Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 71
Issue # 71 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!
Moppa Elliott – MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING: Moppa sent this amazing little “jazz” CD into us personally, & are we glad he did. This is jazz “from the earth”, so to speak… for those who do gardening (yah, I know – that seems to have nothin’ to do with jazz), you’ll know what I mean… you can’t be a “satisfied” gardener unless you get some of that soil under yer’ nails. That’s much like what Elliott (double bass), Peter Evans (trumpet, piccolo trumpet & baritone horn), Jon Irabagon (alto & soprano sax) & Kevin Shea (drums and percussion) do… they don’t put the gloves on… they dig DOW-un into th’ dirt from whence their ideas come, & sort of wallop you with it! There are some very “recognizable” jazz elements/forms in their compositions, so this isn’t so far “out” that you can’t access it… but, they kind of “twist” & “turn” it a bit, so it’s not “just the same ol’ stuff”… & that is very attractive – not just to my ears, either… this stuff reaches right down inside your psyche & makes you stop (for a second) & kinda’ think about th’ music. Not that I want to paint it as “intellectual” music, though… this has genuine jazz soul, & should be listened to with an open ear! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Learn more through the site at www.moppaelliott.com Rotcod Zzaj
Lisle Ellis/Marco Eneidi/Peter Valsamis – SOUND ON SURVIVAL LIVE- : A brand-new label (Henceforth Records) sent us this splendid CD… Ellis on bass, Eneidi doing alto sax & Valsamis on drums. It was recorded during their US tour (last year), & is an exemplary illustration of the fact that great improvised jazz isn’t dead at all… in fact, the playing on here will remind you that there are always new horizons (sonically or elsewise) that need to be explored. Yes, it’s true that some of the rhythmic roads they travel have been trod before, but they make their sonic signatures so unique that you’ll feel like you are just arriving at the “edge” (again). One of the things that stands out (for this listener, anyway) is that their sound/performance sorta’ invades your brain, right down to the nuclei! You’ll find yourself remembering snatches of their explorations days (or more) later… & that is what sets one group apart from another. Ellis’ bass is sort of a “leader” in each of the pieces, but all 3 players understand the dynamic they’re using, & don’t step all over each other (in any way, shape or fashion). This is some of the most fresh & original improv jazz I’ve heard in (quite) a while, & I get an image of hearing these folks for many years to come! Some GREAT high-energy music that adventuresome souls everywhere will find totally enchanting. I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best improvised jazz”! Learn more on the label’s site, at www.soundonsurvival.com Rotcod Zzaj
Shifts – VERTONEN 9: I somehow am getting an impression of sitting in a dentist’s chair, long after the laughing gas set in… only this dentist is operating on one of the planets in the next galaxy, on a set of teeth nearly as large as the Lincoln Memorial (with ol’ Abe as just ONE of the teeth). Drone, pure & simple, nearly 71 minutes of it, in fact. The intent, it seems, is much the same as laughing gas… to put you in that outer zone, where little matters, & all you can think of is nothing. From that standpoint, this would make a great CD for Zen meditations, or intergalactic starship mood music. Very calming, with very subtle shades of colors that you never can quite put a name to. If you’re driving through the Sonoran desert – do NOT spin this… you’ll have a serious accident! If, OTOH, you need something that will carry you on a journey you may not want to return from (all that soon) – this IS the TICKET. I give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the label site at www.publiceyesore.com Rotcod Zzaj
Diaz-Infante/Forsyth/Scherzberg – A BARREN PLACE OF OVERWHELMING SIMPLICITY: Many of you probably know that I’ve worked extensively with San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist/performer Ernesto Diaz-Infante over the last 8 years. That is, of course, what made me pull this particular CD from the huge stack that Bryan Day, of the Public Eyesore label, sent me last month. One note of caution for listeners… if you are the type of person that demands (at least) some semblance of structure, or pattern… you had better move on along. All of the compositions are sparse, with lots of “space” between the notes… there are moments when you will find yourself wondering if it’s time to eject the disc. Stick around… if your ears have adventure in them, you’ll soon realize that this trio are true masters at minimalism, & that (if you give it a chance), they will wind up holding you spellbound! Go back to the title & consider it; then think about it in the context of your third listen (all the way, don’t cheat) through the CD. Some listeners probably won’t be able to “hang in” that long… but those who do will be rewarded with a listening experience that is truly unique & totally improvised. This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact any of the artists at the following addresses: email@example.com (Diaz-Infante) firstname.lastname@example.org (Forsyth) email@example.com (Scherzberg) Rotcod Zzaj
Louise Rogers & Rick Strong – BASS-ICALLY SPEAKING: This very effective (& interesting) CD uses Ms. Rogers voice as a counterpoint to th’ bass, especially from th’ standpoint of rhythm! Some superb scat, as you might expect, & a great fun spirit, too. One critique I’ll make, which may seem like “nitpicking” to some readers, is that the CD wasn’t burned with the TITLES & track information on it. I believe that’s ever more important in today’s digital environment – tho’ it (technically) has little or nothing to do with the quality of the music. One thing that really held my attention is that though there’s plenty of jazz influence here, they don’t stick with “strictly” jazz (“Angel In The House”, track 2, or the traditional tune, “Shenandoah”)! In the overall, though, the jazz theme holds sway, & I (personally) think that’s what keeps the album out of the “discount racks”. Louise has a voice that will reach right out & touch your heart – & won’t let go… smooth, yet full of verve & life! I have no doubt that any listener who digs jazz vocals with spirit, complimented by bass/guitar most effectively, will find this album very attractive & listenable. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information on the CD at www.cdbaby.com/rogersstrong Rotcod Zzaj
