the Smiths”, even “Nurse With Wound” are all sounds that are woven into these highly energetic tracks.  I’ve often admired Susnara’s skill at capturing sounds & weaving them into tapestries that make one feel the nostalgia, but at the same time, the “new energy”… & this is the most shining example of his skills that I’ve ever heard!  Vocals swirl over high-tech soundscapes that will carry you to new heights, & their love of music is totally infectious.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative indie CD”!  Contact through their site, at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Harlan Mark Vale – Q:   My long-time musical friend Mark has been cooking up “new brews” down in the Arizona desert, to be sure.  “Q” stands for “Quelle”, which (he tells me) means “Source” in another language.  When you listen to the title track (the opener), you will no doubt think that he’s being “visited” down there in th’ desert sands by folks from another zone.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Mr. Vale do synth works, by any stretch, but it is the first time I’ve heard this much “drone” work from him.  Very, VERY interesting & certainly representative of the new directions he’s moving in.  Mark has always been a master at using the music to create the mood he’s seeing or hearing, but this first track (which clocks in at 9:08) will make you feel like YOU have been abducted by little green folks… & all with layers & layers of sound that you must listen very carefully to hear.  “The Listening Window” takes a different path, letting you hear the desert winds in a sandstorm, much like (I imagine) the planet “Dune” would sound.  “Gnostisis” is my favorite track (as Mark probably imagined)… whirling, swirling synths that will spin through your mind like whirly-birds… if you can keep the pace for the full 10:00, you’ll be rewarded with feelings of well-being, no doubt – I was.  I’m pleasantly surprised (and highly impressed) by the music coming out of this fine artist… listeners with adventure in their ears will agree, en toto, when I declare this MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the “pick” of this issue for “best exploratory music”!  Contact at POB 1273, Ash Fork, AZ 96320, or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

Meatsock – A CLEVERLY TITLED DEMO RELEASE:   I’ve been getting a fair amount of CD’s in lately from artists I’ve never heard of before… & that’s a cool thing, actually, because that’s sorta’ how we started out.  Tape after tape used to come thru th’ mail slot in th’ old days, from folks we’d never heard from before.  This particular CD reminds me of those tapes, without doubt… voice mixovers, heavy beats, radio show integrations & all kinds of other lil’ “gimmicks” that will make th’ listener think twice… or thrice… some S-T-R-A-N-G-E stuph.  This IS a challenge for the listener, because tho’ it uses some standard instrumentation & rhythm patterns, it never does what YOU think it’s going to.  Of course, I totally LIKE that, but some folks out there will have a difficult time grasping the concept.  This one actually reminds me of some work I did with a guy named Ken Fletcher in the late ’90’s, so you know it captured me about mid-way through the first track.  Lots of variety, too, some great beats (in places); never a dull moment, to be sure.  You will NOT find this music offered on late-night TV shows, in record store bins, or much of anywhere else… it comes across as purely D.I.Y., & that (if nothing else) makes it get our HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating (but NOT for listeners afraid of music that’s “different”).  Oh, also… it’s one of the most mentally challenging CD’s I’ve listened to (yet) this year.  Contact at  or on the pages at   Rotcod Zzaj

