Issue # 168 reviews
Announcement! Announcement!! Submissions for IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION magazine are *officially* SUSPENDED as of 1 September, 2018. THIS ISSUE will be used for ALL submissions currently in the QUEUE… IF you would still like to get your music reviewed, please visit my CONTEMPORARY MUSIC REVIEWS page, where you’ll find all the details for how to get reviewed there:
Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure
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NOTE: I normally only do 30 reviews per issue… due to the high volume of submissions, 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!
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Announcement! Announcement! In the time-honored tradition of “Ghost of Christmas (and other scary holidays) Past”, we are proud to announce the return of our long-time authoring pal Robin B. James to the most MajickLand of Olywa… he will be lending his ears (& heart & soul)
http://rotcodzzaj.com/42-2/improvijazzation-nation-158/issue-158-reviews/) to our review efforts, at least for a while… many of you know him from his Cassette Mythos Enjoy his reviews!
Jeremy Ledbetter Trio – Got A Light?: Piano jazz, smooth and supercharged flowing improvisations with a fountain of drums and bass AN INTERSTELLAR COLLISION OF WORLD MUSIC AND CONTEMPORARY JAZZ the promotional material that accompanies the music also says that the album is a controlled explosion of big musical ideas, stylistic variety, vivid colours and compelling musical storytelling. What’s not to love about all that? Plus its from Canada, at the top of their game. This debut album exhibits Inspirations ranging from Venezuela to Myanmar influences which covers a lot of musical territory. The compositions are all original except for Gift Shop which is a tribute to the great Gord Downie.
Jeremy Ledbetter piano
Rich Brown bass
Larnell Lewis drums
Eliana Cuebvas and Leila Ledbetter provide vocals on Her New Wings
Reimundo Sosa bata drums
Recorded at Ruge Valley Studios in Toronto Canada by John “Beetle” Bailey.
This is a conceptually related sequence of piano based musical numbers well suited for relaxing and for accompanying fine dining, a rich wandering sonic landscape. Breathe out and relax, there is nothing to prove here, it’s all a natural flowing living thing.
Amanecer 7:1 I am seeing Icarus in my mind, learning to fly and full of ambition. It’s a well told tale worth hearing again and again.
Got A Light 4:04 Playful start-stop funk groove that gets as far down as a sunny day can get.
Her New WIngs 4:10 This one has the melodeon and the vocals. The story is told and the breeze blows by, this takes us along on a healing glide. This one has the vocals so it really shines.
About Climbing Mountains 8:02 It starts with a strong hand and immediately broadens out into a bright green sunlit field, the mountains are gigantic. It’s a long strong story with lots of musical detail and flourishes. You must climb the mountain carefully so that everyone makes it, not just the people climbing today, but also all the children to come must also climb the mountain and they must have all the knowledge we have now plus all the new knowledge that has come to light since we started climbing.
Mais Um 5:30 This one is a celebrationof the bass which is more up front with solos than elsewhere on this album. Get up and dance, at least in your imagination. Better yet, just stand up and let it take you. Use your Spanish steps and your Cuban wiggle.
Suspirito 5:34 Slow everything down and listen while you hear your own breathing with the melodic dream moving in and around your senses. Another journey into new territory, carefully fitting everything in and feeling the combined radiances. Float and react to the questions and simple pictures made of sound. It’s a good ride. The story has a good ending and it goes on forever.
Gift Shop 3:42 This is all about memories and selecting something for a friend from a variety of possible gifts. Time well worth spending looking at a thoughtful range of treats and interesting small worlds. This one ends in good dreams.
The Pepper Drinker 5:22 Now we are jumping around again, dancing and showing off on an Iberian tapestry. The steps are very close and intricate, they have the important classic structures and some new sparkles mixed in.
The Tightrope Walker 6:54 It starts cautiously, building interest and adding depth constantly. Way up there is a small man on his feet with no safety, but he keeps his steps moving steadily as he progresses across the sky. He jumps sometimes, it’s a wonder if he will continue to survive. Things happen quickly, never missing a step, building and innovating. He just jumped out of sight, and now he is returning as if nothing happened. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED EQ 3.4 Robin B. James
Shake Stew – RISE AND RISE AGAIN: The very first thing that struck me on the opener for this high-energy release is the MOVEMENT… these jazz folks from Austria will absolutely blow you AWAY… just check out tunes like the 10:35 “Goodbye Johnny Staccato“, to aurally witness their extreme talent; I totally DUG this song… the changes on this one alone make the album worth the purchase! Flawless recording goes a long way, but really, it’s the TALENT they display that makes it an instant jazz hit here in my review studios. The players are Lukas Kranzelbinder: double bass, e-bass, guembri; Clemens Salesny: alto saxophone, crackle box, flute; Johannes Schleiermacher: tenor saxophone, flute; Mario Rom: trumpet, flute; Manuel Mayr: double bass, electric bass; Niki Dolp: drums, percussion and Matthias Koch: drums, percussion, & when you scope out performances like my personal favorite of the six (long) pieces offered up, “Get Up Eight“, you’ll know right away why they got a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information on the SHAKE STEW website. Rotcod Zzaj
The Aaron Clift Experiment – IF ALL GOES WRONG: This rockin’ lil’ nine-song release has some definite power going for it… they manage to pull several sub-genres of rock together into songs that are excellent for “ridin’ on down the road”… just scope out the 4:50 opener, “Faith“, which could easily have been my anthem during my early teen years (my dad was a “roller”, but that’s another story, far too long to go into here)…. the vocal will PENETRATE your skull, and the lyrics are pure acid/biting for folks who try & invade your space… a STRONG song! I fell in love right away with “Savage in a Fancy Suit“… again, powerful lyrics, and driving rhythms that will bring out urges you never thought you had in you before. It was the synth intro on “Last Crash” that made it my personal favorite of the nine songs offered up… what Aaron and his bandmates do here is nothing short of fantastic… they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information about the band at the Aaron Clift website. Rotcod Zzaj
Becky Buller – CREPE PAPER HEART: There was a period of time I spent in eastern Kentucky, (Breathitt County, to be specific), where I heard a WHOLE lot of music like the high-talented Becky performed on her February, 2018 release… she plays violin, and does some of the most “countrified” and heartfelt vocals I’ve heard in the last ten years or so… just listen to the spirited opener, “Another Love Gone Wrong“, and you’ll have the whole picture of her skill in only 2:30… the real beauty here is that she sings of heartbreak without making you overflow your beer with torrid tears. Becky and her players surely know how to do what music was intended for in the first place… “Calamity Jane” is pure fun! The tune that turned out to be my (hands down) favorite, though, is a bonus track called “Phoenix Arise“… full of emotion and hope, it’s a song you’ll find yourself spinning over & over again. I give Becky & her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Becky’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Cousin Earth – HUMAN MUSIC: A progressive “ukulele band”? Just imagine what would happen if you carried Mama Cass & John Phillips forward to the 21st Century, and recorded them with all the great gear we have available nowadays… if you’re not sure you believe me, all you have to do is scope out the splendid 5:56 opener, “Peculiar Patterns“, and you’ll hear what I’m talking about… a totally “diggable” tune! The marvelous electronic sounds and swirling vocals on “Super Fun Laser Beams” made it an instant hit here in my studios; one thing that’s apparent as you listen to this one – this band knows how to have FUN. There was no question about what my favorite would be of the ten tunes offered up… “Train Luck“, though labeled “explicit”, had a vocal that reminded me of Frank Zappa’s “Trouble Comin’ Every Day”, and some fantastic guitar work that will carry you away to another day… these folks get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on the Cousin Earth website. Rotcod Zzaj
Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis – The Stone House: Big electric guitars and traps, the lights and all the colors. Colours. This is the European Union at its finest, young musicians working a fine tradition of progressive rock sonics. They are all very good at their techniques, gifted hands for our ears. The bass keeps the whole thing together but nobody notices it, its always there, on every song, but it’s sophisticated and not obtrusive. He could show off more if he wanted to.