One More – MUSIC OF THAD JONES (with Hank Jones, James Moody, Benny Golson, Frank Wess, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Owens, Richard Davis, Mickey Roker and Roland Hanna): Some real jazz meisters band together to honor Thad’s wonderful jazz compositions. If you’re not a “hardcore” jazz fan already, I think you probably will be by the time the last note on this fantastic CD rolls past your ear. There’s some superb energy here (as you’d probably expect with a player lineup like that), & no slack anywhere. The playing & arrangements will hold you spellbound for the full 70 minutes (or so), & you won’t want to be interrupted from this listen for the entire sitting. The tracks range all the way from small group to (nearly) big band, but they all KICK! This isn’t “hard” jazz, either… what I mean is that this CD would be equally comfortable in your car player as it would be at a party for th’ “hipsters” in your circle. It’s not at all “background” music – it’ll reach right out there & grab your ears, but it isn’t so aggressive as to scare off those who just want something great to listen to! Despite the title, this doesn’t come off as some back-bin “greatest hits” thing, either… it’s got “timeless” quality, especially for those who have a true love affair with jazz! This one comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those fans! Learn more through the label site, at www.iporecordings.com Rotcod Zzaj
Roger Kellaway – I WAS THERE: Despite the title (which also includes reference to playing “from the Bobby Darin songbook”), I found myself liking this one! That’s in part because I’ve reviewed his work before (issue # 68), I suppose. I fell in love with his light-hearted touch & gliding keyboard style there, & he doesn’t disappoint (at ALL) on this round, either. Just lookin’ at that title, though, put me in mind of hokey 1960’s parties where everyone (th’ girls, anyway) were screechin’ & hollerin’ “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” – or somethin’ like that. What you’ll find if you give this an honest listen, though, is that the playing takes you back to th’ spirit of discovery that was alive & well in that era. It should be noted, too, that Roger was Mr. Darin’s musical director in the late 1960’s, as well… which explains why he is able to get down so deeply into the soul of these tunes & turn them into the jazz they were meant to be. I’m impressed, though I didn’t think I might be… this one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners everywhere! Some very relaxing music! Learn more through the label site, at www.iporecordings.com Rotcod Zzaj
Charming Hostess – SARAJEVO BLUES: This is one of the strangest (vocal) avant-garde albums I’ve heard in many years. It’s based on Bosnian poetry, but uses odd combinations of vocal groupings & odd “whispers” to emphasize rhythms that weren’t meant to (ever) be together. If you’re looking for something that will bring pure joy to your ears, as well as a sense of adventure, this is THE ticket. Don’t bother picking it up if you’re expecting “the expected”. The ladies singing on here (Jewlia Eisenberg & Charming Hostess) turn common musical phrases on their head, & make the listener THINK about what they’re listening to. All the way from avant to hip-hop to near-funky, you’ll find twists & turns that are worse than th’ worst mountain road you’ve ever traveled. My absolute favorite cut is “Death Is A Job”… tho’ it is nearly as morbid as it sounds, ithere’s a touch of humor that will come as a total surprise. I’m highly impressed, even like elated over having received this total keeper! This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants their music to have FUN again! Contact via their site at http://charminghostess.us or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
The Sublingual Ensemble – AS THE CICADA BREATHES: This CD features some very interesting improvised works by a 5-piece you won’t soon forget. James Cornish on cornet, flute, violin & percussion; Rob Crozier with bass (acoustic), chromatic harmonica, steel drum & percussion; Elijah Church doing ba-hu, recorder & whistles; Piotr Michalowski playing soprano & sopranino sax & bass clarinet; & Michael G. Nastos on drums/cymbals, hubkaphone, bells, wood whistles, Tiger squeak toy, voice, shakers & percussion. I don’t usually list all the instruments out, but in this case, you need to realize the breadth & depth these guys cover with their music. We’ve heard Piotr before (issue # 67), but not in this context. The music will hold the listener intrigued from the opening bar. & that’s “saying something” for music that’s as heavily improvised as this is… there’s a sense of “body” on the compositions that doesn’t always come through on this kind of music… that was especially true on the opener (a nearly 16 minute epic), “Bone People”, my favorite piece on the CD, but (believe it or not), it also holds true for “Sparse Glide Across A Fresh Field”… obviously, with a title like that, you will anticipate the minimalist nature of it – but it still has a “fullness” that’s very attractive to the ear. This is one of the most interesting listens I’ve had this year, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears. Get more information at http://www-personal.umich.edu/%7Epiotrm/close.html or send e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Voices In The Wilderness – DISSENTING SOUNDSCAPES AND SONGS OF G.W.’S AMERICA: The players & music/rants assembled here won’t get anywhere near G.W., verzure (since he makes sure that anyone who disagrees with his absurd views is kept at least a few miles away from any place he speaks). I have a few favorites… “David Slusser’s “Thug” uses snatches of G.W. speeches, mixed in with jumpin’ percussion, to create a (nearly) jazzy tune, that would PISS Papa & Barbara off somethin’ terrible. Also, “mjane” does “Mama Rage”, a real KICKin’ beat that will hone your rage! Dave Tucker’s classical “Take The Word Of A Madman” won’t make anyone in the Bush enclave pass their gases any easier, either. Track 26, “Bush Lays Down The F**ing Rap”, from Robert M. is absolutely hilarious! I could go on & on, but you need to GET this CD & listen to it over & over again, until the reality of where the “Evil” really is sets