Issue # 165 Reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

(Click HOME to see the index of all issues)


The links below are to REVIEWS I’ve written for Cadence Jazz World!!!

Michael Jefry Stevens – Angel’s Dance

Dom Minasi/Blaise Siwula – The Sunshine Don’t Mind My Singing

Dom Minasi/Hans Tammen – Alluvium Sun 

Dario Chiazzolino and Nico Di Battista – Rewriting Song

Dario Chiazzolino – Paint Your Life

NOTE:  I normally only do 30 reviews per issue… due to the high volume of submissions, & the long recovery period for my recent surgery, I will be reviewing several more (20 additional, for a total of 50) for this issue (and future issues, until our backlog is honed down)… “normal” review cycles will resume when I’ve got the QUEUE down to under 100!

Colours Jazz Orchestra – HOME AWAY FROM HOME: For some strange reason, Boston doesn’t bring to mind “orchestral jazz”… but, on this 2015 release, Ayn’s composing and arrangement with the Colours Jazz Orchestra make this seven-song (all of them long) opus into big-band jazz truly come to life! I can guarantee you’ve never heard “funk-ness” like this from a jazz big-band orchestra… just listen to “Hang Around” to get your fix of “back-alley” jazz feeling… this really sets Ayn’s work apart from all the others who are trying to realize “real jazz” in a big-band setting! If you’re looking for something a bit more laid-back, you’ll love the gentleness expressed on “Wintry Mix” (now, THAT does remind me of Boston, in a big way). The song that immediately captured my ears and became my personal favorite, though, was the 7:13 “Down A Rabbit Hole”… you can “see” Alice & experience her adventures right along with her on this excellent composition! All in all, one of the best big-band jazz orchestras I’ve ever listened to… I give Ayn and her musical fellows a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this splendid release. Get more information at Ayn’s MUSIC page. Rotcod Zzaj 

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio – TRIPLE EXPOSURE:  Since our reviews are about the most creative and original artists on the globe, David’s “Hemage” bass playing on this eleven-song all-original opus is the PERFECT way to close this issue out!  Heck, even the artwork (by David) is an original!  As you listen to songs like the beautiful 7:08 “Rainbow Song“, you’ll be aware, immediately, that this is the kind of jazz you’ve been seeking all these years… Greg Goebel’s piano is wonderful on this one, and Charlie Dogget’s drums keep the tune moving around the center focus – David’s grand bass playing!  An adventure in rambling beauty, “Turn in the Road” reminds us all that life is full of choices and decisions that will impact us forever… the decision to choose this album over all the competitors is easy, though.  Of the eleven, though, it was the high-energy opener, “Whetstone“, that sated my appetite and reaffirmed my belief that David’s jazz works are among the very best in the world, bar none. I give Mr. Friesen and his great players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb bass-led jazz adventure.  Get more information at the Origin Records web page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Raul Agraz – BETWEEN BROTHERS:  I can say with certainty that fans of great jazz trumpet playing will NOT want to let this one slip through their fingers.  As you listen to scintillating movement and great percussion on “BossAgraz“, you’ll totally dig why I’m saying that… mighty mellow jazz from Raul & his compadres from Venezuela and NYC, folks.  If it’s “laid-back, yet funky” you’re listening for, you’ll find the ultra-hip “On a Sentimental Day” to be just what you wanted; lots of superb string weave in this one, too.  Though this is my first listen to Raul, I’m a big fan already, and that’s especially true for tunes like the percussion-driven opener, “Obsesión“… man, this tune will have you up & dancing in only moments, people.  This is a hallmark release that you won’t be able to do without in your collection… my personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up is the swirling “FDB” (I’m not sure what that stands for, but it’s definitely “got that swing”)… a most pleasurable listen; Raul and his cohorts get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb release.  Get more information on the Origin Records page for this great CD.        Rotcod Zzaj

Erik Jekabson – A BRAND NEW TAKE:  If SMOKIN’-hot jazz trumpet work is what you’re yearning for, you will be listening to the near-hour recording over & over again, I can guarantee that!  Erik leads with his trumpet and flugelhorn, but is also joined by some of the finest Bay-area jazz players on the planet – Kasey Knudsen, alto sax; Matt Clark, piano; John Wiitala, bass; Hamir Atwal, drums.. as well as guests Dave Ellis, tenor sax (1,5) and John Gove, trombone (5)… as you listen to the highly-charged environment they create on “Blues for Q“, you’ll realize you’re in the presence of true jazz mastery – I’m LOVIN’ it!   Their rendition of “My Funny Valentine” is a sonic adventure like you’ve never heard before, too.. wonderful blending of the instruments, and a superb recording make this one of the best performances of this piece I’ve ever listened to.  Since my main criteria for review here is “energy”, it was (very) easy to choose the absolutely kickin’ 7:17 “Streamlined” as my personal favorite… what an excellent way to open a musical adventure; my recommendation for this track (& all the others, in fact) is that you listen to it, at least on your first foray, with headphones a-blastin’!  I give Erik & his wizard-like musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this stellar album.  Get more information at the Origin Records page for the album.         Rotcod Zzaj

Phil Parisot – LINGO:  I’ve been a firm believer in the power of jazz for decades, and Seattle-based drummer Phil shows why that belief is totally justified… he’s joined by stellar players Steve Treseler on tenor & soprano sax, Dan Kramlich on piano/Fender Rhodes and Michael Glynn on acoustic bass, and as you listen to compositions like the title track, “Lingo“, you’ll know that (for jazz lovers), it just doesn’t get any better than this (just LOVED Dan’s Fender Rhodes on this tune); just over 6 minutes of pure jazz pleasure.  If your forte in the listening realm is wonderful reed work, you will totally enjoy Steve’s beautiful soloing on “Simple Serenade“… simple, yes, but full of power, too!  There are ten tracks offered up, and my personal favorite of those is the 8:19 opener, “Collage“… each instrument gets a chance to aurally shine… this one hits “replay” often on my iPhone, and I think you’ll agree that this tune alone ensures that the album merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving it… “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.99.  Get more information about this November 2016 release (and many others) on Phil’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Chelsea McBride – The Twilight Fall:  Nothing can be said, except “WOW”!  Chelsea does the orchestration for this grand 19-piece jazz orchestra, and it’s an absolute KNOCKOUT punch, people; of course, the best way to listen to it would be LIVE, of course, but the recording is absolutely superb, with every little note captured, and whirling you off into the etherspace of tunes like the 7:35 “Intransitory“, which starts off in a truly jazz orchestral fashion… but, by the time they get to the 4-minute mark, you’ll think you’re listening to a reincarnated Sonny Sharrock vehicle… GREAT movement, wonderful rhythm & some soaring guitar leads will have you thirsting for more, no doubt!  The rollicking “Foot In Mouth” will have you tappin’ your toes as if you were at an old Glenn Miller show… but, again, right at about the 4-minute mark, the entire group (but especially the horn parts) just TAKE you off into spaces you never even knew existed – SUPERB listening, SUPERB energy.  From a jazz (& near funk) standpoint, my personal favorite is “Smooth (or What I Should Have Said Instead)“… killer vocal, with the entire band rockin’ behind the singer. I give this excellent music a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00… meaning they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best orchestral jazz”.  Get more information on Chelsea’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj


Dog Leg Dilemma – NOT THIS TIME:  If you hadn’t figured it out from the group name yet – this one is STRANGE… in a (very much) FUN sorta’ way, though… delightfully so, in fact… as you listen to the rapid rhythmic changes on one of my favorite tunes (yet) this year, the 6:16 “Equestrian Playtime“, you’ll hear what I’m talking about, to be sure!  The players are (all) right on POINT, and will drive you to oblivion with their Zappaesque ebb & flow… you’ve got Anthony Argatoff on Alto Saxophone; Nick Lavkulik – Guitars; Noah Sherman – Drums; Peter Bull – Basses, Whistling, Woodblock, Acoustic Guitar, Organ, Electric Whip, and Natalie Wong – Violin (Tracks 2 & 3), and their high-talent, high-energy romps through jazz landscapes like you’ve never heard before are filled with something often lacking in today’s jazz scene – PURE & unadulterated GLEE!  It was the ghostly cloudspace on “Shadow Puppet Patrol” that got my vote for personal favorite of the seven (long) tunes offered up, though the power packed “Roll with the Hunches” came in a close second (because of the wonderful synth/string washes)!  These folks are masters of creating sonic environments where you’re not sure what’s going to come next, & that is (for this reviewer, anyway) a very, VERY good thing!  I give DLG a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine aural adventure.   Get more information about them at the Dog Leg Dilemma website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Sidney Jacobs – FIRST MAN:  Woo-hoo, people!  Sidney’s wonderful (and very soulful) vocal style takes me back decades, to when I first got excited about the POWER that players as diverse in their talents as  Bobby McFerrin, The O’Jays, Isaac Hayes & all the other greats of the late 1960’s & 1970’s… on the other hand, don’t shuck this off as “just another retro-soul album, either”… seven of the fifteen songs are originals by Sidney, and he’s backed up by some very talented players… Wendell Kelley doing trombone, Greg Poree on guitar, Nolan Shaheed doing trumpet, Justin Thomas on vibes, Zephyr Avalon on bass, Efa Etoroma, Jr. doing drums… Michael Jarvey does piano and Josh Johnson performs on alto sax… just listen to one of my favorite jazz/soul performances for 2017 (yet) – the simply titled “Fly” will have you soaring right along with Sidney & all his high-energy cohorts… truly amazing work!  My personal favorite is actually the title track, “First Man“… Sidney has woven many different cultures and styles into this wonderfully inspiring song – LOVED IT!  I’m more than just “impressed” with Mr. Jacobs wonderful vocal talent, and predict that you’ll be hearing MUCH more from him in the coming months/years.  I give Sidney & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that he also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “most soulful jazz vocal work”.  Get more information on Sidney’s website (and be sure to tell him that you read about him here, lol).            Rotcod Zzaj


Beata Pater – FIRE DANCE:  Another absolutely JOYFUL excursion into jazz vocal land… Beata has been reviewed here a couple of times before, most recently in issue # 142, and (as on previous releases), she’s outdone herself again!  Just scope out the high-energy title track, “Fire Dance“, to hear why I get so excited every time she puts out a new album… there’s nothing “mysterious”, it’s just her inner spirit’s  joy being expressed in a totally professional way through her superb vocals!  The eleven all-original tunes were penned by composer/pianist Alex Danson, specifically for Beata to apply her vocal magic to… actually, all you have to listen to is the tune “Harvest Season” to realize that you are in the presence of an absolute vocal master (the tune is short, though, so you will have to use your repeat button/key often – as did I)!  My personal favorite track is titled “Curse of the Locust“, and opens the CD… Beata’s true jazz vocal talent just SHINES through on this great song, and ensures that she certainly merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving her (and her musical cohorts, as well), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99!  Get more information on this totally enchanting singer at Beata’s page for this album.           Rotcod Zzaj


Virginia Schenck – AMINATA MOSEKA – AN ABBEY LINCOLN TRIBUTE:  Virginia first became enchanted with the music of Abbey (who adopted the name Aminata Moseka after visiting Africa in the mid-’70’s), and her enchantment shines right on through as you listen to great tunes like “The River“… 8:42 is the length, and it’s a song that generates lots of visuals (as was the intent, I’m sure)… a stellar performance from Virginia, to be sure!  Virginia’s high-spirited spoken-word & vocal work on this is thoroughly complimented by piano from Kevin Bates, bass from Rodney Jordan, drums from Marlon Patton and a guest appearance on alto sax by Kebbi Williams… I’ve read a couple of reviews in other locations, and some of the reviewers weren’t all that complimentary… of course, they either hadn’t really listened, of just don’t understand jazz (at all); just listen to the very down-to-earth “Another World” (talk about irony) to hear how splendid Virginia is in this marvelous jazz realm!  My personal favorite of the thirteen offered up is the ultra-high-energy closer, “Wholly Earth“… loved Rodney’s bass line on this one… truly beautiful jazz!  I give Ms. Schenck and her co-stars a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and I give her an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine jazz vocal set!   Get more information about this fascinating singer at Virginia’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj


Kristen Lee Sergeant – INSIDE OUT:  There’s no question that the jazz vocal market is a very crowded one, with singers who range all the way from “wanna-be” to “stellar”… Kristen’s voice puts her at the very top of the STELLAR category… just listen to her marvelous and joyful vice on “I Wish I Were In Love Again“… the ultimate in entertainment (even though it’s a very short tune).  If “coolness” is what you’re wanting to listen to, you will find her laid-back and “smoky back-alley room” jazz style on “So Many Stars” to be among your favorites… absolutely “tasty jazz”.  From a purely “upbeat jazz” standpoint, my personal favorite of the nine tunes was Kristen’s rendition of “Old Devil Moon“… it’s been a good while since I’ve heard such a lively and enchanting performance of this classic tune; her spirit just shimmers with the energy of total life… Kristen & her playing pals get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this exciting jazz vocal adventure.  You can get more information, & listen to samples on Kristen’s page for this album.          Rotcod Zzaj

 Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio – ROAD TO FOREVER:  If you’ve been hunting & pecking for the GREAT jazz, but still haven’t located what you need… look no further… this fantastic 10-song release features Greg’s stellar saxophone and flute work, along with Tim’s piano and acoustic/electric bass from John Lockwood, as well as drums/percussion by a master, Mark Walker, and will give you repeated listenings that you’ll never forget.  Just check out the git-down funkiness on “Whaling City Sound“, a 7:05 piece that romps through all those jazz back-alleys that you trod in your earliest daze – & ain’t that sax CLEAN?  If you’re more in the mood for “airy & light, but lively”, you’ll be totally blown away by Greg’s work on both flute and sax on “Red Fish Blvd“… a too-cool tune that represents what the spirit of jazz is really about.  & if that’s not quite enough to wet yer’ whistle, you will LOVE my personal favorite of the ten, the high-energy “Take The Crowell Train“… this just soars from the very opening note & doesn’t stop – because it will stick in your head for days, months, years… ah – FOREVER, maybe.  I give Greg, Tim & all the players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this album, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get the information at the Mixed Media Promotion pre-order page.            Rotcod Zzaj