Mark Wingfield guitar
Markus Reuter Touch Guitars AU8
Yaron Stavi fretless bass guitar
Asaf Sirkus drums
Recorded in Spain in February of 2016, mixed and mastered July through September of 2016, and released on Valentine’s Day 2017. Great stuff!
Rush 12:15 It calls to you, there is a cautious approach, the temperature rises, the drums come in, now the long notes get more busy. Lots of fade in sustained notes and some doppler shift type rushes. The drums get more complex and tell more of the tale, while the two guitars visit with each other. There are lots of big things moving out there.
Four Moons 5:12 This is a journey, there are strange landscapes and vistas, as well as the expanse above. Trace with your finger the different textures and variations.
Silver 8:33 This one has a faster beat, puzzle pieces fitting together, almost a dance always a background to those cosmic motions. The two guitars make up the main action, supported well and allowed to follow its own path. The energy builds, gets pretty wild and then discovers a new level. Its cheerful and thoughtful at play, endlessly building and wrything.
Fjords de Catalunya 9:45 Whales are calling, long deep dark and spooky. Rocks in the water, some break the surface. High cliffs with forests on top. There are probably Catalunyan trolls or elves or spirits watching from up there. Little human faces of dried apple leather. The huge sea is calm but there is something out there. The tempo is slower because its so big, it takes a while to finish a gesture or motion.
Tarasque 10:09 Blaze of drums, comes on fast, the tremolo setting is at eleven, but this is about the drums. The guitars come in, the whole thing is building with strength and power. It’s got lots of contributions, like fills for the drum solo done with scratchy guitars. These guys have a way of creating a sound landscape and then directing us to look above where more things have been happening for a long time.
Bona Nit Senor Rovira 13:58 The pace is easy-going, relaxed. There is an accent that is probably Italian but what do I know. The pace is steady, walking with a bit of a lift, going places. At various points they all turn and go in a new direction but the pace is strong, you are no longer walking and it’s a long way down. The pace supports the dialogs of the guitars and drums. It’s a nice day and you like it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED EQ 3.8 Robin B. James
Ken Verheecke – CONSIDER THE MOON & STARS: I’ve listened to Ken’s amazing work before, though the review was part of a collective venture… his new January, 2018 project certainly shows his talent at the very best level possible… and, you don’t have to just take my word for it… listen to the vibrant energy he projects on the title track, the 4:25 “Consider The Moon & Stars“, and you’ll fast be a believer… his guitar leads just SOAR on this beautiful piece of music! He’s a world traveler as well, and it shows in his highly creative musical style… the opener alone, “This Languid Motion“, brings the power of the heavenly spirits right into your living room in a most pleasant manner. Of the nine compositions offered up, it is (without doubt) the 5:22 “Aurora” that won my vote for personal favorite… simple lines, yet full of the POWER that music can bring into our lives. I give Ken a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this wondrous sonic excursion. Get more information about this fantastic player at Ken’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Don Latarski – RIVER: This wonderful album from Don is my first listen to his work… he took his inspiration from a journey through Oregon (right up in my neck of the woods), California and Arizona, and his guitar work is simply splendid! (Note: the samples linked in probably won’t go hot until the album release date, 20 July 2018)… As I listen to the ebb and flow on “Gravity“, my ears are held spellbound… this is certainly among the very best guitar work I’ve heard (yet) in 2018. The magical overtones Don achieves on “Fall From Place“, as well as the low bass strums, will put you in the same spaces he was playing in… absolutely beautiful work. Of the dozen songs offered up on Don’s album, it was easy to choose my personal favorite… the closer, clocking in at 11:48, titled “Bently“, transported me to the deepest portals of peace I’ve ever experienced. Don (easily) gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information on Don’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Carl Weingarten – THIS IS WHERE I FOUND YOU: It’s been a goodly while since I last reviewed Carl’s wonderful and inspiring guitar work in issue # 145… this new May, 2018 album raises the bar significantly, and will remain at the top of your playlists for months (if not years) to come! As you listen to the haunting vocals he’s woven in on the wonderfully comforting “Kites & Waves“, you’ll realize just how privileged your ears are to witness such creative and inspiring musical ability… I loved this tune… Carl’s guitar solo on this piece just soars to the outer reaches! The opener, “Sing As Water“, will sway you gently into jazz zones you’ve never heard before, and the tune will stick in your head for a long, LONG time. Of the nine songs offered up for our sonic enrichment, it is (hands-down) “The River King” that is my personal favorite… truly one of the most energetic “ambient” pieces I have listened to (yet) in 2018. I give Carl and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most memorable musical adventure. Get more information on Carl’s Bandcamp page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Ricardo Bacelar – SEBASTIANA: I reviewed Ricardo’s earlier album, “Concerto Para Moviola – Ao Vivo“, where he got near perfect ratings (and well over 500 visitors – which is quite significant)… this new March 30th, 2018, release has more of an “international” flavor, though still steeped in well-composed & performed jazz… that’s especially true for tunes like the mighty mellow “Suco Verde” (Green Juice?)… there’s some ultra-cool synth on this one, too, bringing to mind some of Herbie Hancock’s work. One of Ricardo’s original solo piano tunes, “River of Emotions“, is really striking… the album version is only :45 seconds, but it segues very smoothly into the 4:21 “Menina Baiana“, that use rhythmic contrasts against the piano to get your blood up and running! It was easy to pick my personal favorite from the fifteen tunes offered up, though… the title track,
“Sebastiana“, is an absolute jazz winner! I give Ricardo and his companions a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent jazz adventure. Get more information at Ricardo’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
David Garfield – JAZZ OUTSIDE THE BOX: This appears to be my first time listening to David’s splendid jazz piano, but I can tell you that it won’t be the last… his performance on the opening track, “Fragile“, has one word that easily describes his music – “pleasant”! You get a total of seventeen songs, so this album is perfect for loading on to your player & riding around all day long with just the one artist/album playing (almost an hour & a half of music). David’s magic touch on one of my favorite tunes (of all time), Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” , is quite unique… the full-length version (as opposed to the radio edit) clocks in at 7:13, and features some excellent flute work and vocal work. The funk n’ groove on David’s original, “East Lou Brew“, made it my personal favorite, to be sure. This is a “smash hit” for me, and gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information at David’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Artificial Waves – INITIAL LINK: When this excellent musical voyage starts, the title (as well as the first few bars) may make you think that this is “just another” experimental album, with slow synths and not-real-interesting compositions… nothing could be further from the truth… as you listen to the opener, “Sonic Core“, the first few measures will re-enforce that impression, but right at the 50-second mark of this 4:20 gem, they TAKE OFF… the group is Alexey Pereverzev, Artur Kudrov, Dmitry Kaleev and Ilya Kosharov, and was formed in 2012, based in Zelenograd, Moscow, Russia… truly talented players, all! The one drawback is that the album is only just over 34 minutes long, so it’s more like an EP than an album… that is only a minor complaint, though, because when you listen to songs like my personal favorite of the six offered up, “Transient“, you will hear the rampant power behind their playing… I can guarantee you that this one will getting LOTS of replays! I give the band a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on the Fluttery Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Victor Samalot – ESPERANZA: There’s one thing that truly SHINES through on guitarist Victor’s nine-song EP… JOY! As you listen to “Cafe Puerto Rico“, you’ll “catch” that spirit of life that only great players can convey – and Victor is certainly one of those who convey it well… Latin jazz with a “rock edge”; the ultimate in cool, folks. I fell in love with the driving rhythm on “El Torero” from the very instant it started spinning… full of life and living. Don’t be at all surprised if you hear