in on your mind so clearly that you won’t be able to sleep peacefully… until you truly realize that what Ernesto Diaz-Infante & crew put in the liner notes addresses the absolute absurdity of what this last “election” was really all about – “After the election results were in and Kerry asked the American people to get behind Bush, we became highly aware that there may be no stopping this Empire’s atrocities.” Don’t approach this music with any sense of being “comforted” by smooth songs of “protest”, or “we shall overcome”… rather, expect the unexpected, & feel the sense of raging fury that came (for so many) after November 2004. There are 33 songs here, & each of them will get you fired up against the current political idiocies. I doubt that too many “grannies” will listen to this with their “tea & scones”, but those who want a dose of how people are really feeling about ‘G.W.’s America” will HAVE to have this one in their collection. It gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! Get more information at www.paxrecordings.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Danny Barrett – INDIAN SUMMER: Danny’s vocals will remind those of you who are old enough of those Saturday afternoon TV musicals with guys like Bing Crosby & Dean Martin. A nice jazzy feel on all the tracks, with a musical cast far too heavy to lay out here… you’ll have to purchase the CD if you want to get the listing. It’s really the musicians, rather than the vocals, that are most attractive to my ears. That’s not to detract from Mr. Barrett’s skills… he is excellent… it’s just that I don’t think this will wash with today’s “in crowd”… maybe I’m just too far removed from what the “in crowd” is all about these days, I don’t know. Danny’s vocals are lush & full-bodied, & in the right circumstance (like a lost love, or something), I could see myself listening to this. From the standpoint of well performed jazz vocals, this does get a RECOMMENDED, but I (still) think it will be an audience that’s looking for something that doesn’t (really) exist anymore. Get more information from his site, at http://dannybarrett.com Rotcod Zzaj
Various Artists – THE UNMODERATED: Tho’ this CD project was started on/by the “FZ Forum”, it’s not all “just Zappa music”. There is a musical challenge here for all variants of “jaded listeners”, & I’m here to tell you, I mean challenge! This isn’t the high-tech nitemare you might have brewing in your mind, it’s clear & well recorded music that will strike accord with listeners across the spectrum. I was first turned on to the CD by my MIXPOSURE friend Craig (aka The Central Scrutinizer, or at MIX as solipsism). The standout track, which clocks in at around 13 minutes, & features a LOT of players, is called “The World Is Xenochrony”… a “google” definition is “This word, coined by Frank Zappa, concerns taking parts played by musicians without reference to each other and combining them in a multi-track studio”… at least 25 artists contributed to this tune, & despite what you might think, it RAWKS! You MUST listen to it with headphones, at FULL BLAST, or you’ll lose the sense of context. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of chaos I’ve ever listened to! Wish I could’ve played on it… maybe next time. Cut 3, “Resolve”, even has greetings by Dweezil on it – a really cool touch. What is the “music” like? Imagine every sound you’ve heard in the last week (doubt that you really can do that, but try it anyway) & blend them together, using your head as the mixer… now, let your brain filter those sounds out in your favorite style… you will come pretty close to the “tone” this wondermous CD achieves. Weak minds won’t “grok” what’s being done here, but that’s allright, ‘coz there are plenty of listeners out there who WILL! My favorite track on the album was “Brothers”… some great guitar leads, & a cacophony of jazz undercurrent & poetry that reminded me of Beefheart & Zappa… SOLID nutzo material! Ha! Ha! This CD is destined to be a Collector’s item… it gets the “PICK” of 2005 for “best “out” music”, as well as our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who truly believe that (as Bruce Cockburn says) “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse”. A GRAND excursion into what digital insanity will sound like in the 22nd Century. Unfortunately (for you), this CD is only available if you can find a copy of it. It’s not available in stores; I have managed to get you an e-mail address where you can inquire about it, though – contact email@example.com or read more at www.eggplantsociety.com/unmoderated/The_Unmoderated.htm Rotcod Zzaj
Taped Rugs Productions – MACHINATIONS: If you haven’t been to an aural “Mad Hatter” sonic affair lately, you’ll find this CD the “cat’s meow”. Our pal CRG III (Charles Rice Goff III) is truly a master at twisting things, particularly cutup sonics, into something that is (somehow) recognizable, yet bent. & those who know me (in the musical sense) know that I just LOVE musical adventures that carry folks away into the land of “bent forever”. One of the main things that stands out for me on this recording is the quality of the recording… this sounds like “downtown Hollywood” studio work, but if Hollywood ever recorded music like this – the world WOULD blow up! Various artists here with CRG, including one of my faves, “Buzzsaw”. How would I describe the “music” here? Well, I wouldn’t.. because it’s truly indescribable – you’ll have to trust my judgment on this… if you enjoy soniques that take you to new places, via the “meat grinding machine” that Charles put this through – you’ll LOVE it. If you’re the kind of listener who must have a “word sheet” with every song you listen to – you’ll HATE it. There is no in-between with music like this.. like the cover, it’s pretty much black/white. Those who can’t do without a little danger in their listening, however, will find great challenge here… this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who gotta’ get an adventure fix! Contact via Taped Rugs site, at www.geocities.com/padukem Rotcod Zzaj