Brian Dickinson Quintet – THE RHYTHM METHOD:  My first listen to Brian’s superb jazz piano work; he’s joined by Kelly Jefferson: tenor sax; Luiz Deniz; alto sax; Neil Swainson: bass and Ted Warren: drums, and it’s clear from listening to tunes like the highly charged opener, “Orion“, that you won’t find piano-led jazz better than this on the scene today!  One of the things this reviewer loves in music (more than anything else) is tuneage penned by the artists, and all ten pieces are originals… & among the best I’ve heard in a good while is “Trane Trip“… definitely a “swirly” thing… Neil’s bass solo on this piece makes the purchase worth it in every respect, and Brian’s piano is “right where it needs to be” throughout the tune.  The keyword for the songs that Brian composes/performs is “creativity”… there are no “stale moments” to be found, & that’s particularly true on my personal favorite on the album, the back alley-cat movement of “Moonshine“… I’m not sure where that title came from, lol, but it sure FEELS like lightning… super tune all the way around!  I give Brian & his krew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for a release that’s bound to become a 21st Century jazz classic.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information on Brian’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj


Jean Baylor and Marcus BaylorTHE BAYLOR PROJECT (THE JOURNEY):  Ain’t NUTHIN’ but a party… the lead-in opening track, “Block Party“, most definitely reminds me of black churches I’d been to (way, WAY back in the day), but in only 4 bars, it morphs joyfully into one of the coolest celebrations of life & the living thereof you’ll ever listen to!  Marcus’s drums drive the 7:53 track to new heights of soulfulness, with Jean’s high-energy vocals propelling you into the soul-o-sphere; just a FINE tune – it certainly doesn’t hurt that they have some of the best players they could have picked joining them – and this song KICKZ it, folks!  For something a bit more laid-back, but still full of their inner essence, you will totally enjoy “Tenderly“… sweet, SWEET vocal on this one!  Both Jean & Marcus come from backgrounds as “P.K.” (preacher’s kids), something I can definitely relate to, and nowhere is that experience better reflected than on my personal favorite of the eleven exciting tunes offered up, their rendition of “Afro Blue (Dream)“… this is the longest track on the CD, clocking in at nearly nine minutes (8:58, to be precise)… after a beautiful vocal intro, at about 2:25, the group lets is SOAR… perfect jazz!  I give Jean, Marcus & their musical friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this wonderful jazz experience!  Get more information about them on the CD Baby page for the album. (& tell them you read about them here, of course)!         p.s.  The player list for this one is rather long, but here you go (Personnel: Jean Baylor: vocals, handclaps; Marcus Baylor: drums, Handclaps; Shedrick Mitchell: piano, organ (1, 2, 3, 10); Allyn Johnson: piano (4- 9); David “DJ” Ginyard: electric bass (1, 2); Chris Smith: upright bass (3, 10); Dezron Douglas: upright bass (4, 6-9; Corcoran Holt: upright bass (5); Marvin Sewell: guitar (3, 6-9); Rayfield “Ray Ray” Holloman: guitars (1, 10); Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone (2); Keith Loftis: tenor saxophone ( 4-6, 8-9); Freddie Hendrix: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 3); Keyon Harrold: trumpet (6); Stafford Hunter: trombone (6); Aaron Draper: percussion, handclaps (1); Pablo Batista: percussion, handclaps (2-4, 6-11) Nicole Neely: live strings, arrangement ( 6); Brandee Younger: harp (7)Rotcod Zzaj


Nancy Harms – ELLINGTON AT NIGHT:  Jazz vocalists often seem to be “in a rush” to convince listeners that they’re “the one”… the beautiful thing about Nancy’s vocal work is her superb pacing.. as you check out the mighty smooth & mellow “Rocks In My Bed“, you’ll realize that Nancy is just as cool as the album cover portrays her to be… a FINE performance… I loved this tune!  Nancy has traveled ’round the world extensively since first arriving in NYC in 2010… and you’ll hear how sophisticated that’s made her as you listen to the 4:29 “Strange Feeling“… in fact, if you listen really carefully, you’ll come away feeling like you’re haunted by her magic vocal on this one; meaning you’ll be hitting the “replay” button over & over again!  Of the dozen tunes she offers up for luscious listening, though, my personal favorite is her rendition of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)“… talk about “bluesy”, folks… best performance of this tune I’ve ever heard!  I give Nancy & her crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this early 2016 release.  Get more information at the Nancy Harms website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Guilherme Dias Gomes – LESTE:  A truly fine 9-song release from Brazilian trumpeter Guilherme, who’s been on the jazz scene far longer than I realized… most of his work was for a company called TV Globo… his all-original compositions on this superbly crafted sonic wonder  show the depth and breadth of his jazz skills, & any “true” jazz fan will enjoy this one!  His high-energy jazz is fully complimented by a cast of players far too long to itemize here, so check out the ALLMUSIC credits page to get the scoop.  I especially enjoyed the sense of rapid movement and high flight on the 4:43 “Flor do agreste“… just super, with great energy for the playing from every member of the group!  I expect you’ll hear a lot more from this talented player over the next year or so, particularly when the promoters & DJ’s listen to tunes like my personal favorite, the git-down & funky “Moak”… all the instruments have a part on this 6:18 jazz gem, but it is the percussion that made it my personal favorite!  I give Guilhereme & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this keeper!  Get more information on this fantastic player via his ALLMUSIC listing (I tried his website, but it wouldn’t come up).           Rotcod Zzaj

Al Muirhead – NORTHERN ADVENTURES; CANADA SESSIONS, VOL 1:  Al’s superbly mellow trumpet work is joined by an “A-list” of Canadian jazz players – Don Thompson (piano/bass); Reg Schwager (guitar); Guido Basso (trumpet/flugelhorn); Tommy Banks (piano); Laila Biali (vocals); Ben Wittman (percussion); Kodi Hutchinson (double bass); Mike Murley (saxophone); Chris Andrew (piano); Campbell Ryga (saxophone) and Mike Rud (guitar), in a set of a dozen great jazz tunes that will eat up your listening time (for a long time) after you get your initial listen.  Laila’s vocal on the classic “Night And Day” makes the purchase well worth it; full of life and so nicely complimented by the players!  I just loved the piano intro & the interaction between Al’s trumpet on “How Insensitive“… totally cool tune that will be getting played on “repeat” many times.  Of the twelve tracks offered up for your jazz enjoyment, it is “Come Rain Or Come Shine” that got my vote for personal favorite… truly one of the best (& laid-back) performances I’ve (ever) heard of this great song.  I give Al & his musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.   Get (much) more information on Al’s page for this album.       Rotcod Zzaj

Norbert Stachel – SHADES OF THE BAY:  If you’re lookin’ for somethin’ that will make ya’ shake yer’ hips, & GET hip… you’ll just HAVE to get Norbert’s great sax and flute work in your library… you can’t help but think “Tower of Power”, but the riffs & rockin’ rolls that Norbert provides on tunes like the high-energy opener, “Crawdaddy Dance“, will let you know that his is a unique musical energy & talent (Peter Horvath’s organ on this tune is KILLER; you can find the list of the rest of the players on Norbert’s discography); the track is only 4:26, so be sure to setup for “repeat play” if you’re inclined to funk ’round yer’ living room, lol.  If you want funky, down & dur-tee blooz, you’ll fall in love (in the immediate) with the ultra-cool “sua-ve” on “Last Minute Blues“… Norbert & his katz rip th’ room up & tear down that phroggin’ roof on this superbly bouncy number.  All the rest of the ten tunes offered up are “right on time”, but my personal favorite is the powerful “Mandela“; some wonderfully engaging flute from Norbert on this tune, & the percussion is supreme!  I give Norbert & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fully funk-certified album.  Get more information about Norbert & his inspiring music on Norbert’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj


 David Singley – GOOD HOPE:  I’m not sure exactly why, but this is my first encounter with David’s excellent jazz guitar work… smooth and flowing, as you’ll hear on songs like the most comforting “Metamora“… loved this one, & find myself hitting repeat on the track quite often.  The title tune, “Good Hope“, is also in a very laid-back mood; kind of like a country song, rhythm-wise, but it definitely stays in the jazz realm, & morphs into one of the most solid guitar solos you’ve ever heard!  David has performed with many great players… all the way from Bob Brookmeyer, George Shearing, & James Moody to Perry Como, Debbie Reynolds andShari Lewis & Lambchop… talk about “diversity”.  My personal favorite of the eight pieces offered up is “Inside The Mobius“… lots of fantastic “swirly” things going on, and the beat is top-dollar – very impressive!  I give David a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all listeners who must have some amount of great jazz guitar in their daily musical doses, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information about this high-talent, high-energy jazzer at the David Singley website.         Rotcod Zzaj


Heidi Anne Breyer – LETTERS FROM FAR AWAY:  Firstly, I must apologize to Heidi (who has been reviewed here a couple of times before, with my first review being in issue # 109) for the long delay in getting ’round to reviewing this January 2015 release… she got high marks from me in both of the other reviews, and on this double-CD release, the ratings soar!  What makes this album so enjoyable is that she plays “instrumental” on one CD, and “solo” on the other.   This provides the listener with beautiful contrasts between the two styles of playing.  The player list for the non-solo versions is far too long to list here, but you can read it on the liner notes page for the album.  As you listen to pieces like “1960“, you will be just as mightily impressed as I was with the breadth and depth of her marvelous ability to integrate her magical piano playing in with the other instruments.  Since there are a total of 22 compositions on the album, I won’t list each one, but my personal favorite was the instrumental version of the awe-inspiring “Touchstone“… if you’re a piano lover, you won’t be able to stop listening to this tune (or the others for that matter); the pacing and timing are PERFECT!  I give Heidi and her bandmates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this very enjoyable musical adventure.  You can get more information at the Heidi Breyer WEBSITE.         Rotcod Zzaj



Anaya Music – ETERNITY:  If we get to spend the hereafter listening to beautiful piano, harp and string music like Anaya performs on this very refreshing acoustic adventure, it will be worth any trials or tribulations we had to put up while in this earthly sphere. Every note is beauty, especially on tunes like the wonderful “New Skies“… intriguing sounds from nature are woven in to make your experience even more enjoyable, too.  It’s unfortunate that the album is only 32:52; it would be nice to have closer to an hour to partake of her soulful playing.  That’s only a minor criticism, though… as you listen to my personal favorite of the seven compositions offered up (and also the longest piece, at 6:38), “Gaia“, you will realize that you are listening to a master – & all you need do is hit repeat (on this song, or any of the others that catch your fancy) again & again.  I give Anaya a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this release.  Get more information on Anaya’s website.    Rotcod Zzaj

Louis Colaiannia – FOUR DAYS IN MY LIFE:  Louis’s piano work is always welcome here for review, and this beautiful ten-track set is among his best… just listen to pieces like the beautiful and calming “By The Sea“, and you’ll hear why I say that.  This round focuses on piano, though there are some strings woven in by the legendary Will Ackerman and his folks.  He wrote most of these pieces while on the Oregon coast, and his impressions of that beautiful country (& I know, because it’s just down the road from my home) are both intriguing and captivating.  The simple opening piano lines on “Starry Night” are thoroughly complimented by bass, strings and some great percussion… a very soulful piece of music that I listen to over & over again.  It is the opening track, “Aurora’s Light“, that got my vote for personal favorite, even though it is one of the shorter tracks (4:19)… full-bodied keyboards with excellent recording.  I give Louis a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listeners who love piano accompanied by various instruments.  “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.98.  Get more information at Louis’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Gene Ess – ABSURDIST THEATER:  I’ve reviewed a ton of Gene’s fabulous jazz guitar work, all the way from “straight-ahead”, to “a bit out there”; this September 2016 release goes in a decidedly different direction from most of the work I’ve heard him do to date.  He’s joined by an absolutely stellar crew of musicians (Thana Alexa – Voice, Lyrics; Manuel Valera – Piano, Keyboards; Yasushi Nakamura – Acoustic and Electric Bass; Clarence Penn – Drums), and as you listen to Thana’s beautiful vocals on “Jade Stones“, you’ll hear (right away) that Gene’s compositions on this outing are much more “in the ether” than those earlier albums I reviewed (most recently in issue # 156)… I just love her vocals on this one, and all the players are tightly woven together – truly professional jazz!  Great attention to detail has been paid on each of the pieces, but I found “Out of the Ashes” to be one of the most emotive of the eight pieces offered up… the intricacy of the piano together with the vocal will lead you to the sublime.  From a jazz guitar standpoint, though, the clear winner for my personal favorite on the album is the 8:38 “Circe’s Compassion“… jazz that’s truly full of the beauty (and sadness) of life.  I give Gene & his compatriots a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid release.  Get more information about this engaging guitarist on Gene’s bio page.         Rotcod Zzaj


Elektra Kurtis and Ensemble Elektra – BRIDGES FROM THE EAST:  Elektra’s jazz violin work is more like a super-highway than a bridge… comparisons are impossible to make, as her work is decidedly her own, as you’ll hear on the stunning 4:03 opener, “Triton“… a rousing entrance for the Greek sea god on this high-energy piece!  It is definitely her wisdom in rhythmical structure, and flawless execution of it on tunes like “334” that make her an “instant hit” here at Zzaj Productions; Ms. Kurtis shines brilliantly on this powerful song!  The bass is heavy on the intro, and the spoken-word snatches are superb on “Like Rocks“… many who have been reading this magazine for a while know that I am a big fan of spoken-word, and this is among the best I’ve heard in the last several years.  Of the sixteen marvelous pieces offered up for your inspiration and listening enjoyment, it is “Kalamatianos” that gets my vote for personal favorite… again, most scintillating rhythms, with a taste of many cultures!  I give Elektra a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this powerful album.  Get more information at Elektra’s website.       Rotcod Zzaj


Sound Underground – QUIET SPACES:  The most striking aspect of this high-talent trio (David Leon – alto saxophone; Alec Aldred – trumpet & flugelhorn; Jonah Udall – guitars) is their exuberance, though I expect it goes with the territory – very young & full of energy for well-composed & well-played jazz!  As you listen to the oddly-titled “Horseback In Faded Grey“, you’ll know that you are listening to the jazz players of tomorrow – now; their pacing is perfect, & they have every note right in it’s proper place!  It’s a strange juxtaposition of instruments, but it works well, especially on songs like (the longest on the album, clocking in at 6:55) “Me Vs. Me“… lots of room for each player to speak to you, and they do it with a laid-back, almost bluesy, groove that will enchant you for the long-term.  My personal favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up, though, is the 5:39 “Trio Tune For Tal”… the guitar and the horns are blended together in a sweet way, and this will bring out emotions you didn’t even realize were lurking.  I give David, Alec & Jonah a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent release.  You can get more information about the group on the Sound Underground bio page.         Rotcod Zzaj