Trio East – STOP-START:   If you’re anywhere near as much of a jazz fan as I am, you’ll jump right on this!  Rich Thompson’s drums are subtle, but fully present in th’ mix, Jeff Campbell’s bass reminds me of David Friesen’s (in spots), & Clay Jenkins trumpet is about as punctual as you’ll ever hear.  In fact, that’s what’s most striking about the music they play on here… it’s right ON TIME.  This round isn’t all originals…. they’ve featured tunes from John Coltrane, Lee Morgan & Mal Waldron, too.  Thompson is the “leader” of this group, but it’s almost like they’re all in “lead” positions.  In no way do any of the players “step” on each other – this is a precision team that are “wound” right into each others’ psyches (I think).  This is th’ kinda’ jazz that has “meat” on it’s bones, with somethin’ for each & ev’ry listener to groove to.  It’s just th’ kind of material I was fortunate enough to “grow up” on, during my first tour to Germany (1965-1968).  It’s not easy to pull off jazz that sounds so great, either, when there’s only a horn out front… no guitar or keyboard to “refer” to… means th’ players have to be right “in synch” with where th’ tune is heading.  If you’ve never really listened to much jazz before, this is one of the best places for you to start… I mean, it’s ALL here!  I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Contact through the label site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Rich West – BEDOUIN HORNBOOK:   This is one of the most interesting CD’s I’ve heard (yet) in 2005… West’s drums and percussion are highlights, but the other improvisors that join in on the fun (Chris Heenan on reeds, Bruce Friedman on trumpet, Jeremy Drake on electric guitar & Scot Ray on tuba) are certainly given “equal time”.  The opener, “Bugge”, will make you think (perhaps) that this is “just another scatterbrained improv session – until they move into th’ groove.  & though ’tis a strange groove, it is nevertheless a “pattern” of sorts.  Jazz in one of those “odd” veins, this reaches out & makes yer’ ears stand at attention.  This comes in from one of our favorite labels for improvised & creative music, pfMENTUM… & they don’t disappoint at all.  Since it’s a drum-oriented performance, I’ve no doubt why “Curly” (track 7) was my favorite… Rich has those drums soundin’ much like a freight train on th’ intro, & there’s a bass “riff” kickin’ in, under, down & through th’ whole thing that will (almost) make ya’ wanna’ get up & dance.  An all-round FUN album that communicates to/with th’ listener in the language of JOY (which is, I think, th’ best dialect that music can converse in).  This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears… if you’re “uninitiated”, you’ll need to listen to this with phones, though.  Contact through the site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Satoko Fujii Orchestra – BLUEPRINT:   During the first few bars of this musical adventure, you’ll probably be thinking “big band”… well, you’ll get yours, for tryin’ to cram Satoko’s music into a “space”.  You have never heard jazz like this… it is based on total freedom & abandon, but rooted (believe it or not) in ability!  Which is what makes it (as with ALL of Ms. Fujii’s albums I’ve reviewed) so UNIQUE!  Her orchestra is (as you might expect) far too full of players to itemize them here… all I can tell you is that if you’re a jazz listener who has grown tired, tired tired of “normal”, but also want quality playing in the newness, THIS music is what you want.  By the time the initial shock wears off, you’ll be halfway through the title cut (the opener), & find yourself wrapped in Stomu Takeishi’s wonderful bass journeys.  Satoko’s piano is as enchanting as ever on the second cut, “Ocha!”… the interplay is pure FUN, & (as many of you know), that’s what the very best music(s) of our time are rooted in – PURE FUN!  If you like a slightly more “traditional” approach/sound, you’ll just love “Nagoyanian”, track 4, which features that wonderful bass as a lead-in to something that sounds a lot like a “big band” orchestra (again).  It’s my favorite cut on this album!  I’ve been listening to Fujii’s special brand of jazz for many years now, & if you haven’t heard her yet, there is NO BETTER TIME than NOW!  This comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants “more” than “the norm”.  Contact through the site at     Rotcod Zzaj