Onaje Allan Gumbs – REMEMBER THEIR INNOCENCE: You’ll have to want piano/keyboard excellence to enjoy this simple, yet beautiful CD from Onaje. If you’re lookin’ for low-class, or Hip-Hop claptrap, go elsewhere. Now that that’s settled, I can tell you that you won’t find music with this much class -even uptown! He’s assembled a cast of players far too long to itemize here… 13 players, 2 singers & 1 poet besides himself, so you’ll have to dig through the liners when you get the album to get th’ full scoop. What stands out with Gumbs’ piano playing is the sheer joy he’s able to express… high energy, no note left unturned & full frontal skills across the boards. It’s clear that he (& all the players he’s assembled here) communicate in a (musical) language that lives and breathes for the innocence the album title alludes to. This should be “required listening” in music classes around the world… if it were, we would live in a much more harmonious environment! 2005 has brought a whole host of jazz albums our way (again), but I can say (without qualification) that “Remember Their Innocence” gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best piano-based jazz”, as well as a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears! Get more information about the album, listen to samples, or purchase at his site: www.onajeallangumbs.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Simone Kopmajer – ROMANCE: The title really says it all… if you weren’t romantically inclined when you put this CD in the player… you (either) will be (right) when it starts, or you’re a zombie already. Simone’s vocals come to you with no “high pressure pitch”, simple, yet totally skilled… the recording quality is superb, & captures each little nuance of the enchantment she wraps your mind in. That’s especially true for “We Kiss In A Shadow”, cut 3 (which is my favorite piece on the album). High energy shines through, & the rest of the players (John di Martino, piano/arrangements; George Mraz, bass; Tim Horner, drums & Eric Alexander, tenor sax) just explode with th’ kind of love th’ tune is intended to convey. This is an advance copy, so be sure to check your local stores ’round the street date, 3 May, 2005. Of course, if you don’t like vocal works, this may not be your cup of tea, but I can tell you that if you want something that will let you hear what love & romance are really “all about” – THIS is the ticket. I just loved it, & give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information at www.zohomusic.com or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Fred Hess Quartet – CROSSED PATHS: Fred’s saxophone work on this superb quartet CD shows top-class talent, & the recording captures the true spirit of jazz! The other members of the group (Ron Miles, trumpet; Ken Filiano – bass; & Matt Wilson, drums) are equally as exciting to listen to, & you will be happy to own this album if you’re looking for jazz that will stand the test of time. Ken’s bass is a real “stand-out” on all the original (Hess) compz’, too… I mean, he doesn’t “take over”, or “compete”, but is featured prominently on each of the tracks; I was especially fond of his playing on “Funhouse”, track 5! There’s improv aplenty, but all of these songs just seem to “flow” from the jazz fountain we all love to drink deeply from. The title track, though, is my favorite piece on the album… a definitely “outside” feel, with exuberance overflowing, to the point of pure joyfulness. There are some very unique sonic experiences here, & any dedicated fan of the genre will find themselves listening over & over. One of the best quartets I’ve listened to in 2005, they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me! Get more information via e-mail to email@example.com, or visit the INDRA label to buy the CD. Rotcod Zzaj
Steve Shapiro & Pat Bergeson – LOW STANDARDS: This hot & jazzy lil’ CD starts off with a “sneaky” kinda’ “low-crawl” bass riff (Doug Weiss) that I just DUG on… puts you right in th’ mood for pub-crawlin’, to be sure. You know, late-night, cruisin’ thru each & ev’ry one o’ those smoky joints to find that “Mecca” (of jazz) you always look for at 1:30 or 2:30 in the a.m. Steve’s vibes help to create that aura, too, & Annie Sellick’s vocals are sweet & low! It’s not just the great recording/production on the album that will make it a (real) KEEPER, it’s also the fact that all the players understand how important it is to have “the groove” together! Track 2, “End Of The Road”, was my personal favorite on the album, prob’ly ‘coz it keeps that “alleycat” thang goin’… this is just th’ kinda’ thing those ol’ “hep-cats” listened to in th’ speak-easies, I’ve no doubt! The best word I can think of to describe the music on “Low Standards” is “slinky”… another impression that “End Of The Road” created was that this cut would have served ever so well as the theme for “Twin Peaks”! A really GREAT jazz album that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, particularly for those who love vibraphone! Contact at http://sonsofsound.com Rotcod Zzaj
Kimmy & Klasse – THE LOVE OF MUSIC: This definitely isn’t improv, or “out jazz”… more like a trip back to th’ ’70’s… to Motown, to be specific. This vocal trio has some really strong soul going for them, & they’re able to reach right out & grab your heartstrings! It’s actually a vocal trio, featuring Kimmy Kearse, Johnita Wilson-Dillard & Levondra Attidore. They’ve been doing their act since 1994, & from my multiple spins of this CD, it’s clear that they really do “love the music”…. & what’s different about their album, when compared to the imitators, is that they are thoroughly able to communicate that love to the listener! Their rendition of “Chain Of Fools” carries that super high energy quotient that attracted my ears to singers like ‘Retha, & Patti so many years ago… one of the best versions I’ve ever heard of the song – it’s MY favorite on the album, to be sure! I’m really favorably impressed, & give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of R&B/Soul that just won’t quit! Learn more, or contact the group at www.kimmyandklasse.com Rotcod Zzaj
Emily Hay – LIKE MINDS: You’ll have to have a “like mind” in order to like this musical excursion… but then, if you didn’t have a “mind like that”, you probably wouldn’t be here looking for the newest & most exciting improvised musics… true enough, right? Well, when you listen to Ms. Hay’s flute works, & begin to absorb the intricacy that here improvised compositions have, you will know you’ve “arrived”. This sounds like it was recorded in a large auditorium, or a concert hall… & the full range of the instruments, vocals & energies are captured for your sonic enlightenment. One other impression that comes vividly to my “front brain” is “zoo”… though I doubt she intended it, I felt like (at certain moments), I was hearing what it would be like (for the animals) waking up in the morning. Contrary to what you often hear on improvised music CD’s like this, there is a sense of “full-body”… I’m not sure how to explain that, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you purchase this album. An absolute pleasure to listen to, yet a challenge, even for seasoned improv veterans. I don’t just give this a “nod”, I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who aren’t afraid to try something that’s different. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase at www.emilyhay.com Rotcod Zzaj