Sergio Pereira – SWINGANDO:  I absolutely love Sergio’s high-spirited Latin jazz guitar work on this new 2017 release!  He’s joined by a cast of players far too long to itemize here, so check the album page to get those details (Many of these famous players have been reviewed here, as well). Just listen to the blending of vocals in, around & through Sergio’s guitar on “Chega Ai“, and you’ll know you’re in the presence of a true Brazilian jazz master (our dearly departed musical friend George Duke would have loved this)!  The only critique is that it would have been nice to have a full 60 minutes; maybe on the next release.   If you’re looking for something with a bit more laid-back feeling, you’ll definitely be groovin’ smoothly on “Leblon“… Sergio’s guitar on this one is highlighted, and it’s genuinely soothing for the soul.  He first started playing at the tender age of 8, and his many years of experience just shine through on my personal favorite of the seven songs offered up, “My Girls Mix“… beautiful vocal, and all the other instruments will make your jazz day, I’ve no doubt.  I give Sergio and his high-talent players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great jazz experience.  Get more information on Sergio’s Republic of Jazz page.            Rotcod Zzaj


Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra – PORTRAITS AND PLACES:  Wow!  Players keep “coming back”, now that I’ve been at this for a good while (I first reviewed Scott’s work in a quintet setting, way back in issue 89).  This March 2016 release is his first recording as a jazz big band leader, and he nails it, no doubt!  Just listen to the lovely “Aquas de Marco” to hear how powerful Scott’s conducting, arranging &* alto flugelhorn work are… exciting also, because he’s woven some beautiful vocal work in, around & through the changes that abound… one of the best Latin-influenced jazz pieces I’ve heard in a long time.  If you’re looking for something that will make you get up & dance the whole night long, you’ll totally dig “3 ‘N 2‘… super high-energy and power on this great tune.  The totally cool fluidity on the opener, “The Soulful Mr. Williams“, made it my personal favorite of the eight offered up… no question that “soul” runs rampant through this splendid track.  I give Scott and his players (list is way too long, so check it out at the Origin Arts page) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this cutting edge big band sound.  Get more information on the aforementioned page for Origin Arts.         Rotcod Zzaj

Glauco Lima – ONCE UPON A TIME:  Glauco’s jazz piano work will be a (totally) new experience for your ears… there is often a tendency for jazz pianists to try to “play like someone else”, but his strident style shows both his classical and jazz roots on all of the songs he offers up for your adventuresome ears… and he doesn’t just stick to straight-piano keyboards… the electrifying Rhodes-like sound he uses on “Sevenk” is just superb, and shows his diversity without question, and his players (Saxophone-Livio Almeida; Bass-Eduardo Belo; Drums-Joao Mota) on this track are jazz professionals through & through!  Tunes like the 6:35 “Wave” (Jobim) reflect an ultra-cool energy and fresh approach that you don’t always hear these days in jazz.  I’m impressed, and will predict that this release will make him much more familiar to you over the coming months & years.  It is the 7:12 “Ababacabe“, a Glauco original, that I fell totally in love with right away, and he’s joined by bassist John Patitucci; this is definitely my personal favorite of the eight songs offered up… lots of rhythm changes, yet the clear beat of life keeps moving you to new places.  I give Glauco and crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information about him on Glauco’s bio page.         Rotcod Zzaj


Phill Fest – THAT’S WHAT SHE SAYS:  Phill got good marks from me in an earlier review of his excellent jazz guitar work (issue # 137).  That album was more “blues-oriented”, while this March 2015 release is closer to fusion jazz.  As you listen to ultra-cool Latin-based pieces like the wonderful “Frajola“, it will be easy for you to realize why I dig his style in a big way… loved the integration of vocals and harmonica (Hendrik Muerkens, one of my favorite jazz harp players).  Though this is a “catch-up” review from the huge stack of CD’s that have been waiting, I’m sure you’ll agree that Phill’s playing easily falls into the “timeless jazz” category, especially when you listen to songs like the fluidly moving “Chora Baiao“… this piece is a perfect example of why Latin jazz is among the best on the planet.  In the end-run, though, it was the superb percussion on the 6:01 “Guararapes” that captured my vote for personal favorite of the ten tracks offered up… wow, this music MOVES!  I give Phill and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid album.  You can get more information on this fine artist at Phill’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj


Simon Frick – SIMON FRICK SOLO:  Hardcore old-school jazzheads may not enjoy this as deeply as I did… Simon does solo violin with heavy effects, and coaxes very interesting sonic visions on this May 2015 album.  One thing that’s very different about his playing style is that once a song starts – it doesn’t stop until the end!  Just listen to the full-blown orchestral-sounding “Internal Bleeding” to get a hint at how able Simon is at pulling your emotions right up to the top of your being and making them real again; tasty, tasty indeed!  His use of “different-sounding” violin & effects is very pleasant to listen to on pieces like “Atwa” (until he gets to the “power” sections of the tune, where he reminds you that his creativity is a force to be reckoned with).  Great recording, and talent beyond measure… my personal choice for favorite of the dozen tunes offered up is the roiling (almost metal-like) “Human“… tension and release, indeed… at 7:59, the composition gives him plenty of room for twists and turns, and you’ll find yourself coming back to listen to this one over & over again.  Simon’s playing does require a desire for hearing something different than the norm, but that’s what makes it so attractive (for this writer, anyway).  I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this very creative release.  You can get more information on his page for this album.            Rotcod Zzaj  


Billy Lester – UNABRIDGED:  it’s been a long time since I reviewed Billy’s fantastic jazz solo piano work (the last review was in issue # 134).  On this May 2015 release, he again proves himself as a master of the keyboards – in a BIG way!  If you’re not sure about that – go LISTEN to “Jamba Swing“… rills & riffs like you’ve never heard before, and if you’re a totally dedicated fan of piano adventure, you won’t be able to stop listening to his timeless playing.  If you look up the definition for “unabridged”, you’ll realize that this is a perfect title for his album… “complete, entire, uncut”… this is raw playing purely for the pleasure it can bring (for both the player and the listener).  One of the oddest blues I’ve ever heard is Billy’s “Blues for Charlie Christian“… odd because it’s not at all what you would expect a blues to be – yet it clearly IS blues, with lots more notes than you’re used to hearing.  “Spontaneous” is the best word to describe what he’s doing, I believe; and that’s especially true on my personal favorite of the eight tunes offered up, the 6:06 “Spree–Ing“… I give Mr. Lester a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this adventurous album.  You can learn more about this fascinating player by reading Billy’s bio.        Rotcod Zzaj