Jim Cifelli – GROOVE STATION:   We’ve reviewed (at least) a few of Jim’s grand musical adventures before, but this is th’ first time I’ve heard him gettin’ so DOW-un & phunky!  Remembrances of Jimmy Smith, to be sure, ‘coz Jim’s incorporated some great organ/keyboards by Will Boulware… th’ kinda’ groove-tube stuff that makes ya’ WANNA’ be dancin’ with yer’ baby!  Jim’s trumpet is also crisp & up-front, along with sax playing from Dan Cipriano & Joel Frahm… some scorchin’ guitar leads by Dave Phelps, as well as smoke-hot bass from Mike Leslie & Ray Marchica on drums.  The album is really aptly named, & the opener (title track) will just BLOW YOU AWAY – it’s my favorite track on the album, though “You Better Believe It” comes in a close second, due (mostly) to Jim’s KICKIN’ trumpet integration with th’ jump&ride funk style he guides & directs here.  I haven’t heard much like this in many, many years.  Everyone is playin’ with each other, no one steppin’ on toes, just like I like it.  If this is a “revival” of that good ol’ ’70’s funk, it’s a very energetic revival… none of that “tired” or “worn-out” groove stuff like you hear on so many “smooth jazz” albums these days.  &, of course, that’s what distinguishes “good” music from that which is not so “good”… you just know (as you listen) that everyone playing here is havin’ some real FUN!  In my estimation, there is nothing that could recommend a CD more strongly than that spirit of playfulness & joy.  This album is a definite “keeper”, & we give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Contact via Jim’s site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Chris Cortez – MUM IS THE WORD:   & if “Mum” heard this, it would take her way, WAY back to nostalgia-land, without doubt.  When those flappers were in vogue.  Some absolutely swingin’ jazzy guitar works that would put yo’ momma’ “in a spin”!  Chris is from New Orleans, & he’s got that sultry low-down vocal style that comes across as some kinda’ mix betwixt Dr. John & Ry Cooder – somethin’ like that.  I mean, this cat spins webs of words that will have your head whirling.  A whole LOT of neat originals, along with covers of Hoagy & other names you’ll recognize right away.  Cortez’ guitar playing is sweet & soulful, & his soul shines right on through on ev’ry cut on this rockin’ lil’ CD.  We’ve all heard music like this before, th’ kind that infects you with th’ spirit it projects from the first bar to the last… but seldom have we heard that spirit combined with his levels of skill & sheer love of playing/singing.  I’m very highly impressed, & despite the title, I’ll be “sharing” the word – even wit’ momma’!  A VERY cool album that comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for adventurous jazz listeners everywhere!  One of the most fresh jazz experiences I’ve heard this year, to be sure!  Find more information about purchase & the artist on his site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom – VOODOO BOOGALOO:   I’m thinkin’ this must be funk & groove month… we’ve already gotten quite a few CD’s reviewed that feature really upbeat funk-based music… & this h’yar “Boogaloo” won’t let you down.  Ron’s a multi-instrumentalist beyond th’ normal reach of that word… he jus’ KICKZ on th’ opener, “Organ Colossus”, with some superb B-3… then he pulls out some vibes on th’ title track & makes us think we’re back in th’ late ’60’s with Cal Tjader.  For ol’ jazz/phunsters like me, it doesn’t GET any better than this.  Th’ whole album will lift yer’ spirits to new highs, & th’ group (far too large to catalog here) definitely lives up to th’ “Wild Kingdom” image!  There are some heavy Latin rhythms in addition to th’ more recognizable funk pieces, & that Latino sound is totally authentic & energetic.  Whether you’re a “party animal” who just needs somethin’ to “shake it” to, or a serious connoisseur of jazz with intestinal fortitude, you won’t be able to do without this fantastic album.  The organ sounds (alone) are worth the purchase price!  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners of all persuasions, though particularly for those enthralled with “down-home” funk that just won’t quit!  Contact through
Ron’s site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Don Campau & Tom Furgas – MARCHING ON:   For those of you who were never involved in the ’80’s & ’90’s “hometaper” scene… you won’t realize how WONDERFUL hearing these two legends is on this album.  Campau has been supporting homemade music for many, MANY years now, as well as MAKING an awfully lot of it.  Tom has been just as intimately involved in th’ scene, though I think I’ve heard far more of Don’s work(s) over the years.  This CD is one of the most joyful & upbeat I’ve ever heard (from either artist).  The lead-in track has grooves & (guitar) licks that are total stellar!  The recording is crystal-clear, but don’t expect that to make it “acceptable”, or “regular”.  Plenty of beautiful surprises & spontaneous moments that will keep you on the “edge” of your headphones (which is how you MUST listen to this one, at least for the first go-round).  My favorite track on the album is cut 5, “Mr. Ambition”, most probably because it incorporates a whole lotta’ rockin’ groove sequences that are downright FON-ky!  “When Do You Have To Go” comes in a close second, with some synth work (from Tom, I believe) & guitar licks that are simply astounding!  “MARCHING ON” has some of the best “underground” music I’ve heard in the last 10 years – something for everyone, with VIBRANT ENERGY that will cause you to NEVER STOP listening!  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best 21st Century DIY album”!  You can get all th’ lyrics for the album on Don’s site, at    You’re also welcome to e-mail Don at or Tom at    Rotcod Zzaj

Suns Of Cosmic Consciousness – SOLAR:   I’m reminded (almost immediately) of the sonic energies aurally witnessed when I first listened to Mahavishnu Orchestra, though the music here is in a totally different vein – it’s the driving undercurrents I’m grooving on – & you will too!  This is the kind of jazz that NEEDS resurgence, the kind you’ve been waiting to hear.  My own personal favorite cut is Bernstein’s “Prototype For Constructive Dialogue”… starts off pretty conventionally, but (just like a good conversation), branches out with full fervor & knowledge of the craft!  The beauty of the music here is that the force behind it, under it & coursing through it is in some way subtle, not an “in your face” kind of assault.  What comes across so clearly is the sheer love for music (whether it’s a high energy piece, like the opener, “Samba De Aztac”, or straight-ahead jazz like Sun Ra’s “Love In Outer Space”), & the playing of it!  &  in these days of “fake” jazz, with so many folks competing for your ears, that kind of skill shines just as brightly as the title implies.  El Yamin’s piano stylings are superb, & Adam Bernstein’s bass is far more than just “typical” stride-walker stuff… percussion from Andy Demos rounds it all out into a well-focused jazz experience that you won’t be able to find anywhere else these days.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our jazzified ears!  To find out more, visit     Rotcod Zzaj