Gordon Lee – FLYING DREAM: This is our first experience with Gordon’s wonderful big-band sound, but it won’t be the last, I’m sure. Lee’s keyboards are highlighted, naturally, but the rest of the 16-piece group is able to show off their talent in a very balanced way! The kinda’ jazz you used to hear… the recording is excellent, & captures the pure & joyful energy of Gordon’s compositions in a fashion that will make this one of your favorite albums of the year (& for some years to come, as well). Some of the “big-band” albums I’ve listened to through the years tend to get so tied down in what they think they’re “supposed to play” that your ears are unable to distinguish them from the other 50 bands like them. That’s not true at all with Lee’s songs… just when you think the song is slipping into something “standard”, a sax, or a horn perhaps, bust all your preconceptions loose… stunning & inspiring for jazz listeners of all persuasions. This is one of the most enjoyable listens I’ve had in about 5 years (& that’s saying something significant, ‘coz I’ve listened to a lot of music in the last 5). This is a definite KEEPER, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our highly jazzified ears! Learn/read more about the album at the label site, at OA2 Records Rotcod Zzaj
Robin O’Brien – ILSANJO: It’s been quite a while since we spun something from Robin (Don Campau’s wife, for those who didn’t know). This is a stunning CD, I’ll tell you folks. Robin has a unique talent for writing lyrics that wrap you right into the spell she is casting… this is the best album I’ve heard from her yet… totally professional production, through & through. Her vocals are both enchanting & inspiring… though she comes across as “light and airy”, there is a sense of power here that you won’t find with any singer(s) (I’ve heard lately) on “the radio”. The guitars spin in ever-widening circles that are “there” in your consciousness, but don’t intrude on the wonderful vocal imagery she paints (aurally) for you. Ms. O’Brien uses echoed vocals to compliment the main voice very effectively, but without any elements of “cheese”. “Window”, my favorite cut on the album, is at a slow pace, but Robin’s vocals wrap around the instruments like butter on a hot knife… concise, yet relaxed & beautiful! If you just love music that is inclined to the “folk” side of the equation, you will want to have “Ilsanjo” in your collection NOW! Contact via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Sun Palace – GIVE ME A PERFECT WORLD: Readers here who come to find “out” music, or totally improvised “free jazz”, won’t find much they like in this CD. It kinda’ takes me back to the “Mommas & Pappas” era (Gourd, I can’t remember back that far), encompassing both the “Pop” & “New Age” genres. If you grew up in that time period, this album will bring back a ton of mem’ries, most of ’em great… it was a “different” culture then, with most of us thinking/hoping/believing that life should/would be “perfect”. I’m not sure that even AM stations will support this heavy a retro direction… what my ears are sure of is that the folks playing & singing in this group have got the fire for what they’re doing. There’s nothing poorly produced or cheezy in any of the tracks… it’s actually a very well done CD. Plenty of energy for the listener to share in, too…. but it’s not (necessarily) going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. For those inclined to enjoy “happy” visions of the world we live in, this will be most enjoyable, & for them, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! It’s not my favorite kind of music, but I must admit that I found myself humming along in several spots (particularly on “The Corridor”, track 9)! Ha! Ha! Learn more about this group & this CD on the site at www.sunpalacemusic.com or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Six Fuchs – SIX FUCHS: I have the advantage of having watched all these players live before… some names the dedicated will recognize are Gino Robair, John Shiurba, Matthew Sperry (who, sadly, is not with us any longer), Tim Perkis, Tom Djll & Wolfgang Fuchs. This kind of music requires that you pay close attention… totally improvised, & not “normal”, it can be quite confusing for the uninitiated. Those (like me) whose brains are already “bent” in the direction of “out”, will recognize the sheer beauty of freedom combined with high talent… but even listening with ears as jaded as mine, “Six” can (& is) still a stimulating challenge. I can tell you (from having listened to them at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival) that each of these gents are masters at the craft of mesmerizing the listener… one of the most amazing things, though, is that this CD “captures” the intricacy of the performance better than many improvised albums. The recording is crystal clear, & with this kind of “out” music, that is an absolute must. You’ll love the titles, too…. “An Impish Onus In The Vogue”, or “A Touch Of Grandsire, Up Wrong”… Heh! Heh! This is a GREAT CD, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners enchanted with the art of improvisation. Contact through the site at www.rastascan.com Rotcod Zzaj