Federico Britos – HOT CLUB OF THE AMERICAS:  Federico’s highly accomplished violin leads this splendid excursion into Latin jazz on his April 2015 release… I had listened to it initially, but got caught up in personal concerns, and only now have I had a chance to sit down and seriously listen to Federico’s genius on this dozen-song album.  You’ll definitely hear similarities to Grapelli, especially when you realize that he has included famous guests like Gonzalo Rubalcba, Giovanni Hidalgo, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Hendrik Meurkens, Antonio Adolfo, many of whom have been reviewed here before.  I just loved the liltingly smooth energy on “J’attendrai” (featuring Hendrik), and have no doubt you will, too.  The string intro on “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You“, and the piano work will make you think you’re sitting in one of those smoky nightclubs (that I used to frequent)… beautiful!  Since I always listen for the really high-energy tuneage with stronger leanings towards jazz, it was easy to declare the percussion-laden “Dark Eyes” as my personal favorite… I could (and have) listen to this for days.  I give Federico and his band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine album.  Get more information about this high-talent band at the Hot Club of the Americas band website.          Rotcod Zzaj


Steve Cromity – ALL MY TOMORROWS:  Steve’s second CD, released in March 2015, is being reviewed as a “catch-up”… but, his jazz vocals on these standards is still right at the top of the heap!  You’ll agree as you listen to his soulful singing on great tunes like the bewitching “Sugar“… his vocal style is very much “up-front”, and full of the soul that makes jazz my choice in music (every time)!  The killer musicians he has backing him up (Kenyatta Beasley, trumpet; Patience Higgins, flute, tenor sax, and soprano; Eric Wyatt, tenor sax; Marcus Parsiani, piano; Eric Lemon, bass; and Darrell Green, drums) make this an “alive” set that you’ll keep coming back to, no doubt!  He doesn’t stick to just one-style singing, either… his love for bossa shines right on through on “My Little Boat“.  There are so many jazz vocalists out there that it’s often hard for them to get good marks & ratings from me, but as Steve demonstrates on my personal favorite of the ten tracks offered up, “How Little We Know”, with the excellent bass going on down under his voice, he’s far above the rest!  I give Steve a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information on Steve’s website.         Rotcod Zzaj

Keri Johnsrud – THIS SIDE OF MORNING:  As most of you know, I kinda’ “fell behind” back in 2015 & 2016 on my reviewing (due to a very invasive operation), so there are still a lot of albums backed up in my queue… but I’ve always been dedicated to reviewing EVERYTHING I accept for review.  Keri’s wonderful April 2015 release certainly merits high marks, I’ll tell you… as I listen to the high-energy opener, “From Here“, I’m more than “just impressed”; she gets every note “on the mark”, and will transport you into an etherspace you didn’t even know existed.  Her all-original lyrics are packed with meaning for every listener, and her backing players (Kevin Bales on piano/rhodes; Larry Kohut on upright bass; Neal Alger on guitar; Jon Deitemyer doing drums; and Stephen Lynerd on vibes) shine most brightly, especially on tunes like the lilting “If and When“!  Of the ten tunes offered up for your jazz listening pleasure, though, it is the jump&funk on the closer, “The Chameleon“,  that just floored me, and easily won my vote as personal favorite… Keri’s scat/technique and energy are clear and apparent on this great tune.  I give Keri and her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  You can get more information, and listen to samples, on Keri’s page for this sonic adventure.          Rotcod Zzaj

Lawson Rollins – 3 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT:  If your ears are thirsting for swirling guitar work that will thrill your heart and bring you up out of whatever funky mood you’re in – Lawson’s new (January 20th, 2017) release is just perfect for doing that… as you listen to songs like the ultimately cool “Light The Way“, you will be sated in your thirst.  Lawson is certainly no stranger here; I’ve reviewed a lot of his work, most recently in issue #155, where he got high marks (as he always does).  He calls his compositions “multicultural”, and that reality can certainly be heard in full force on the high energy “Driving Force“!  He’s joined by Dominic Camardella (piano, Rhodes, Hammond organ), Dave Bryant (drums & percussion), Randy Tico (bass), Charlie Bisharat (violin, viola), Stephen Duros (drum programming), and Forrest Marquisee (pedal steel)… all recorded very professionally by Sahin Shahidal.. and it’s clear just how much these folks love playing together on my personal favorite of the twelve tunes offered up, “Eternal“, a beautiful piece that will draw all your emotions forth, and fill you with the joy of your most urgent pursuits.  I give Lawson & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fantastic album.  Get more information, listen to samples and watch videos of the recordings on Lawson’s page for this release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Popa Chubby – THE CATFISH:  Ev’ry once’t in a blue moon, a submission from an Indie promoter just ROCKETS to the top of my personal charts; & such (definitely) happened with this November 2016 release from the artist known as Popa Chubby, born Ted Horowitz!  It’s good ol’ rawkin’ BLOOZ, & Popa GOT da’ goodz, folks… his guitar on tunes like “Cry Till It’s A Dull Ache“, not to mention his KILLER vocal work on the tune, will take ya’ right back to the ROOTS of what the blues is really all about!  If yer’ lookin’ for somethin’ to git yo’ “git on” with (i.e., dance ’round th’ floor), you’ll just LOVE Going Downtown See My Old Gal Sue“… this stuff don’t come from “deep deliberation”… it comes right from th’ GUT!  There was no doubt in my mind, though, as to the track I’d pick as personal favorite… hands-down, it is “Blues for Charlie” that got picked… in great part, that’s because of the guitar work, but the real deal is that this IS the “real deal”… I give Popa & crew (Bass – Matt Lapham; Drums – Dave Moore; Richard Monica; Guitar, Vocals, Percussion – Popa Chubby; Keyboards – Popa Chubby; Piano, Organ – Dave Keyes; Trumpet – Tipitina Horowitz and Vocals – Dave Keyes) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine rawkin’ blues release.  Get more information at the Popa Chubby website.       Rotcod Zzaj

São Paulo Underground – CANTOS IVISIVEIS:  When I reviewed these players way back in issue # 135, I pointed out that despite the band name, which would indicate “Latin”, their music was not (at ALL) what you might think of when imagining Latin music… OTOH, they got great marks from me, because they are truly unique in their approach to what they term “trans-global” jazz; and it’s easy to verify how unique they are… just listen to “Cambodian Street Carnival” to get a taste of the ultimate melodic mayhem they are able to create (this one is a “slow build”, so you’ll need to listen to the entire 6:46 – preferably with your headphones on).  The players are quite a “mix” themselves… you’ve got Rob Mazurek (cornet, Mellotron, modular synthesizer, Moog Paraphonic, OP-1, percussion and voice); Mauricio Takara (drums, cavaquinho, electronics, Moog Werkstatt, percussion and voice) and Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizers, sampler, percussion and voice), with guest Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flutes, soprano saxophone, electronics, percussion and voice) on several tracks…. any way you listen to it, this is “different”… I give the band a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this most adventurous sonic event.  Get more information at their Bandcamp page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Peter Kater – RESONANCE:  If your inner soul isn’t “shimmering” after you listen to Peter’s masterful contemporary piano work on this new 2016 release – you weren’t listening… SO, make sure you map out a full hour or so before you sit down to absorb his splendid work… as you listen to the wonderful string-wash intro on “Echo Inside“, you will find yourself contemplating your inner reaches and the possibilities that exist for the rest of your life!  It’s actually very important in times as troubled as those we live in right now to find something sonic you can anchor to, and Peter’s work is clearly memorable and timeless.  I’ve reviewed him many times here, most recently in one of my “Special reviews“, and can tell you that he is among the artists I consider to be capable of healing hearts.  In that regard, my personal favorite from this newest album is the totally inspirational “Rebirth“… high-talent artists like this don’t cross your path often in this life, so take advantage of this beautiful sonic adventure as soon as you can… you can learn more on Peter’s New Earth Records page for the album; I truly loved this one, and give Peter a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for the release.         Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Venuti – THE RHYTHM OF LIFE:  Though this is my first listen to Matt’s wonderful percussion work… he’s actually a multi-instrumentalist (in a BIG way), having started on piano at an early age, and then switching over to the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), and his solid skills at composition make his music easy to “grok”, as you’ll hear on tunes like the 5:03 “Loosen the Grip“!  Many albums that feature multi-instrumentalists seem to be all-too easy to “classify” & place in their “proper” cubicle, but that’s not so (in the least) with Matt’s music – as you’ll hear on the splendid opening track, “A Place to Breathe“… I just totally dig on his opening line on this track “Don’t need more words”… which is very true in the case of this song; it says it all in/of itself.  My personal favorite of the ten pieces offered up, though, is the 5:50 “Desert Dreams“… his weave of flutes, percussion and superb spoken word will stay in my mind for the entire year (& longer, I expect).  I give Matt a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine musical adventure.  To learn more about this very interesting creative, visit Matt’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