Victor’s tunes popping up all over your favorite stations soon, especially ones like my personal favorite, the 4:32 “La Plaza“… exactly the kind of fun we need in fusion these days. I give Victor and his crew (Bobbi Holt – Bass guitar, Keyboardsl Darrell Nutt – Drums on Tracks 3, 7; Larry Salzman – Percussion on Tracks 1, 4,6, 7; Daniel Silva – Percussion on Track 2 and Yatziv Caspi – Percussion) a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on Victor’s Bandcamp page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Nora McCarthy-Dom Minasi-Ras Moshe – MANNA FOR THOUGHT: Nora’s voice is a brand new one for me… fresh and full of the vigor that only well-performed improvised spoken-word can bring… (& that’s with the benefit of having done a LOT of spoken-word performance myself, right here in my home city (Olympia, Washington) many years ago)… as you listen to pieces like the 8:15 “Frequency ONE“, with it’s languid guitar from Dom and subtle reeds from Ras, it will all be clear – you’re in the presence of a vocal master (or is that “mastress”? – just kidding)… some beautiful echoing tones from Nora’s vocal fit very nicely into the overall piece as well… very impressive. If you’re a “regular” listener, you may not grasp the value of such enigmatic explorations, but (of course) if you were “regular”, you wouldn’t be reading these pages, right? My personal favorite of the six (long) improvisations offered up is the opener, “Vehicle Vehicle“… I just loved the interplay between all three instruments (yes, Nora’s voice is definitely an instrument), and the trio is so “together”, you’ll think it’s scripted – FANTASTIC! I give this fine album a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information at the trio’s BANDCAMP page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Diana Panton – SOLSTICE-EQUINOX: When it comes to sweet jazz vocal work, Diana certainly has a handle on it… all you have to do to be convinced of her extraordinary talent is listen to songs like the beautiful “Septembre“… though she’s from Canada, I can’t help but think “Astrud Gilberto” when I hear the magic she conveys through this song. Since I grew up on the East Coast, & visited the Big Apple on more than one occasion, the hipness she displays on the 6:08 “Manhattan” easily makes her a vocal winner in my jazz book! She’s got a stellar cast of players supporting her… it’s too long to list here, though, so check her out on the ALLMUSIC credits page for the album. Of the thirteen tunes Diana offers up for your listening pleasure, though, it’s “Estate (summer)” that got my vote for personal favorite, hands-down… again, I’m reminded of Astrud’s wonderful vocals, but Diana’s style is all her own. I give Diana and her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine release. Get more information on Diana’s page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Slivovitz – LiveR: Traditional live performance jazz plus big buzz-saw guitar and lilting violin instrumentals. Good stuff! Won’t make you fat. You can get your punchy harmonica workout on to a different kind of groove.Pietro Santangelo: tenor & alto sax; Marcello Giannini: electric & acoustic guitars; Riccardo Villari: electric violin; Ciro Riccardi: trumpet; Derek Di Perri: harmonica; Vincenzo Lamagna: bass guitar and Salvatore Rainone: drums
Mai Per Comando (5:40) Energetic romp psychedelic harmonica crazy time signatures jumpin around lots of fun big bass monsters jump out at you good times.
Cleopatra Through (7:30) Starts with the band driving free then it has a guitar violin percussion section, before it heads into a succession of some smooth changes, always moving forward but the territory keeps changing, building towards a nice frenzy.
Currywurst (7:46) Fast and showy, this one is one of my faves from the album. Indo-Geranic cookin-roots as interpreted by the Italian band using a Creole Jazz form. Then some vindu-violin. It’s all good.
Egiziaca (8:23) Rock with brass, nice and lively. Again we are cooking with fusion forms. They like to sort of stop in the middle and work on tiny things, takin’ it way down and building back up to a full boogie again for the ending cycle. Ends with an Arabesque.
Mani in Faccia (7:49) Live instruments mimicking tape loops, very interesting use of the sound form in a live band. Later the brass takes a break and the guitar fills the forum. This builds to a tribal workout and then builds new ornaments for the bright sunshine. These guys have lots of interesting ideas.
Negative Creep (5:10) Grunge bleach classic done in perfect punchy next-wave reduction, no lyrics needed and none are offered. I think this is hilarious! Well done.
Caldo Bagno (7:50) A cruise on a large vessel, a sky full and a drop in the ocean.
MoonJune Records; Soundfly Records
Recorded in the Casa di Alex in Milan Italy
Rated MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with an EQ of 4.9 – Robin B. James
Lisa Swerdlow – EQUUS RISING: This is my first time listening to Lisa’s astounding solo piano work… the most striking thing about her compositions and performance is that you can (literally) HEAR the significant experience she brings to the keyboard… songs like “Together” reveal an ability to “talk” to you as few other players can – all the way from the lowest bass notes to the very high end of the 88 keys, this piece will make you feel the depth of her emotion. She started playing classical at six years old, and did her first recital the following year, and though she’s “been away” (from performing) for a while, this marvelous eight song album lets you know that her skills are even stronger than they ever were. The images she conveys on “Sudden Storm” are full of power and (in the sense of the song title, at least) fury! My personal favorite was an easy choice… the title track, “Equus Rising“, uses the lower registers to convey the beauty, glory and strength of our equine friends in ways you’ve never heard before. I give Lisa a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent solo piano adventure. Get more information at Lisa’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Brian Kelly – TOMORROW’S DAYDREAM: Brian’s latest solo piano recording, released in March, 2018, is more on the “contemporary” side of things than “New Age”, though listeners in both realms will delight in his ability to create tunes that stir the heart… I last reviewed his “Butterfly Rapture” album in issue # 158, and he got high marks from me then. What makes his playing style so attractive to my ears is the strident and full-bodied chords, and as you listen to his high-energy performance on “Tracing Rainbows“, you’ll understand instantly why I say that… a gloriously wonderful piece of music. The title track, “Tomorrow’s Daydream“, is in a slightly more pensive mood, as you might expect… full of boundless possibilities and the joy of living! My personal favorite of the eleven solo s offered up, though, is “Dancing with the Moon“… it’s full of swirling notes that will bring back many memories of your own night-sky adventures. I give Brian a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid and exciting aural adventure. Get more information on Brian’s Bandcamp page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
James Asher and Arthur Hull – DRUM DISTILLERY: I’ve been a dedicated fan of Jame’s wonderful percussion-driven work ever since I first reviewed him in issue # 148… his music is even more exciting on this new release with master percussionist Arthur Hull (they’ve been working together over 15 years now). As you listen to the powerful waves washing over your braincase on the closer, “Infiniterium“, you will clearly understand why I’m so enchanted with his work… it’s just cosmic in scale! The bright bell sounds and heavy-duty rhythm work on “Helix Rising” take the duo’s music far above the level of categorization… though James is sometimes billed as “New Age”, this song makes it clear that the energy levels projected far exceed any pigeonhole like that! Of the thirteen songs offered up, though, my personal favorite is the 5:53 “Sandless Desert“… if “chill is your thrill”, you’re going to love this one as much as I did. I give James and Arthur a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album. Get more information on Jame’s page for this release. Rotcod Zzaj
Steve D’Angelo – DANCING SIDEWAYS: Though the liner notes don’t really specify what specific instrument Steve plays on his new release, he’s able play just about anything… (piano and keyboards as well as bass, ukulele ,baritone guitar, mandolin and percussion)… he’s joined on this session by Steve Lucas bass, Chris Pruden keys and Lorenzo Castelli drums, as well as Robi Botos keys, Davide Direnzo drums and Arturo Avalos percussion… as you listen to the total groove on the 5:04 “Falling“, you’ll hear why Steve & his group are among my favorite listens in my ’66 GTO… perfect “cruisin'” music! Steve & the group are diverse in their playing styles, as well, as you’ll hear on the fantastic high-energy opener, “The Man Who Danced Sideways“.. this one MOVES, folks! My personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up, though, is “Get in the Car” – perhaps because it’s the longest song on the album… each players gets a chance to show off their brilliant talent on this one. I give Steve & his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on Steve’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