Carla Hassett – FIRST: This is a really nice lil’ CD, with some very unique songwriting by Carla… I mean, there is some “standard” fare in there, too, but she has a very original way (both lyrically, & rhythmically) of communicating pure energy! I’m assuming that the jazzy/Latino elements come from her heritage she has… born in Brazil (Sao Paulo), but raised in th’ U.S. Lil’ pieces of street rap are included in track 3, “Randy”, but cut 1, “Not Real Love” sound like it was recorded with someone like Sergio Mendez (who she has recorded with before, too). One of the other influences I noticed on the promo sheet was Thomas Dolby… which explains a lot (I think) about why she’s able to “craft” songs that really hold my ear. That’s hard for a lyrical artist to do these days, because so much of the “word” stuff tends to sound “just like the others”. That is NOT true with Carla’s music, though… my favorite track is “Randy” – because the lyrics are entwined with the rhythm with superb precision. It’s clear from my first/second & third spins of her album that she writes with a total independence, not letting any rules or restrictions hold her back… & (as most of you know) when that is combined with FIRE like she has, it’s a WINNING combo. This is one of my favorite CD’s yet this year… it gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most original music”, as well as a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating! GREAT stuff, a definite KEEPER! Learn more about Carla via her site at www.carlahassett.com or via e-mail to Carla@CarlaHassett.com Rotcod Zzaj
William Roper – IF I RAN THE CIRCUS: We have reviewed many of William’s CD’s before… his tuba work (yes, I said TUBA) is astounding. This outing is more a “play” than an “album”… sketches of scenes that have impacted Mr. Roper’s life, brought alive in aurally graphic sonics that will please your ear & stir your emotions. On the opening (title) track, for instance, the flute plays Christ, & the tuba/percussion represents the tears of angels. You will have to purchase the CD & read the liner notes to get the description of each piece, but one of my favorites is “Throttle-Up – In Memorium 51L, which focuses on the sadness of the “Challenger” tragedy… but the composition reaches much further than that, all the way to the stars! The most involved piece, & my favorite, is the last track, “Darkest Night”… the brief description is to say that it talks about the “Three Wise Men”… very, very involved and intricate atmospheres are blended together through the instruments, in such a manner that you will find yourself totally enchanted and absorbed. I consider it a real privilege to listen to & offer opinions on great music like this, & if your ears are attuned to adventure, you will want this one! If, on the other hand, you are shallow & inattentive, you’d better move on to the bubblegum rack. My ears give this wonderful CD a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… it’s one of the best I’ve heard in the last couple of years. Contact William at email@example.com or visit his site at http://home.pacbell.net/kyanite Rotcod Zzaj
INTERVIEW with Ed Drury
Zzaj: There seems to be a lot of ‘60’s & ‘70’s influence in your music(s)… groups like Mahavishnu keep popping in my mind when I’m listening to your trax… tell me why? Or, tell me if I’m just having “anxiety flashbax”, & wanting your music to sound like somethin’ it ain’t.
Ed: Well flash backs are part of the trip for sure. I was playing music then and of course, a lot of the music I grew up playing was even older. My earliest influences were guys like Don Ellis and Miles Davis but I also played in a lot of rock bands. I listened to a lot of stuff out of the bay area early, one of my biggest guitar influences being from a group called The Moby Grape (huge fan) but also Jefferson Airplane. That was one side of me. The other was following the folk music scene. Paul Simon being a huge guitar hero of mine. I also was a huge Doors fan and would marvel at the sounds of guitar and organ together. I played a lot of keyboards and guitar in those days. But I’ve always been picking up new instruments all my life. Growing up, there was one rule in my house. If I could play any written piece of music on a particular instrument, my dad would find away to supply me with an instrument. So it was that my house always had some kind of electric organ, an acoustic piano, several guitars, clarinet, more than a few trumpets and of course some type of recording equipment. My first really good deck was a Roberts reel to reel. I love that thing. I also had an early Ampex which did the all important sound on sound. Later I got a four track Teac and my life as a gear head continued as money permitted.
Zzaj: It’s obvious that you do a lot of collab work… I’ve slowed down a bit on that (used to do about 8 to 10 collab tapes/CD’s a year… what about you? How many do you do? Is collaborative work a preferred method for you?
Ed: I do a lot of collaborations. I don’t usually do CD length ones, but I’ve done enough of them to put some together. I work on several levels with in that area. For example, I was a guest artist with the Tapegerm collective. Great group of looping fanatics. In that vein, I’ve had a long time collaboration project with my friend Chris Phinney aka Mental Anguish, aka Harsh Reality Music. I don’t know if we’ll ever actually release a CD, but we’ve done easily a CD full of collaboration via creating and trading our own loops. That’s fun. People look down at loopers, but really a lot of people out there are looping and more than you would guess are full on professional music directors for film and TV projects.
But that’s the thing about collaborations, they allow you to do projects you’d have trouble doing solo and keeping together an ensemble for. I love it. Since I’m not usually a vocalist these days, a chance to collaborate with one is always welcome. I was fortunate to have some people cover vocal songs I’ve written. Also very lucky to have the great Lisa T from the UK write a song with me called “She Said Ahhh…’ which is something very different from anything I could create solo.
The other level is that I create backing tracks and through them out there for other people to use. A great example is a Didjeridu and Tabla track I called Eastern Sun, which was then taken by four different artists Evan Paul, Phillip Stone, Evan Paul and Joe King who each made a fantastic track of their own out of the same recording. That’s mileage. But more often I will simply get together with another artist and throw tracks at each other until we feel it’s complete.
But back to the sample and loop thing. Jack Wright (Quantum Kids) and Jamie Dubberly have both made tracks using didj and jaw harp samples of mine. Jamie did a fantastic cover of the jazz classic “Caravan” and Jack created a wild jazz guitar piece called “New Age Trash Compactor.” I couldn’t have dreamt a better out come from those samples.
Zzaj: Can you give us a little bit of a “bio” sketch? Where you live? Where you work? Where you “grew up” (or didn’t)? How old you are? You know, all the “gossipy” tidbits that other musicians always love to hear….