Deuter – IMMORTELLE:  The song titles are healing plant names; Deuter is a very talented multi-instrumentalist/artist who is fully capable of healing with his music… I’ve reviewed his work several times already, most recently in issue # 160, and I have no doubt that you will be listening to him over and over again, especially on tunes like the beautiful “Lily of the Valley“… he has a very unique way of leading in to a song that captures your ears and won’t let go until the conclusion of the tune (& then the next one; & the next one) – you’ll even get to hear him do a tad of vocal work.  The “haunting” quality on the strings for the introduction to “Sonnenbraut” is truly among the best I’ve ever heard (and as most of you reading this know, that’s saying something, because I listen to a LOT of music)… and when the bass/percussion kicks in, it’s easy to realize that this is my personal favorite of the eight long tunes offered up!  I give Deuter a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album.  Get more information on Deuter’s page for this release.           Rotcod Zzaj

Uwe Gronau – PARADISE PAINTING:  It’s not been that long since I reviewed a project from this prolific keyboardist/composer… issue # 160 was the last review, but you can just do a SEARCH to find all the others (& there are many) I’ve reviewed by him!  The “thrust” on this new one is ever-so-slightly more towards the “New Age” side of things, but Uwe’ really knows how to GET DOWN, too… just check out one of my favorites of the thirteen dynamic tunes offered up, “Prophecy“… this certainly brings to mind the dire warnings of folks like Nostradamus, and will hold you spellbound for the entire 4:01 length (but be sure you listen to this with your HEADPHONES on – at least for the first sitting)!  The funky beats on “Carpe Diem” will have you up & slidin’ ’round th’ room in only seconds… kinda’ like a 21st Century Ramsey Lewis feel – lovin’ it.  When it comes to music that defies categorization, Mr. Gronau is a total master – and nothing proves that more than my personal favorite track on this release, the gently swaying “Sounds Like A Smell“… as always, I’m captivated by the creativity Uwe offers up… he gets another MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on Uwe’s page for the CD.         Rotcod Zzaj

Rich Halley 4 – CREATING STRUCTURE:  I’ve been an avid fan of Rich’s albums ever since he first started sending them… this high-energy 2015 release featured features trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley in addition to Rich’s scorching sax work, and it’s one of those that just “won’t quit” if what you’re looking for is free-float gruop improvisations… absolute KILLER music!  As you listen to the “sneaky” bass opening on “Echoes of the South Side“, you’ll realize (right away) why I fell in love with Rich’s music from the very first disc he sent me for review.  The other thing that’s ultra-neat is that you get sixteen full-blown songs… one of my favorite improvs (all time) is the oddly titled “Rain Percolates Laterite“… you’ll be a-bubbling after listening to this very unique tune!  Unfortunately, despite the relatively short distance, I haven’t been able to make it down to Portland, where Rich & his crew are based, but if I ever get down that way, I’ll be hoping they perform tunes like my personal favorite on this release, the bass-driven “Street Rumors”… at 6:08, it’s one of the longest songs on the album, and gives you a perfect view of the “street” (no matter what city you live in).  I give Rich & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great release.  Get more information, and listen to samples, on the CD Baby page for this album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Anna Webber’s Simple Trio – BINARY:  Something I can guarantee you, if you’re into music that has an “edge”, and “takes no prisoners”… Anna’s reed and flute work on this fantastic October 2016 release just NAILS that!  You’ve never heard sweeter “deconstructed” jazz than “Impulse Purchase“, and she easily captures the feeling that goes along with the title of the song… what’s clear from this 14:30 opus is that the players (John Hollenbeck on drums and Matt Mitchell on piano) haven’t forgotten the “prime directive” when it comes to jazz/music – HAVE FUN!  Despite the title – “Underhelmed” – you’ll be simply FLOORED after listening to this raucous and far-ranging 5:43 piece… don’t try to listen to this when driving, or you’ll be picked up for sure, lol.  She actually used the Internet (using sites that turn words into drumbeats), but this certainly is not “just another” hacked-together piece with no real players… ’tis most assuredly “real music”, though if you’re still stuck in the 19th Century definition of what “good jazz” is, you may opt out.  My personal favorite of the dozen tracks offered up is actually the title track, “Binary“, which intros with a very cool piano solo, but has a totally cool “slow-build” to total madness & insanity… loved this tune!  I give Anna and her musical pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most interesting album.  Get more information at the Skirl Records page for this release.            Rotcod Zzaj

Cameron Mizell – NEGATIVE SPACES:  Some wonderful and stimulating jazz guitar from Cameron on this fine October 2016 release… he’s joined by keyboardist Brad Whiteley and drummer Kenneth Salters, and you’ll hear (right away) just how well-acclimated the players are with each other, especially on tunes like the rock-like “Yesterday’s Trouble“… definitely a “sneak & creep” feel that’s perfect for listening (at full volume) as you cruise on down th’ road on yer’ Harley!  One of the most notable things about the group’s style is that they know how to “play the silent spaces” better than many others… & that’s best-evidenced on pieces like the laid-back, but ever-building energy you’ll hear on “Clearing Skies“… there’s no rush to judgement here, only pure (& heartfelt) playing that will easily take your ears hostage for the entire 7:39 length (the longest track on the album).  Of the dozen songs offered up, though, it was the dow-un & funky “Barter” that got my vote for personal favorite… the “hints” of organ from Brad are just superb on this track, & Cameron’s guitar is strident all the way through.  I give Cameron & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine album.  Get more information on the Destiny Records website.          Rotcod Zzaj