HyperSomniac – HYPERSOMNIAC: The promo sheet that accompanied this submission calls Hypersomniac a “super band”… & that’s no HYPE… these folks (including big names like Bill Laswell on bass) just RIP out ALL the stops… as I listen to the absolute killer rockin’ on the 6:35 “Parallel Powers“, I’m taken back to the ultimate days of rock… you’re not gonna’ believe your ears, folks… Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, aka LEF, performs vocals with fury such as you’ve never heard before on this masterpiece! If you think back to the rock opera days of groups like The Who, Pink Floyd or my FAVORITE band from the 1960’s, “Touch“ (if you’re old enough to know who those bands are, anyway) , you’ll be ABSOLUTELY in the right frame of mind for my personal favorite of the dozen scorching tracks offered up on this winning album…, – it’s the closer, “Let the Sun Fall Apart“, and it takes you on a journey that starts off somewhat gently, but then begins steering you in a kind of heavy metal opera that you can easily imagine as the orbs in the heavens disintegrate. THE most powerful tune I’ve heard (yet) this year! I give HyperSomniac a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at the project website. Rotcod Zzaj
Miguel De Armas – WHAT’S TO COME: Miguel’s jazz piano is just splendid on this tasty 2018 release… he effortlessly melds together musical elements and influences from his native Cuba with modern & funky sounds that will please jazz fans ’round the globe. As I listen to the peppy “A Song for my Little Son“, I find myself ready to hit the replay button over & over again… Miguel’s keyboard intro on the title track, “What’s To Come“, leads the listener into some funk-filled bass interaction, then the horns join it – an ultimately cool tune. The other major attraction is that these are all original tunes, so you get that added element of energy that comes when an artist is playing their own creation… that’s especially true on my personal favorite of the ten songs offered up – the opener, “Yasmina“, will put you in a dancing mood, I’ve no doubt… this is one of the most spirit-filled jazz piano tracks I’ve listened to (yet) in 2018. I give Miguel and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent jazz excursion. Get more information at Miguel’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Steve Adams – Tim Perkis – A FEW ECCENTRICITIES: Saxophonist/flautist Steve Adams and electronicist Tim Perkis hooked up in studio to bring you one of the most entertaining improvised sets you’ve ever heard… it’s been a good while since I first reviewed Tim’s work (issue # 71, to be precise)… the beauty of their sonic experiments together is in their “pacing”… as you listen to the 4:50 “travelers on the plateau“, you’ll understand why I say that… listeners who are in the “novice” category when it comes to experimental and improvised are in for a great treat on this piece. “Regular” listeners (in other words, those who are afraid of things unknown) may have a tough time with the penetrating splurges of sound on “a blind man with a cheetah on a leash“, but when it comes to “stranger” music than you’ve listened to in the past, this lines up as the perfect sonic adventure. My personal favorite of the fourteen improvs offered up, though, is “scratches, scrolls“, which (despite it’s title) is quite satisfying. I give Steve & Tim a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine excursion into eccentricity. Get more information (and listen) on their Artifact Recordings page (below)…
Benjamin Boone And Philip Levine – THE POETRY OF JAZZ: Not everyone who reads my reviews know that I got my start in “show business” doing live spoken-word, so Phil’s excellent poetry is a total treat for me… it’s earned a permanent place on my iPhone (yikes, I’m running outta’ space)… Benjamin’s hip & silky sax on tunes like “The Unknowable” is what convinced me it had to be there… there are a whole HOST of other players on this fantastic CD, so long a list, in fact, that you’ll need to go to the Origin Records page for the release to scope out who joined the party. What really makes this “click” for jazz listeners who understand just how important poetry is to jazz & it’s roots is Phil’s inspiring and intimate spoken-word on tunes like “Call It Music“, the absolute best jazz/poetry song I’ve heard (yet) in 2018. You get well over an hour of the coolest jazz you’ll hear for a while, & that’s especially true on songs like my personal favorite of the fourteen offered up… on “A Dozen Dawn Songs, Plus One“, you get “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would have said… just SUPERB work here that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – that means, of course, that it also gets my “PICK” for “best jazz/poetry album”. Get more information on the Origin Records for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Chamber 3 – TRANSATLANTIC: It’s been awhile since I last reviewed this group’s music – issue # 155, to be specific… but, that makes it no less pleasurable… it’s a truly great jazz collaboration, featuring guitar by Christian Eckert, sax from Steffen Weber, drums by Matt Jorgensen and bass from Phil Sparks… as you listen to tunes like “Chillaxed“, you’ll catch their vibe & understand why I say they’re among the greatest on the scene today for mellow… the solos from each player on this tune are penetrating, even though the piece is in the “lbz” (laid-back zone)… Steffen’s sax on this one reminds me a lot of some of my first listens to Stan Getz (way back in the day). The interplay between Phil and Matt on the 6:05 opener, “The Sparks“, makes the piece just “crackle” with energy.. funky, funky! You get ten all-original compositions & one classic arranged by Steffen… of those ten, my (hands-down) favorite is the 5:51 “Lu Channel“… lots of tempo changes with crystal-clear voices from each player (& listen for it on your local jazz channel… I expect you’re going to hear this tune played a lot). I give Chamber 3 a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great release. Get more information on the Origin Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet – NIGHT VISITOR: John’s marvelous jazz guitar work is wonderfully complimented by guitars from Ulf Bandgren, bass by Bruno Raberg and drums by Austin McMahon on this superb hour of gentle, yet energetic, jazz on this November, 2017 release… you’ll hear that quite clearly as you listen to the beautiful “Reunited“… it’s definitely a joyful conversation between players who love creating together! For something with a bit “spookier” tone, you’ll no doubt dig down deep into “Ghost in the Corner“… their pacing together is pure magic – you’re gonna’ love this tune. My personal favorite of the ten offered up for your jazz listening pleasure, though, is the high-energy closer, “Early Five“; it clocks in right at 7:00, and gives each of these high-talent players the opportunity to talk to you, in magic tones that will transport you to the very edges of our jazz galaxy! All original jazz that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from these ol’ ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information at the Origin Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Robert Diack – LOST VILLAGES: There’s one word that describes this album – POWER! Robert’s drums are driving each & every tune in directions that your ears won’t have anticipated, so be sure to listen to this with your headphones on, at least for your first round. He’s joined by Patrick O’Reilly – Guitar and Pedals; Jacob Thompson – Piano and Brandon Davis – Bass & I’ll tell you right now, the guitar leads on songs like “Pluterperfect” put me in mind of some of the works from the God-daddy of guitar, Frank Zappa… highly original and full of life! If you’re looking for something a bit more laid-back, you’ll find “Lacuna” to be most enjoyable… I loved Jacob’s piano on this one. What’s most notable about the group is that their compositions are very unique and fresh… that’s especially true for the 8:13 “Sap“, my personal favorite of the eight songs offered up for your sonic enlightenment… each instrument weaves it’s own spell for you, and will hold you spellbound. I give Robert and his crew of excellent players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine musical adventure. Get more information at Robert’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Frank Wagner – FLOATING HOLIDAY: Original tunes by NYC bassist Frank Wagner will really make your day… his wonderfully recorded jazz bass work is fully complimented by excellent piano by Marco DeGennaro and scintillating drums/percussion from David Meade, as you’ll hear clearly on the beautiful “Mirror“… mellow and laid-back, this is perfect listening for a rainy Wednesday morning in the Pacific Northwest – or any other region of the globe, for that matter. Frank’s goal was to kind of “merge the past with the present” for tunes he had written previously , but wanted to reshape… he and his musical cohorts did that in excellent fashion on my choice for personal favorite of the seven tunes offered up… the 8:14 opener & title track, “Floating