Ed: Well, I am old. I think God was a senior when I was a freshman so you can forget those rumors about me being older than God. But we could hang. I live in Portland Oregon. Nice little town. And I work teaching didjeridu and performing music, these days mostly for second graders as I am quite involved with teaching performing arts in schools. I also teach at the Hillsboro Cultural Art Center in Hillsboro Oregon. I travel and give workshops. In the 90’s I gave three didjeridu works shops in Olympia Washington as a matter of fact. I’ve taught workshops all over Oregon, Washington and Nevada. I also was one of the first didjeridu players, along with my friend Rick Dusek, to play on the strip in Las Vegas. That sort of thing. I grew up all over the Pacific Northwest, but I was born not far from a place called Celilo Falls Oregon which is an Indian Reservation. I started elementary school in Seattle Washington, finished in Portland Oregon and went to high school in The Dalles Oregon. I’ve spent considerable ‘adult’ time in Hawaii, Australia and traveled all around the Pacific Rim including many places in South East Asia. You could say I’m a Pacific Ocean/Oregonian.
For much of my life (1969 through 1989) I worked in various roles as a health care provider and diagnostic tech. Many of the stories and feelings behind my music also come from that experience. The people I met during all those years and the circumstances I met them under. I’ve seen people face death and been with them when death came. I don’t have words to describe all that, so I fell back on my language, which is sound, to tell their stories. It is perhaps why I first got into music from other cultures, because I found that most cultures around the world are much more in touch with what I was experiencing. Most people in the US, pretty much distance themselves from any notion of life ending. Death is hidden, secret and feared greatly as the ultimate enemy. I found it interesting that there is a wealth of knowledge on dealing with it out there and much is expressed musically as is all aspects of life in these musical traditions. It’s not all boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy is a rough and tough dude sort of thing as found in a lot of popular mainstream song subjects. But don’t get me wrong, I listen to top 40’s music too! I’m as much a product of pop culture as anyone you’ll meet.
Zzaj: What are your main reasons for playing music? Is it because you “have to”, as some players say? Or is it because it’s a “profession”? Or, a little of both of those?
Ed: I’ve done both. I actually took about a 15 year hiatus from playing music. Which explains a lot of the rust on my guitar playing. I think that I have to play music for my mental well being. Ironically, it has also driven me crazy at times. But I remember something a old boss told me when I was pretty young. I had a job helping deliver pianos and we were driving for hours to deliver a Lowery home organ to some little old lady in a remote little town in Eastern Oregon. Anyway, the guy asked me what I was going to do in college and I told him I was going to study music. Well he told me that was great and I’d never regret choosing a life in music. He said, “even if you just sell instruments like I do, you’ll have a wonderful life touching people in a very real and important way.” You know, he was right.
A huge part of my music comes from the lands I’ve traveled to and the experiences primarily with nature. I’m a huge lover of animals, and they influence me a great deal. I’ve always been quite taken with animals of all sorts and take my rhythms primarily from their movements and sounds.
Zzaj: By now, most of us know that you do didgeridoo… what other instruments do you play? What’s your favorite instrument (to play, or to listen to)?
Ed: Well I play a lot of instruments and I don’t know if I have a favorite. There are so many favorites. I love playing the guitar, always have. It was the guitar that completely took over my life when I was about 16 and it’s the guitar that still calls me. That being said, when I think of a melody, you know of writing something down, I visualize a keyboard always. Never the fret board. The fret board to me is patterns and chords. The keyboard is how I picture notes. I also like playing my various end blow flutes which I’ve collected from all over. I play jaw harp, studying mostly East Indian techniques. Amazing rhythm device that. I also enjoy playing (or trying to play) tablas and dumbek. I enjoy various hand drums, my favorite is an Egyptian Riqq, small tambourine with amazing variety of sounds.
I listen to a wide variety of music from around the world. From electronic to field recordings of remote tribes in South America and Africa, to symphonies. I’ll happily listen to most music with the exception that I don’t like people around who sing, clap or otherwise make noise while I’m listening. That would include talking to me. It’s always been something I just can’t deal with and I think the height of disrespect. When I listen, I am completely silent. I am listening. How people can just have music on and go about their trivial chatter about the weather or politics is completely beyond my understanding. So it is, that although I do a lot of listening, you won’t catch me at it often or for long. Not unless you take a vow of silence lol.
Zzaj: What kind(s) of musical projects do you have in the mill over the next year? Do you have any CD’s out? If so, where?
Ed: I’m working on my first CD in about two years. It will be pretty new age, but then maybe not quite. Most of those tracks I’ve stuck up on my Ampcast page. I need to put them some other places to get more feedback on them I suppose. Most of my CD’s are out of print. I did about 20 CDs and four or five cassette projects not counting an old didjeridu instructional booklet/tape combo I did in 1994. And an instructional video I did, I think around 1999.
I am fortunate to be a guest on some really nice CD’s. Sundown, produced by Barry Durdant-Hollamby available at his website http://artofchange.co.uk , She Said Ahhh by Lisa T (www.soundclick.com/lisa), Wrighdudes Ditties and Internet Collabs (available with purchase of Quantum Foam at http://users.adelphia.net/~wrightdude/quantumfoam and American Road by Jason Didner ( www.jasondidner.com ).
Also, many more collabs. I think that is really where I’m living at the moment. Especially when my collaborators have a good result with what we’ve done . That’s a real high. But I am working on some unique compositions which I can’t really share at the moment. (Top secret stuff lol!) All I can say is if you’ve been listening to me, keep listening. If you haven’t, well the best is coming anyway so you’re starting at a good time.
Zzaj: Do you feel that the Internet has helped to IMPROVE the quality of music(s), or (maybe even) degraded it? If you believe it’s improved it, why? If it’s degraded it, why?
Ed: You know I don’t think either. The internet is just there, you know? It’s another vehicle to get your music out there. For me it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with a lot of musicians and to get feed back on a wide variety of projects. I’m able to try things on the internet that just weren’t practical to try any other way. I can experiment with any genre I want to and put it on the internet and get a wealth of feedback. I can also listen to just a huge variety of music. That’ s an important driving creative force with me. In that respect, for me the internet is helping to improve the quality of my music.