The Quantum Kids – QUANTUM FOAM:   There’s a whole new crop of music floating around out ’round th’ “Internet Zone”… I first heard “The Dance Of The Wombat” when QK guitarist Jack Wright (not to be confused with our sax improv friend Jack Wright, of Colorado) posted the tune on (my latest hangout).  Firm & heavy basslines by Tom Shiben roll around against Wright’s scorching guitar, with David Huether’s drums providing kick-butt support across the entire album.  “Wombat” is one of my favorite guitar-based tunes for 2005, but it ain’t the only one that expresses RED-HOT energy on this CD.  “Sardonsonic Shuffle” is another absolute favorite for my ears… down & phonk-ee, with a shuffle that jus’ won’t quit!  There are so many influences here… I hear some Jeff Beck, a smattering of an old, OLD group called “Touch”, & plenty of others.  It’s crystal clear that this group has their groove together, though, with a style that’s uniquely theirs & they’re not out to take prisoners… hell, they don’t HAVE TO – their music is solidly rhythm based & calls th’ spirits out to play along with ’em!  Whoo-hoo, this track 6, “Megametamorphose”, is a sweet 15:57 adventure into various & sundry sonic plateaus that you’ll have to experience with your headphones on!  The CD is definitely in the “DIY spirit” with all music recorded and produced (excellently) by Jack Wright, on his Psychosonic Studios label…  great cover art & a nice little insert that you’ll DIG upon!  You can’t group “Quantum Kids” into any pigeonholes, either… they are their own sound!  This album is a KEEPER, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “rockin’est CD” of 2005!  DON’T miss this one!  Contact Jack Wright, at, or purchase it right at  Be sure to tell them Zzaj sent you, ok?  Rotcod Zzaj

Jasun Martz – THE PILLORY/THE BATTLE:   Our long-time musical friend Charles Goff III was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the 115 players that Martz mixed in to this expansive (2 CD) musical adventure.  over 2 1/2 hours of music that will not only challenge your ears, but will allow you to explore new sonic worlds.  CRG III “sticks to his guns”, playing “modified toys”, but this album goes into territories pretty much further out than “normal”.  You will not want to cheat yourself out of the “true” experience… ensure that (at least the first time) you are listening with headphones, & that you allocate at least 70 minutes per sitting… you will not want to try and listen to this in “pieces”… the effect is much more enjoyable if you listen to the first CD all the way through… then (I would recommend), come back to the second one & listen all the way through it!  Jasun is a master at using the music(s) he’s mixing together to create moods that you’ve never experienced before.  Those who fancy themselves “casual” listeners will not be able to “grok” this experience… it requires intimate attention to the environment that is being painted for your ears, and concentration far past the normal “Amurrican’s” ADD problems.  You will be rewarded (and amazed) hugely if you listen carefully and let yourself be absorbed by the swirling textures and deep nuances contained in this musical tapestry.  This comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for non-ADD listeners who have adventure in their ears and their souls!  GREAT album!  Contact at  or through the site at    Rotcod Zzaj

INTERVIEW with Jack Wright


I first started listening to Jack’s amazing guitar works at INDIEHANGOUT, late last year, & was amazed by th’ depth & perception of his music(s)… a broad range of styles, & clear love of th’ power the instrument has… or CAN have, in the hands of players with the level of talent he shows in his playing.  We are really HAPPY to have him join us for this interview….


Zzaj: You assign titles to your songs that remind me a great deal of Frank Zappa…. Wrightdude songs “New Age Trash Compactor”, “Funkstaposition” & Quantum Kids song “Sardonisonic Shuffle”, are good examples. Have you no respect for th’ “title process”?


Wrightdude:  Well… most song titles just seem to effervesce from my subconscious… and I tend not to question them…  lol!  Of course some titles are “consciously'” derived too.  For instance the title “Megametamorphose” was inspired by the MC Escher graphic “Metamorphose,” which contains (in classic Escher fashion) a very long series of patterns and interlaced images that endlessly morph from one to another. Similar in a way as “Megametamorphose” does only in a musical fashion.