Holiday” uses some “odd” time signatures/changes to draw you in (they REALLY take off around the 2:20 mark), and you’ll find yourself listening to this captivating piece often, I’ve no doubt. I give Frank and his musical pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this release. Get more information at Frank’s CD Baby page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Platt – SKY GLOW: Superbly played guitar-led jazz from Chris up Toronto way… in fact, I’ll go as far as to say that this is THE best jazz guitar work I’ve heard (yet) in 2018… Chris has Phill Albert on bass and Robin Claxton doing drums, and as you listen to these all originals like the 5:26 “No More“, you’ll know that this is a trio you’re bound to be hearing more from – their pacing on this tune is just EXCELLENT, and their talent just shines through! There’s one word that describes their playing – “perfection”… but, don’t take my word for it… listen to the opener, “I Like The Sad Ones“… isn’t that just beautiful? I certainly thought so! The album only clocks in at 33:19… of course, there’s always replay, but I’d like to see (just) a couple more songs on the next release. My choice for personal favorite of the seven compositions offered up is, in fact, the longest cut on the release… the title track, “Sky Glow“, is the kind of music that you’ll find yourself listening to over & over (& OVER) again… pure jazz with no pretentiousness. I give Chris and his compadres a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97… get more information on Chris’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Jay Rodriguez – YOUR SOUND LIVE AT DIZZY’S CLUB COCA COLA: If it’s the “coolest” in saxophone sounds your ears are thirsting for – Jay’s your ticket to Nirvana… many of his performances on this superb release remind me of players in the “glory days” of jazz… Yusef Lateef, Rhasaan Roland Kirk & folks like that, ya’ know… believe your EARS, not me… listen to the lilting jazz flute work on “Ghost Dancer“, and you’ll hear what I mean… excellent performance, & the fact that it was recorded live only adds to the abundance of spirit you’ll groove on. There is over an hour of great music on this CD, but it was easy to pick my personal favorite of the ten performances offered up for your jazz edification… “Spirits” features Jay talking about ghosts in his house as an intro, then jumps right on INTO a high-energy 6:53 piece with total focus and sax with meat on it’s bones. I give Jay and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this FINE album. Get more information about this brilliant jazz fellow on Jay’s about page. Rotcod Zzaj
Lupa Santiago & Anders Vestergård Quartet – INSIDE TURNABOUT: A truly swingin’ jazz set that you’re going to fall in love with immediately; Lupa’s great guitar work leads the group (Anders Vestergard, drums; Rodrigo Ursaia, saxophone and Mattaias Hjorth, bass) through some splendid changes, especially on tunes like the amazing “Caixa Cubo“… there’s really only one word for this kind of jazz… “tasty”! The funky Latin rhythms on “Lärkan” are bound to have you up & dancin’ ’round the floor into the wee hours of the morning, to be sure… be sure you listen to this one with your headphones on, so you can catch all the subtle interplay that Lupa’s guitar helps to create. My personal favorite (& also the longest tune on the album, by the way) is the 7:10 “Stu“… what makes this one so special is the sensitivity each of the players has for the other, so what you wind up with is a seamless composition that you will be spinning over & over again, I’ve no doubt. I give Lupa and his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent release. Get more information at the Drum Voice Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Meg Okura & The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble – IMA IMA: My, how time flies… I first reviewed Meg’s fantastic violin work in issue # 136, way back when… her new release has trumpeter/flugelhornist Tom Harrell, along with a whole cast of musical characters, and it just SHIMMERS with life! Listen to the dynamic movements on “A Summer in Jerusalem” (the samples won’t be up for awhile, as this doesn’t release until May, 2018)… though in somewhat of an orchestral mode – this IS jazz, in all it’s glory… certainly some of the liveliest “chamber music” you’ll ever hear – I loved this 10:20 excursion! If you want to hear some “different blues”, it’s full-tilt and powerful on “Blues in Jade”… Meg’s violin just SHINES on this piece. Of the seven (long) pieces presented for your aural enjoyment, though, it’s “A Night Insomnia” that easily got my pick for personal favorite… each of the players contributes to the joy conveyed (despite the title). Meg and her talented players get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. Get more information about this release on Meg’s page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Monika Herzig – SHEROES: An absolutely amazing jazz set led by Monika on piano, and joined by a whole cast of lady players… Jennifer Vincent (bass, USA), Rosa Avila (drums, Mexico), Mayra Casales (percussion, Cuba/USA) Leni Stern (guitar, Germany/USA), Jamie Baum (flutes, USA), Reut Regev (trombone, Israel/USA), and Ingrid Jensen (trumpet)… & because her players are so international in scope, you also get treated to jazz viewpoints from all over the globe… if you don’t believe me, just check out the most enchanting “Bubbles“… some of the most engaging percussion work I’ve heard (yet) in 2018, and I love Jamie’s flute on this one. The group’s rendition of the classic “House of the Rising Sun” isn’t like any performance of the song you’ve ever heard… unique and totally penetrating… Monika’s piano on this one is high-energy, to be sure. It was an easy pick for my personal favorite… the 6:36 original, “Wayning“, earns a (rare) “permanent spot” on my iPhone playlist… just stunning performance and recording. I give Monika and her musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album. Get more information at Monika’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Owen Broder – HERITAGE: Incorporates traditional tune fragments into an improvisational framework. The violin makes the jazz sound more folky, which is a great thing. This is a product of people doing something they love, with people who demonstrate respect and admiration, with matching enthusiasm and commitment, a truly remarkable team.
Goin up home (5:45) Simple elegance, music of a journey, thinking ahead to arrival in a place from the past. As the song progresses there are more voices added, playful and intense in places, overall a nice ride.
Wherever the Road Leads (6:31) More travelling music, feel the road gliding below, count the progress in smiles, keep the step going so steadily. The woodwinds make for an entertaining dialog with fellow travellers, taking turns with strings and more brass. Just when it might be over, along comes another adventure. Keep going!
Jambalaya (4:34) A slow start to a major traditional cook out, what I like most about it is that you don’t know what it is until you are deep in the broth, then it’s oh yeah. Groove with the Southern Cuisine with a new presentation. I am still waiting for the grits, they show up rather late in the meal. They never do break out the crawfish pie.
Cripple Creek (7:08) This one starts with the fiddle as it should. Goin’ in a whirl.
Wayfaring Stranger (9:42) This song has haunting old traditional words, nicely sung. It’s a dark and sad theme, just the way you like it. The theme of traveling is back, this one takes its time, no hurry. Maybe we are sitting by the campfire in the darkest moments of deep night.
I’m Not Afraid to Die (5:54) When I listen to this with my eyes closed I am watching the ocean, winds bring spray up, the horizon goes on forever. Horns and the piano, moving brightly with the percussion, it’s a beautiful day. See the sun sparkle!
Brodeo (8:27) A more complex rhythm, strings bring us in, the whole orchestra comes along to meet us and wrap us in warm arms. Do some dancing if you like the jig. This changes to tell a more careful story. More building and we are headed into new territory with new dances.
The People Could Fly (7:53) Vocals open up the landscape where we are going next. If you look far enough you can see them flying but it was a long time ago. Dancing pianos and a vibraphone with a chorus saying some old foreign words, I think. There are some Icarus moments when things resort to failure but that just provides an opening for another way up. Now we are dancing on the edge of the cliff, with wind. Now it might be a children’s song, with adventure.
A Wiser Man Than Me (6:36) An old story, told with grace by a woodwind soloist and a choir, at least in the beginning. Traditional amazing piano and percussion structures support the old story as it unfolds and eventually the whole orchestra blooms. There is peace and hope, sway along with us.
The Ensemble: Owen Broder, woodwinds; Sara Caswell, violin; Scott Wendholt, trumpet, flugelhorn; Nick Finzer, trombone.
Soloists: James Shipp, vibraphone, percussion; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Matt Wilson, drums
Vocalists: Wendy Gilles, Kate McGarry, Vuyo Sotashe
ArtistShare is the label on the record jacket.