Nick Sanders & Logan Strosahl – JANUS:  A truly simple configuration, with Nick’s piano meshing very nicely with Logan’s alto/tenor saxophones on this October 2016 release that’s sure to capture your ears, as it did mine.  You’ll hear their talent immediately on the splendid opener, “Sigma“… excellent pacing, with nothing rushed, yet there’s a sense of immediacy that will keep you focused on their playing… one of the better duet tunes I’ve heard in 2016.  Another nice thing about their music is that they don’t confine themselves to any particular time period or genre, as you’ll realize when you listen to their beautiful rendition of “Old Folks“… their timing together is perfect, and every note is recorded flawlessly.  Logan’s composition on the title track, “Janus“, though short (3:38), uses wildly fluctuating time signatures to achieve a very lively session… loved this tune.  It was the 4:25 “Thelonious” that got my vote for personal favorite of the dozen songs offered up, though… they just ROCK this one out… superb and fresh jazz that every aficionado will want in their collection.  I give Nick & Logan a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on the Sunnyside Records page for the release.        Rotcod Zzaj

Luis Perdomo – MONTAGE:  This reviewer is a sucker for any well-played, high-talent, piano work… some of that has to do with my own experiences on keyboards (I released over 60 albums on which I played keyboards – “back in the day”, so to speak).  My player friend, Mimi Jones, sent me this CD of his fantastic CD work, and it only took a quick listen to tunes like “Monk’s Dream” to realize just how skilled he is!  In fact, here’s a live performance of these two magical musicians for you to “catch their vibe”:

Luis’s “Montage” album, though, is a different story… totally solo, with some of the finest piano improvisations you’ll ever listen to!  It will only take one listen to pieces like the strident “Mambo Mongo” to hear his mastery… of course, I’m hoping that Luis (& maybe Mimi as well) will do a “Left Coast tour”, so that I might get to meet these fantastic players.  My personal favorite of the fifteen solid piano works that Luis presents is also the longest on this album… “The Boundary Law” is full of chord changes and colorful passages that will delight your ears and bear out the title of the album… artful pieces tied together to make true sonic art.  I give Luis my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… meaning that he also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz solo piano”.  Get more information about this superb player at Luis’s website.          Rotcod Zzaj


Non Stop – ANCIENT CURRENTS:  & that’s just what guitarist extraordinaire John L. Holmes and high-talent keyboardist Mike Friedman manage on this eleven song powerhouse of a release… “non-stop” musical adventure!  As you listen to the horns on the Latin-influenced “Beyond Blue Redux“, it will be clear that these are some totally talented players who are downright comfortable with each other!  All-original jazz that comes to you from the “other side” of my state, Washington (Walla Walla, to be specific).  Mike’s composition called “Holmesbrew” features some fantastic keyboard sounds, as well as high-end guitar and bass work, to be sure, and each of the players gets a chance to shine on this little 5:44 gem.  The “layered” guitars on the title track, “Ancient Currents“, will catch your ear & hold on; in fact, you’ll find yourself hitting the replay or repeat button often on this great track.  Of the eleven songs offered up, though, it was the high-energy performance on “Long Gone” that got my vote for personal favorite… strong blues influences, & heavy on the horn section, too – I loved this song!  I give John & the rest of the players in Non Stop a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.99 for this stellar release.  Get more information, listen to samples, & purchase at the Non Stop Bandcamp page for this release.          Rotcod Zzaj


Heather Houston – PRAYERS FOR THE WATER:  It’s very easy to imagine Heather’s excellent vocal work encouraging those who stood guard against the forces of the “Blue Meanies” at Standing Rock, especially on tunes like (her rendition of) “Wade In The Water“… she’s joined by some excellent players, too, like Todd Boston (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), and the length of this track (6:45) leaves plenty of room for each artist to contribute to the overall flow of the piece.  Her voice melts over the beautiful guitar on wonderful songs like “Surrender“, and she’ll have you enchanted by the first two bars of this wonderful song.  It’s too bad we can’t get a few of those “power brokers” in the Nation’s capitol to listen to this music… there’s no doubt in my mind that if they listened to the penetrating piano on my personal favorite of the nine songs offered up, “I Dreamed Of Rain“, we might get their backing for preserving our dwindling planetary resources… for me, this song best illustrated Heather’s magical vocal pacing at work.  I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information on Heather’s page for the album.        Rotcod Zzaj

Casey Golden Trio – MINIATURE:  Artists and promoters will tell you that it’s seldom I review “EP’s” here… I definitely prefer full album submissions, but when I listened to Casey’s superb piano work on this four-song album (most of them long, by the way), I made that rare exception.  As you scope out pieces like the dynamic 9:18 opener, “Miniature, Part I“, and hear just how intricately woven together the players are (Casey’s piano is joined by Bill Williams on bass and Ed Rodrigues on drums & percussion), you’ll hear why I added this album to the queue.  It’s quite clear that the trio enjoys playing together, especially on pieces like my personal favorite, “Miniature, Part III“; some very intricate sonic weaves here that will get your blood pumping & keep it at an accelerated rate, to be sure; some nice “extra” instruments are integrated into this segment of the composition, too.  The main critique I have is that this album is too short… next album needs to be at least eight songs, and spend at least a hookah or two creating more imaginative titles for the songs.  Nevertheless – this wouldn’t be in my queue if it wasn’t high-talent & high-energy… I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  Get more information on Casey’s website.        Rotcod Zzaj

B’shnorkestra – GLOBAL CONCERTOS:  One thing I know I can count on when the music is created by Samantha Boshnack is that it will be totally “new”, and not anything I’ve heard before (except maybe in some of my wilder dreams).  I’ve reviewed her work in several different contexts, but in this “B’shnorkestra” configuration, my most recent review was in issue # 135.  What you will find and hear in these five extended original compositions (from live performances, by the way) is a well-formed and well-thought out set of modern “chamber music”… but, it’s not boring, or plodding, or any of those terms that are often associated with the genre.  On pieces like “Concerto for Julio“, you will hear some of the “sneakiest” piano licks ever, and she has all the other players (the list is too long, so check it out on her Bandcamp page) totally engaged in glorious and inspiring rhythms that are definitely leaning towards the jazz side of things… with some “changes” your ears will find hard to believe.  Of the five compositions, though, it was the wonderfully upbeat “Concerto for Talking Drum” that got my vote for personal favorite… you will hear Gypsy caravans, Hollywood horns and some of the most energetic up-front percussion that’s ever been recorded.  I give Samantha and her “B’shnorkestra” a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  You can get more information and purchase the album via the aforementioned Bandcamp page.        Rotcod Zzaj

Szilard Mezei Septet – CET:  If your ears are in an adventurous mood, and you’re looking for music that’s totally “out of the norm” – you MUST get this one!  I reviewed Szilard’s music way back in issue # 143, and he got high marks for his work with the International Improvisor’s Ensemble, and this latest (2016) release is even more exciting!  The one critique is that the artist’s that make up the group aren’t listed anywhere (that I can find)… not even on the Odradek Records label page for the release.  Minor critique, though, because as you listen to tunes like the high-energy and oddly-rhythmed “Hep 13“, you will know that you are in the presence of pure musical genius… and since it clocks in at 12:00, there is room for each player in the seven-member septet to express their sheer and unadulterated joy at playing – too COOL, folks!  My personal favorite of the seven long compositions offered up (none are under 6:00) is the rhythmically driven “Szil/Elm“… full-bodied, it’s like an “orchestral improv” session, & I just loved listening to it (over & over again, I might add).  I give Szilard and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fantastic musical adventure.  Get more information on the aforementioned label page.        Rotcod Zzaj