Zzaj: OMD’s (Online Music Distributors) have been around for a while, in fact, we’re on a couple of them… which one (that you’re on right now) is the most enjoyable…. or are OMD’s all “about the same”… just a place to get your music out? Also, regarding collabs, I’ve found that today’s OMD’s can (sometimes) be a great place to find collab partners. Has that been true for you?


Wrightdude: OMDs are a tremendous phenom!!!!  I really don’t have a favorite… though I am having a lot of fun at Mixposure trading reviews when I have time… If I had more bandwidth to manage them all, I would be on more OMDs!

I’m glad you mentioned collaborations, they are an absolute BLAST!!!!!  I have had the GREAT fortune to be able to collab with the likes of Jamie Dubbery, Ed Drury, Daniel Iorio, KMP (Harout Kalandjian), Lisa, Mike Milillo, Pat Piegari, Henry Tarnecky and others… most of whom I’ve met at the Indie hangout.

I think collabs stretch you creatively. Challenging you as an artist to add brush strokes to another musicians “Monet” in a fashion that embellishes it with your own personal touch, but at the same time doesn’t turn the whole thing into a “Dali” (if that makes sense).   I’ve got a few more collabs in the cue now with more very exciting indie names (which I wont mention till their released), so please stay tuned!!!!!


Zzaj: Though I hear snatches of folks like SRV, FZ & even Carlos in your playing, it’s clear that you have a very unique style of your own. Are any of those players your “heroes”, or is the “hero” business pretty much over? Who HAS influenced you the most (if anyone)?


Wrightdude:  I’ve never really had a guitar “hero” that I “studied” or intentionally attempted to emulate. Of course there are many guitar players and bands I’ve admired and listened to allot over the years. So certainly their influences have inevitably infused to some extent into my musical psyche. In addition to the greats you mentioned, you may hear influences from:

Robert Fripp – King Crimson, Steve Howe – Yes, John McLaughlin – Mahavishnu Orchestra, Steve Hackett – Genesis, and of course Jimi Hendrix! I wore down allot of that vinyl back in the day!!!!!!!


Zzaj: Give us a little “history” about yourself…. where do you currently hang your guitars? How long have you been playing/recording/performing? Do you have dogs, cats or iguanas? You know what we wanna’ hear (& what we don’t).


Wrightdude:  I’ve been a native of the state of Maryland in the USA my whole life… I started taking drum lessons when I was 8… which would be 1964… Yikes! I played percussion in the Montgomery County Youth Orchestra through Middle and most of High School before giving up a career as a classically trained percussionist to become a self taught guitar hack.

I played guitar in various covers bands in the ’70’s till I quit for a while to allow time to raise and provide for a family.

In the ’87-’88 timeframe, after the kids were grown a bit and I no longer had to work all hours to make ends meet, I started getting “the call” again. I met up with Tom Shiben, my bass playing buddy from the covers band days and “The Quantum Kids” were born. We’ve been playing and recording all original instrumental music ever since! David Huether (drums) joined later around the turn of the century.

Performing live is a blast. We get out a few times a year attempting to make each show a unique experience… you never know when an Alien, Killer Cicada, or even the Creator of the Universe might make an appearance during our shows… lol!!!

I’ve been involved with a few other side projects along the way, most notably “The Drummstick” (  ).  A very interesting project!  And of course still lots a jams with lots a cool people still goin on to this day!!!!

I didn’t get to the dogs and cats, but I’m sure I’ve bored you enough already… Well… OK… one dog (golden) and three cats….


Zzaj: Many guitar players choose one niche & kinda’ stay in that corner. You seem to ignore that rool…. can you tell us why, please? Or, tell us why we’re incorrect!


Wrightdude: That’s an interesting point! I’ve never ascribed to the “one sound” “one style” doctrine. I think its cool to have a “signature sound,” but to dwell there all the time is just putting yourself into a box. Certainly, I do have my proclivities and certain compositional devices I oft tap into, but I strive to keep stretching and training new synaptic patterns as much as I can…

To spawn new ideas and sounds, I enjoy experimenting from time to time… one day I had the crazy idea of tuning a guitar to dim5’s. I took my Tele and tuned it D G# D G# D G# and much to my surprise the essence of the “Compactor Suite” was born!