Highly Recommended EQ 4.79 Robin James
Andrew Hadro – FOR US, THE LIVING II, MARCESENCE: It’s been a while since I last reviewed Andrew’s splendid reed works in issue # 144; this new release is deeply moving and full of emotion… just listen to the marvelous mix of reeds and percussion on the 4:37 “Alexis“, and you’ll hear why I say that… sweet work, to be sure! The light touches on “Due Course” make for perfect listening – but be sure you listen to this with your headphones on (at least for the first sitting), so you can catch every little nuance – of which there are plenty. My personal favorite of the thirteen Andrew offers up is the ever-so-gentle, yet somehow fiery, “Throughout“… & if you are listening with your ‘phones on, as I recommended, this tune will stick with you for years to come… very, VERY nice! I give Andrew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine album. Get more information at Andrew’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Lyndol Descant – ALL LOVE: Though Lyndol’s all-original creations on this nine-song January, 2018 release aren’t “strictly jazz”, her energy vocal and keyboard works are highly entertaining… I greatly enjoyed the “pop feel” on “Let You Love Me“… it took me back to my years with transistor radios (way before the Walkman, lol); one of the strongest impressions/memories is of songwriter Carole King, or the early Janis Ian songs… yeah, like that. She definitely “sings from her heart”, as you’ll hear on tunes like the upbeat “Lonely Hearted“… notable keyboard work on this one, too. My personal favorite of the nine she offers up is also the longest on the release, “Reeds“.. strong recording, and a voice that will bring back memories (both sweet & not) for you. I give Lyndol a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this release. Get more information at the Lyndol Descant website. Rotcod Zzaj
Carolyn Lee Jones – IN A LONG WHITE ROOM: Sakes alive! It’s been a while since I reviewed Ms. Jones excellent jazz vocal work (issue # 140, to be precise)… her new release contains some mighty powerful songs, featuring her sultry voice… just listen to her performance on the 3:46 “Tainted Love“… I guarantee you, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of THAT tirade, lol… Carolyn makes those deep emotions come alive most vibrantly! Her superb vocals are wonderfully complimented by Brad Williams (piano), Jonathan Fisher (electric & acoustic bass), Dennis Durick (drums & percussion), Tom Burchill (guitar), Dave Monsch (flute,bass clarinet, saxes), & they all work smoothly together. There’s truly high-energy on “Give A Damn“, & I loved the guitar from Tom… too cool! Of the dozen songs Carolyn and her pals offer up, my personal favorite is “The Sweetest Taboo”… her lilting vocal on this tune, along with the fabulous arrangements going on behind/around her, is already one of my “picks” for 2018. I give Carolyn’s new release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on Carolyn’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Justin Piper – TRANSCEND: Justin’s splendid guitar work is labeled (in the promo material) as “acid jazz”, but it’s not yer’ grandpa’s acid, or his jazz… this is truly “revitalized”; let’s call it “blue dot on steroids”, maybe… whatever label gets affixed to it, Jusiin’s playing is pure perfection, as evidenced by compositions like the 3:47 “Through Composed”… songs like this will indeed take you to new levels in your awareness… nice, really nice! He’s very capable of painting images with his music, too, as you’ll hear on the more dark-toned “Falling Through The Dark“, and the fact that he plays all the instruments on his original compositions makes him even more attractive to the listener… I just LOVED his drums on this piece. The song that was my “instant favorite” of the fifteen offered up is “Camels“… at 4:04, it’s one of the longer tunes on the album, and it’s easy to picture desert sands being traversed via his guitar magic. I give Justin a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb album. Get more information about this high-talent player on Justin’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Steven Allen Gordon – ALL OVER THE MAP: There’s little better than solo guitar work when it’s done well… what makes this album release special for this reviewer is that Steven is from the same neck of the woods I am, up in Bellingham, Washington… as you listen to his excellent performance on “Prelude No. 4 in E Minor“, you’ll know (immediately) why my ears found his talent so stunning… pacing is perfect, and the recording is flawless! Steven’s surely met his goal to “take the listener on a diverse and rich journey”, in every way! He also plays viola, and (joined by pianist Jeremy Borum) you will find your soul stirring as you listen to “Ballad for Viola and Piano”… absolutely wonderful work. My personal favorite of the fifteen songs offered up, though, is one of the shorter tracks (3:15), “Breaking Point“… his steel-string acoustic guitar will simply blow you away on this wonderful piece, and you’ll find yourself listening to it over & over again. I give Steven and his musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this splendid sonic adventure. Get more information on Steven’s page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Galapaghost – PULSE: A brand-new sonic adventure that epitomizes what this magazine was really started for… D.I.Y. Totally self-produced by artist Casey Chandler as Galapaghost, it contains great lyrics and music, as clearly evidenced by tunes like the lyrically creative “Analog Wasteland“, which definitely speaks to today’s times… I definitely dug this song! The guitar work on the ever-gently swaying “Holy Moly” will transport you to a place you want to be in… the somewhat gritty lyrics, combined with Casey’s splendid vocal work makes it a very listenable composition. The track that caught my ear most strongly is “Bleed”, which easily won my vote for personal favorite of the eleven songs offered up. I give Galapaghost a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information on the Galapaghost website. Rotcod Zzaj
Jing Chi Robben Ford Jimmy Haslip and Vinnie Colaiutai – SUPREMO: If ya’ lay claim to being “old school”, rockwise anyway, you’re gonna’ just LOVE this great CD… as you listen to “Showtime“, you’ll hear why I say that… full of life, pep, vim & vigor, these high-energy players will capture your ears in a heartbeat & just blow you ALL the way away on this great tune. If, OTOH, you’re lookin’ for something with a full-bodied blues flavor, you’ll be groovin’ in no time to “Better Times“… think back to Paul Butterfield, & you’ll have an idea of what these cats are gonna’ inspire you with on this tune. They definitely tread (far) into jazz territory on “Casablanca“, one of the coolest guitar-led songs I’ve heard (yet) in 2018… beautiful pacing, too. There’s no question about it, though, the piece that got my pick for personal favorite is “At The Apollo“… this is SOME kind o’ FUNKY, peepz! I give these gents a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent (& timeless) album. Get more information on the Robben Ford page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
The Ed Palermo Big Band THE ADVENTURES OF ZODD ZUNDGREN: “A Dizzying and Ingenious Reinvention of Music by Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren”… my first thought was that this is a collection of songs lovingly reproduced by musicians of dazzling competence, but it’s got nothing original, nothing interpreted, they hit each note just exactly as heard on the original recordings. All replication and no innovation, which some fans would truly appreciate, I am sure.
The second thought, this might work for a fan of either or both Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa. Another second thought (maybe just call it a third thought), a true Zappa fan would just barf, someone inexperienced wanting to explore light versions of the dark master (Zappa) might get something from this. This is not for traditional jazz lovers who look for new ideas. It does showcase fantastic professional chops and ear works. These guys are pros, no doubt about it.
Twenty five numbers:
The Solemn Z-Men Credo (0.25) This is very short. It’s got an acapella freedom chorus.
Peaches in Regalia (Frank Zappa) (3.19) Magnificent brass, none of the percussion as heard on the original but there are drums.
Influenza (Todd Rundgren) (5.50) These guys are working too hard here, a pop song redone as a band workout and no lyrics. This is just awful. Yer Fast (Todd Rundgren) (1.27) This has lyrics, it’s getting better than the other songs. It has a sense of humor. But its very short, but that is the way it was intended.
Absolutely Free (Frank Zappa) (4.28) A loving reproduction sans lyrics. No nasal snorting as found in the original. Sanitary!
Breathless (Part 1) (Todd Rundgren) (1.38) The arrangement is noteworthy, again the band gets its workout on, but the original is soooo much better, with more textures and goofy interludes.
Big Swifty (Frank Zappa) (1.16) I think the band enjoyed doing this short workout, the guitar has more fun.
Kiddie Boy (Todd Rundgren) (3.43) Has lyrics and the band is in fine form, groovin. This one song might be worth the price of the album.
Montana (Frank Zappa) (6.42) Has lyrics, nice arrangement, the drums are given more energy than the version of Peaches in Regalia.
Emperor of the Highway (Todd Rundgren) (1.38) At last some fun, the original version has just a piano, this is a whole orchestrated embellishment. Fun is important.
You are What You Is (Frank Zappa) (1.45) Another shortie. The strings have it, dancing on top of the band.
Echidna’s Arf (Of You) (Frank Zappa) (featuring The Louisiana Swindle Singers) (3.54) Dabba dabba doobie dwee yeah! Shoobie do doobie do dooo wah…
Hello Its Me (Todd Rundgren) (3.31) It’s all about vocals, Todd had a major pop hit with this one. Nothing new here, but its done well.
Big Swifty Coda (Frank Zappa) (1.36) Tight, busy and bouncy. Well done.
Wailing Wall (Todd Rundgren) (4.00) No lyrics. The song originally was vocal with piano, this is all puffed up for the band, keeping everyone busy, but these guys in the big band present no lyrics. Seems wrong.
Florentine Pogen (Frank Zappa) (7.25) This one is the monster, it just might work because they take time to honor the master. But it is sanitary. The lyrics really help this monster to work.
Flamingo (Todd Rundgren) (2.23) Nice try, too many people. The original is slimmer and gets into more little places, this is a fat ham sandwich.