Zzaj: What level of formal musical training have you had? Is “training” more important, or “practice”?
Ed: Tough question. I had formal training even before college, I attended lots of music festivals and played in youth orchestras from the west coast to the east. As for music lessons, private piano from the age 5, trumpet ages 11 through 16. The training was what it was. It trained me. The practice helped un-train me, or free me. I think training is very good. Excellent, in fact and I highly recommend it. I will study music with someone at every opportunity. As someone who is interested in various traditional music forms from other cultures it’s absolutely necessary. That being said, there is no substitute for practice and the discovery it leads to. I remember an Aboriginal elder telling me once, “that’s pretty good, your able to do it slow, now practice it slow for one year and when you have done that you are ready to try fast.” For me, practice speaks to discipline and devotion. I’m a huge advocate of both.
Zzaj: Do you ever play “on the road”? Or, is your work primarily in-studio? If you do play on the road, which is the more enjoyable? Road or studio?
Ed: I have been more and more a studio rat as I grow older. There are things I miss about the road, but I feel I have an enormous amount of creative work to get done and time keeps on ticking . So these days I’m playing beat the clock with father time. I want to leave something lasting, or a at least hell of a lot of things so it will take some time to sort it out . So I have to be recording. I do some recording every day. In fact, I try to write and record a piece of music each and every day.
Zzaj: There’s no doubt (in my mind) that today’s musical “business” landscape is significantly different from what it was when I was growing up. Lots more indies, & it seems (to me) that “the big guys” have less influence over what gets played. What do you think about that? Is “indie” the wave of the future? How do you think music, & the distribution of it, will change in the next 15 years?
Ed: Oh, I know only that it will change. I’ve always wanted a future when the consumer could choose the music from a wide variety and create his own mix to purchase. That kind of marketing just hasn’t happened to any real degree yet. Funny, the technology is pretty much there, but there is over whelming resistance on both sides to this approach. So I guess we can make and sell a few CD’s in the mean time. I’ve been told I can make a good coherent CD, so I’m glad to have the chance to do it the old way. You know, make a concept album. Still in the back of my mind I remember someone telling me that in the future, people will choose just the tracks they want from a variety of artists and make their own CD, their own soundtrack. That appeals to me. As for more Indies, yea that is a very good thing. I earn my small amount of crust by teaching people to play instruments and compose music. I don’t get to pick and choose who I teach. Don’t want to because I love playing and creating music and believe absolutely everyone is entitled to that pleasure. I want more people playing and creating in the world. And I want to live in a world where you can hear everyone’s music.
There’s room. There is room for street musicians, home recording freaks, electronica wizards, all to contribute to the soundscape. The problems that the music industry faces, indeed like the world’s problems, aren’t from too many indie musicians. And we aren’t in danger of having too many for a good long time..
It really gets up my nose when I hear from artists, ‘the reason no one takes ___ music serious is that there is so much bad ____ music out there.’ Fill in the blank with your favorite genre. No, the reason people don’t take indie music seriously is that they don’t know enough about it. And the time invested at pointing fingers at each other and looking for someone to blame would be better invested in getting the word out about who you think the worthwhile Indies are. I think Indies on the net get bogged down in too much negativity sometimes. You hear a lot of excuses for why we’re not more successful and they are mostly things that are not controllable because of the fact we ARE Indies.
Life is short, but writing a score for it is a BIG job.
As I move on towards my 6th decade in this cycle (only a year & a half away), I begin to wonder what the next cycle will bring. I certainly can’t complain about this one… I’ve learned a lot through various trials & tribulations (many of which I brought on myself), & I’ve had joyful expereiences of all types! Musically, I’ve grown evermore “out”, mostly due to being bored with things “regular”… does that mean that the next ’round on the Wheel of Life will be totally over the edge?
This life cycle seems to be filled with bloody scoundrels (most of them in “politician’s clothes”), but I s’pose that’s no different from any other dimension… even in our parallel universe(s), I think scum always tends to rise to the top.
One thing that’s been very exciting over the last couple of months is the series of INTERVIEWS I’ve been doing at the MIXPOSURE site. A good place to start is my interview with a guy named kephas There are a LOT of great musicians on that site, & I’m highly encouraged by the energy they display for supporting each other. One of the best things about that site is that they’re (usually) able to keep the petty feuding out of the forums… I hope that continues as a trend there.
We are moving, after 10 years (off & on) at the same address… it’s not a “new” house – it’s just “newer” than this one. I’ll be providing the address for you all in the next issue… due to the move, that issue may be delayed until (possibly) end-June, 2005. Continue to send your submissions to the old address, though, for now.
The poetry submissions seem to be dropping off… if you know of poets who want to get “non-schlock” poetry published, please have them e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org I want to keep that section going, but if I don’t get any submissions before mid-June, 2005, I’ll be discontinuing the poetry page. I already had to do away with the “D.I.Y. News” section, ‘coz no one was submitting links for their .mp3 files.
CD submissions (for review) seem to be actually GROWING, rather than cutting back… & that’s a really good sign. Despite “4 more years” of G.W., & the repressive atmosphere he’s been able to impose on the world (in hopes of keeping his Saudi friends placated), folks are still making music… &, in my view, that is the BEST THING that could happen!
Guess that’s about it for this ’round… anybody wanna’ do a “guest rant”? I appear to be “mellowing out” in my senior years… maybe need some o’ you youngbloods to get us (me) fired UP! Think about it!
Till next time…,