Even after the diversions I tend to inevitably return to the classic Quantum Kids proggish style born out of my 70’s influences. But yeah Zzaj, I’ve always enjoyed listening to a wide variety of genre and styles… why not play them?!


Zzaj: One question always comes up, especially for guitar, or electric, players, & it’s one we want to ask as well – what kind of (basic) gear do you work with? Do you ever work with analog tape, or is your recording setup totally digitized?


Wrightdude: In the studio, its all digital, recording on an Akai DPS16. I use Wavelab for mastering.

For guitar gear, my favorite amps are a Budda Superdrive 80 and a VHT Pittbull 45 (I tend to be a bit of a tube snob). For the album Quantum Foam, I used three different tube amps, a little bit of POD and five different guitars (Strat, Tele, PRS, Brian Moore, Ernie Ball Axis).


Zzaj: Can you give us a little insight regarding your levels of musical training? Have you been “schooled” in music, or has it been (for the most part) something you picked up on your own? How important (do you feel) training is?


Wrightdude: Aside from my percussion training, any music theory I may have learned along the way was through osmosis. My formal training in percussion did impart to me the importance of establishing a “practice regimen” which I applied to my approach to teaching myself guitar.

I think a disciplined practice regimen containing scales, exercises and various techniques is very important, but not to be taken too far. I often ponder the prodigy classically trained musician that play miraculous written passages, but cant improvise a note? and wonder if that part of their musical development atrophied while they played and practiced prescribed notes endlessly throughout their entire musical life??? My point being, I do believe it is important to maintain a strict practice regimen, balanced generously with time to just “make noise!!!!!”


Zzaj: As I move into the twilight years, it’s inevitable that you young guys will “take over”. When your turn comes (many years from now, we assume) to hand the reins over to 22nd Century freak-o-zoidz, what will BE your “words of wisdom” (regarding the “music industry”) to them? Or, do you think there will BE a “music industry” by then?


Wrightdude: Well… at the age of 49 and still strapped to the day job… I’m obviously not the person to give advice as to how to become a rock star! But I can certainly say music is a wonderful thing! And even if you never become a rock star, musical expression can provide a lifetime of enrichment… and catharsis…. which will hopefully keep you out of the Looney bin!!! So my advice is keep doing what you do!!!!! and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!


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I recently finished a CD project with my long-time playing partner Harlan Mark Vale, that we called “Nowsterday”, that’s taken me (& Mark) in ever new directions.  For me, that’s ‘coz it was created using a lot of “drum machine”, & that IS a new “dimension” for me.  For Mark, it was new because he’s using a grand/flashy piece of software to generate a lot of his sounds… & those sounds are new… for him, as well as for the listener.

     Who can tell where we will be 5 years from now with our creations?  I know I certainly can’t, nor would I (necessarily) want to be able to do that.  It takes the sense of anticipation for the new away if you know what’s going to happen.

     That is kinda’ like “life”. don’t you think?  If you knew what your partner(s) were going to do every time, life would be the ultimate in “boring”.  Be sure you keep your sense of anticipation alive… never bring the mundane atmosphere of work home to invade your creative spaces.  Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t take the “GOOD” things you learn at work & apply them in your “away from work” environment… it’s just to state that you should (& sometimes must) make a conscious effort to ensure that you’ve stripped away any “work ethic” stuff from the tool you bring home.  If you stop & think of it like “virus protection”… just don’t let business practices or procedures creep in under the eaves of your household.  I think that’s especially true for us “guys”… at work, we design procedures that allow us to ignore those who don’t like what we’ve said… & if you’ve been in a relationship with another person for more than a day or a week, you’ll know that if you do THAT to ’em… they’ll cut & run.

     Of course, I should be the last one you seek advice from on this little nuance… I’ve been guilty of doing it over & over… the only reason I offer it up here is that I have (with the help of my friend Kim – my wife) been able to “nip” that tendency in the bud during several years of my life… I still don’t have it down to “perfection” yet, but since we’re comin’ up on Spring… give this one a lil’ thought & stop/examine what you’re doin’ at home a bit… make SURE you’ve left your “work-style” in the office… only bring in th’ door what is YOU, ok?

     Though this may not seem like it belongs in a “music ‘zine”… that’s EXACTLY where it belongs… ‘coz we musicians are (quite) often the biggest offenders in this arena… think it OVER… use th’ boo-ful Spring season to “renew” what you have in your relationship(s)!  & pick a Daisy or 2.



Till next time…,



Rotcod Zzaj