Marqueson’s Chicken (Frank Zappa) (3.53) Nice and tricky here, this might hit it like Kiddie Boy for a listen, out of the whole album, showing off the arrangements and all that technical stuff.
Song of the Viking (Todd Rundgren) (1.58) Todd did all this with just his voice and piano (drum too). Here we have the whole bamned dand but it does not help much but the chores get done.
Janets Big Dance Number (Frank Zappa) (1.51) This goes on the short list of possible listens on this album.
Broke Down and Busted (Todd Rundgren) (5.13) This goes on that short list too. Nice arrangements and plenty of lyrics.
Breathless (Part 2) (Todd Rundgren) (0.51) So short.
Zoot Allures (Frank Zappa) (2.50) Again with finding a place for the whole band to stay busy, but no zap. This interpretation might be the worst musical number of the whole album.
Yer Fast (Todd Rundgren) (0.54) Excellent lyrical work with the band. I like it.
(hidden track) (1.43) Leans toward the Rundgren side, vocals and piano. It’s a good question to ask when it’s all over.
The Z-Men by instrument — Rakishly Ribald Reeds: Cliff Lyons, Phil Chester, Bill Straub, Ben Kono, Barbara Cifelli; Triumphant Trumpets: Ronnie Buttacavoli, John Bailey, Steve Jankowski; Terrifying Trombones: Charley Gordon, Mike Boschen, Matt Ingman; Pulsating Piano: Bob Quaranta; Scintillating Synth/Sampler: Ted Kooshian; Browbeating Bass: Paul Adamy; Daredevil Drums: Ray Marchica; Iconic Electric & Acoustic Violins, Villainous Vocals: Katie Jacoby; Gallant Guitar & Valorous Vocals: Bruce McDaniel
Cuneiform Records NOT RECOMMENDED AT ALL EQ 3.998 Robin James
Under the Lake – JAZZ, GROOVE & ATTITUDE: If your ears are thirsting for some “backwards compatibility”, to groups like “The Crusaders”, for instance, you’re gonna’ just LOVE the new album from UTL… it was produced by keyboardist Jayson Tipp, who is also joined by tenor saxophonist David Evans and trombonist John Moak, Brian Foxworth on drums, Kenny Franklin on bass, guitarist Evan Mustard, Nat Caranto on alto sax & special guest Joe Powers doing harmonica. Tunes like the 5:54 “Good Things” will swing & sway you right back on into those days when jazz DID have attitude… super-cool, to be sure. If you’re into jazz with a bluesy flavor, you’re gonna’ dig down deep on “George Is His Name“… I’ll tell ya’ right now, this is one of the best funky/blues songs I’ve listened to (yet) in 2018. My personal favorite of the eleven great originals offered up, though, is the DOW-un & fon-kee “Full of Life“, which had the most attitude of all the songs on the album… over an hour’s worth of ultra-cool that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at the UTL website. Rotcod Zzaj
Excalibur – THE DARK AGE OF THE DRAGON: If it’s dramatic, high-energy rock opera you’re in need of, then you need look no further than this fine album… nineteen songs that chronicle Merlin’s escape from Morgana’s spell… I’m not generally into this kind of music, but after the first eight bars of the first song, “The Wings of the Dragon“, I was totally HOOK-ed! This just SOARS, high & mighty, and will transport you (back) to the lands we (all) came from! The power they portray on the 3:34 “Stonehenge” is absolutely stunning… you’ll be hitting replay often, I’ll guarantee it. The song that won my vote as personal favorite of the 19 offered up is “The New Times“… you owe it to your ears to own this album; you’ll be spinning it from now through eternity. I give Excalibur a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.98. Get more information on the Cherry Red page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Ian Faquini & Paula Santoro – METAL NA MADEIRA: If, like me, you’re a lover of all things Latin when it comes to jazz, you’re going to fall in love with the marvels that Ian, Paula and a whole host of other players perform for you on this excellent release… I first had the opportunity to witness Paula’s excellent jazz vocal work during her live show here in Olympia), and she gave me two of her CD’s to review just before that show… this is the first, and as you listen to her sing the beautiful “Dorival Pescado“, you will (easily) hear why I believe she’s such a stunning jazz vocalist. There is one word for the buoyant spirit Paula performs with – LIVELY! On the beautiful “Mae da Lua“, her talent for weaving the listener into her magic vocal web is vibrantly visible. I’ve heard (& reviewed) lots of jazz vocalists, but Paula is surely one of my top favorites… & that’s (in great part) because of songs like my personal favorite from this album, the fantastic opener, “Sereia“, a beautiful song about mermaids… quite amazing and just lovely. I give Ian, Paula and their cast of musical characters a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb album. Get more information about this fascinating jazz album at the ALLMUSIC PAGE for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Samantha Boshnack Quintet – NELLIE BLY PROJECT: Sometimes it’s just music and sometimes its a vehicle for the spoken
word, increasing the power felt by each. There is no such thing as “just music” it’s an emotional complex, it depends on what you
normally listen to, that is giving it new dimensions. It’s going to new places on familiar vehicles. The words bring a lot of weight,
depending on how much saxophone you normally listen to. Drums, keyboards and the jazz sound, easy to identify but impossible to explain. How can words have anything to do with sound? They are completely different. Listen to how Sam uses her words, she has our nourishment. This is a jazz of clarity and composure. It’s got the groove.
Expositions (7:22) has that odd note that works so well. Innocent, unaffected and frank. After One is in Trouble (10:18) gives us a new light. 72 Days (10:50) it’s only 28000 miles, I shall be back again. Legacy (5:28) poses questions about fate. Who does this? Samantha Boshnack; trumpet and vocal; Beth Fleenor: clarinet and bass clarinet; Alex Chadsey: piano and keyboards; Isaac Castillo: upright and electric bass; Max Wood: drums (that is the quintet); with Valerie Holt and Anne Mathews providing some vocals; and Anne Whitfield providing some spoken vocals.
The sound is healing and positive, it’s like futuristic birdsong with more direction than birds accept, only its familiar and its spoken (in a jazz way) in our biped language. It does not get tangled with complexity. You are going to enjoy listening to it.
It does not need to get any heavier than the spoken word parts. There is decorating and there is dissection. Ordered meditation and what we got was this jazz stuff. Worked out pretty well.
Now about Nellie Bly, who was she? We think about history and her story adds dimension for the clear-thinking jazz music itself. Yes, put them together. The logo woman with her heavy sweater-suit adventuring outfit suggests a historic mindset, ready for a major cosmic adventure. There is a gallery of important people from the past, perhaps they are immortal and still live. Who is Nellie Bly? I think her photographic portraits look empowered. She is well educated. She has an active soul and she is on a mission. She’s a feisty wealthy chick charity journalist who was able to actually follow the trail of the fictitious Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. She was born in 1864 and made it around the world in 72 days. So there.
Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864-January 22, 1922) was a journalist who took on difficult topics of the time including investigating conditions in prisons and mental institutions. That could be really dangerous, getting inside a prison, undercover just to live and be patient and eventually to tell the story. Suffragette, Writer, Industrialist, Inventor. Her husband manufactured steel barrels and she patented some special kind of milk can and some cans that were made to stack easily, it sounds like a good time to have ideas and make them happen. She was widowed in 1904.
Let’s get back to the music. This is jazz, it has jazz forms, jazz instrumentation and jazz strategies. You can groove to it, very good for moods of quietude. Reflective spaces. Bring down that blood pressure. Put on the relaxed smile.
It has a soundscape quality, the perfect soundtrack for a particular afternoon or morning. Easy and constructive, meditative and reflective, and then out of the blue the voices come.
There is something called the B’shnorkestra, it appears to be much larger than the quintet. Keep an eye out and an ear open for the B’snorkestra and the quintet. Press and radio contact 206 412 7350 OH YES VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED EQ 4.89 Robin James
Timothy Cooper – GLOBAL SKIES: It’s amazing (to me) how long it’s been since I last reviewed Timothy’s fantastic piano works (issue # 89)… his new 2017 release will totally blow your mind, as well as lift your spirit to new heights. As you listen to pieces like the beautiful 7:06 “Bangkok Rains“, you’ll find yourself joined in his global adventure – most pleasantly, I might add. Timothy’s piano style is very straight forward and full of life, which will make you a fan immediately. The title track, “Global Skies“, will help you feel the power of the diversity that (in the end-run) can bring us all together on our often fractured planet. My personal favorite of the nine compositions offered up is one of the shorter pieces (5:45), the closer, “The Light After“… the chord structure that Timothy paints with here is rich and full of the textures of the hope we all need to be better folks. I give Timothy a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent album. Get more information on Timothy’s page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Russell Suereth – SPIRITUAL ODYSSEY: If you’re looking for music that’s both pertinent to our situations today and full of inspiration for tomorrow, Russell’s new CD… I’ve listened to (and REVIEWED, of course) his works before, most recently in issue # 156, where his top-flight skills in the electronic and vocal arena got hims high marks. As you listen to the beauty he projects on compositions like the string-laden “A Ride To Virgo“, you’ll realize that his efforts on this new release are even more pleasant… just imagine yourself on flights through the solar system to your next galaxy, and you’ll “get” what Russell’s intention was on this beautiful piece… I loved it! My personal favorite of the ten songs he offers up for your aural enjoyment is the dynamic “The Walls Are Tumbling” – his integration of voice with the strings and electronic wizardry is just superb here. I give Russell a well-merited MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on Russell and his work at Russell’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Uwe Gronau – WHEN EVERY WORD WAS SINGING: Uwe is a favorite here… his music is always exciting, and from album to album, he always provides new experiences and sonic surprises… that’s exceptionally the case on the new album… he uses words (a new experience from him for me) in most influential ways to dig deep down into the emotions that every one of us feels… I couldn’t find any samples (anywhere), but tunes like “Motif In Motion” will bore down deep into your mind and energize your soul for new horizons. If “smooth & cool” is what you’re yearning for, the oddly named “Breakfast In Kentucky” will give you plenty of that… the keyboard/synth lines on this are just SUPERB. There are really more pensive moods in Uwe’s music on this release, and the best example of that (for this listener) is the slinky (& funky) “Jackson”… the bass lines are PERFECT for the intro to the song, & this tune will have you up on your feet in no time & moving ’round the floor. I give Uwe a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this fine album, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information on this fascinating artist at Uwe’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Dan Pugach – PLUS ONE: WOW – what a stellar lineup for Dan’s Nonet… Nicole Zuraitis, voice; Ingrid Jensen, David Smith, trumpets; Mike Fahie, trombone; Jen Hinkle, bass trombone; Andrew Gould, alto saxophone; Jeremy Powell, tenor saxophone, Andrew Gutauskas, baritone saxophone; Carmen Staaf, Jorn Swart, piano; Tamir Shmerling, bass; Bernardo Aguiar, pandeiro, and, of course, his dynamic drum work to keep it all moving (in a big, BIG way)… just check out the driving opener, “Brooklyn Blues“… for some reason, I hear snatches of many different players/groups on this one, most notably Ramsey Lewis (strangely enough). The 4:47 “Belo’s Bellow” gets down & funky from the very first note… great rhythms on this tune – I loved it! From the standpoint of “mighty & mellow”, though, it’s the 9:06 “Coming Here” that got my vote for personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up for our aural enjoyment. If you’re looking for POWERHOUSE jazz, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) level of 4.99. Visit the Dan Pugach website to get more information. Rotcod Zzaj
Dan Block – BLOCK PARTY: I’ve reviewed Dan’s excellent reed works before (a couple of times), most recently in issue # 129, and his work is always pure pleasure for any solid jazz fan… as you scope out the laid-back atmosphere of “Light Blue“, you’ll hear why he’s always a hit here. In addition to Dan’s splendid clarinet and sax work, you’ll also hear from Neal Caine on bass, pianist Tadataka Unno, drummer Aaron Kimmel as well as Dan’s brother, guitarist Rob Block… just over an hour of high-energy jazz that will be playing on your “devices” ’round the clock. The high-energy cool on “Option Click” will have you swingin’ & tappin’ in true St. Louis fashion. It was easy to pick a favorite from the ten songs Dan & his compadres offer up… the 7:01 “Beautiful Changes” is a jazz lovers dream come true… plan on replay often. I give Dan and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent recording. To learn more about this high-talent player, visit the Dan Block about page. Rotcod Zzaj
Jeff Hamilton Trio – LIVE FROM SAN PEDRO: The one thing you can ALWAYS count on when drummer Jeff Hamilton is involved is – MOVEMENT! This live set from San Pedro captures his drum work at it’s zenith, and your ears will be dancin’ right along with Jeff and his cohorts, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty… but, don’t take my word for it – just listen to their splendid performance on Ahmad’s “Poinciana“… as Jeff said in the liner notes, though, his group “put a new dress on it”… this tune is the ultimate in cool jazz listening! & “hip” abounds on the swingin’ “Gina’s Groove“, one of my favorite trio jazz tunes (yet) in 2018… it’s only 4:35, though, so you’ll be hitting the replay button often. My personal choice for favorite of the ten tunes offered up is (unquestionably) the 4:36 opener, “Sybille’s Day“… every player has their chance to shine on this totally upbeat tune. I give Jeff & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent jazz recording. Get more information on the Capri Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Sunny Wilkinson – INTO THE LIGHT: There’s one element that makes a jazz vocal album more worth reviewing than all the others that zoom in here (on an almost daily basis)… & that is – COOLNESS… & as you scope out Sunny’s marvelous performance on tunes like the ultra-chill title track, “Into The Light“, you’ll realize that you’ve stumbled across a once-in-a-lifetime experience… an essential tune (& album) for any dedicated jazz listener! Sunny has some stellar jazz players supporting her marvelous jazz vocals as well… Bass player ED FEDEWA, drummer LARRY OCHILTREE and (her husband) RON NEWMAN on piano know right where she’s going on each song, and together, they MAKE the album a winner. My personal favorite of the thirteen songs offered up is her rendition of the jazz classic “Corcovado“… her unique ability to sing in all different styles of jazz is most clearly evident on this song, & it (easily) earned a permanent spot on my iPhone player (which not very many tunes have the honor of, BTW)! I give Sunny and her high-energy, high-talent players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this excellent vocal jazz adventure. Get more information on Sunny’s page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Syrinx Effect – A Sky You Could Strike A Match On: There’s nothing more satisfying to these ancient ears than improv from Seattle… you can listen to samples from all ten of their interstellar-folk-punk-jazz duo (their term) at their CD Baby page for the album, and if you love improvised music as much as I do, you’ll find yourself immediately enchanted with pieces like “The Bankrobber Song“… I’ve no doubt you’ll hear (& maybe even see) Al Capone & (maybe) even Bugsy Siegel in this excellent tune! Syrinx Effect players include KATE OLSON – [saxophone/effects/composer/producer] NAOMI SIEGEL – [trombone/effects/composer/producer/recording engineer] ERIC EAGLE – [drummer, producer, recording/mixing engineer} JACQUES WILLIS – [drummer, produced beat on Super Soaker], & they represent the very best the Seattle scene has in the way of free-flight (& fun) improvised music. My personal favorite of the ten tunes is the rhythm-driven “Super Soaker”… great horns & lots of freedom. To become more familiar with the players, check out their YouTube trailer…
This group gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Rotcod Zzaj
Steve Heckman & Matt Clark – SOME OTHER TIME/SLOW CAFE: Steve plays some wonderful tenor/soprano sax and flute, and Matt does superb piano work on this very interesting September 2017 release… as you listen to songs like the oddly titled “Ugly Beauty“, you’ll hear just how well they play together… nothing ugly about their jazz, to be sure. The 7:19 “Theme for Ernie” is a jazz gem that you’ll find yourself spinning over & over again (this a perfect tune for your iPhone player, especially on long road trips). This is their fifth album together, and nowhere can you hear their absolute comfort level with each other’s artistry than on the 8:59 “The Peacocks“… this is definitely my personal favorite of the dozen tunes offered up for your jazz listening pleasure… leisurely pace, but full of passion. I give Steve and Matt a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this one, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Steve’s website. Rotcod Zzaj