Issue # 166 Reviews
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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Eden MacAdam-Somer – MY FIRST LOVE STORY: My apologies to Eden, as this lovely seventeen-song album released in June, 2015, features some of the most invigorating and inspiring violin/vocal works I have ever heard (& those of you who know me realize that is truly saying something, since I listen to and review so many different artists). Her singing is absolutely amazing, almost an improvised jazz set, if you will, even though the music is based on Appalachian tuneage… just listen to the wildly spinning “Rumi Songs: Phrases and Pages“… so slick, yet so real! “Music is the language in which I am the most comfortable, and a language that I have been fortunate to share with artists all around the world”, she says in the promo sheet, and she makes that perfectly clear in songs like the high-spirited “Fourteen Miles” that opens the CD. My personal favorite of all those wonderful songs is “Along the Field: Fancy’s Knell“… the stories she tells with her violin and her vocals are full of life and the spirit of living it… I give Eden a belated MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.98 for this great release. Get more information on the A-Side Records page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Rich Halley – THE WILD: When it comes to jazz sax work, nothing could be more welcome here at Zzaj Productions studios than the unparalleled rawness that is always a part of any album Rich is on… & on the last several I’ve reviewed, his son, drummer Carson, is clearly being lined up to carry on Rich’s legacy! As you listen to the opener, “Wild Lands“, you’ll find your ears in those wild zones & won’t be able to let go of the tune; you’ll hit REPEAT often on this grand jazz flash, to be sure! To say that the father & son “work well together” is clearly an understatement… they just WAIL on this 4:42 excursion. For something a bit more in the “ether zone” (which is where ALL jazz improv listeners want to be, anyway), you’ll love “Snake Eyes“… “quiet spaces” abound on this track, so be sure to listen to it with your headphones glued to your head. My personal favorite of the ten tracks offered up is “The Stroll“… there seemed to be more “balance” between the reeds & the percussion on this one (at least, for this reviewer), but (again), these gents just SCREECH wild here. I give these two heavy-duty jazz improvisors a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great release. To read more about Rich and his gigantic catalog of music, check out his Discography page. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Jim Yanda Trio – HOME ROAD: I don’t know why, but I haven’t reviewed Jim’s superb jazz guitar work before, even though he’s been releasing songs for 30 years or so… the fact that he’s joined by two jazz masters (bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes) only amplifies just how monumental his works are! This album is a 2-CD set featuring all-original material, released in March 2017. As you listen to tunes like the opener for Disc 2, “Earth Way“, you’ll hear just how mellow jazz guitar can be when performed by truly quality players… they know exactly how to use the “spaces” between notes to give the listener a palette to paint their own dreams and images on… in fact, I haven’t heard a more mellow jazz guitar song (yet) in 2017! If it’s something with a bit more “punch” you’re looking for, you’ll love “Country Mother” from the first disc… it clocks in at 7:29 and will have yer’ toes tappin’ in seconds! Of the eleven songs offered up, though, it is “Off The Stairs” that is my personal favorite… every note is precision, and I just love the guitar/bass interplay. I give Jim & the trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine new set of tunes. Get more information on the Jim Yanda page for this album. Rotcod Zzaj
Jason Anick & Jason Yeager – UNITED: This is, without qualification, some of the most beautiful “chamber jazz” you will ever hear! High-talent violinist and mandolinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager join forces to bring you splendid musical memories, especially on tunes like the ever-moving “Well Red“… they are also joined by bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Connors, as well as valued guests including the saxophonists George Garzone and Clay Lyons, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist John Lockwood and percussionist Jerry Leake… the intro is quiet, until about the 25-second mark, and then Jason’s trumpet just SHINES (as well as all the other players, of course). “La Segunda” features some excellent bass from John, and the tune is totally balanced throughout it’s 5:02 length! From a jazz energy standpoint, my personal favorite of the ten tunes offered up is the high-flying “Harlem Hoedown“… if you don’t get up & dance to this, you’re in the morgue already, lol. I give the two Jason’s a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this very “now” jazz set. Get more information about the players and the album on the Bandcamp page for this release. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Yoko Miwa Trio – PATHWAYS: It’s been a good long while since I reviewed Yoko’s high-energy jazz piano work (issue # 119, to be specific), but she’s back in all her glory on this splendid May 2017 release… only eight tunes, but they clock in at over an hour, and as you listen to songs like the splendid opener, “Log O’rhythm“, it will be easy for you to figure out why I just love her playing (Note: the links may not work right now, but they will soon; it’s in “pre-release” mode right now)… she really has that “rhythm” thang down, & will keep your ears “on edge” with the great movement on this track. If it’s something more gentle you want to hear, you will find the 11:56 “Lantern Light” to be a favorite for many years to come… Yoko’s ability to create moods, or bring them back to mind, is simply astounding… and her co-players, bassist Will Slater and drummer Scott Goulding, compliment her keyboards in every way! It was the driving rhythm on “Lickety Split” that made it my personal favorite on the album… wonderfully fresh sound and the trio is TOTALLY together on this piece! I give Yoko & her pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent release. Get more information about her at the Yoko Miwa website (& tell her you read about her here, please). Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Shambhu – SOOTHE: My most sincere thanks go out to Shambhu, who “upgraded” to a review on Contemporary Fusion Reviews! Rotcod Zzaj
Louis Romanos Quartet – SERENITY: It’s been a while since I last reviewed this high-talent drumming (issue # 153), but he doesn’t disappoint on this March 2017 release… his fantastic percussion is complimented very nicely by Dan Sumner on guitar, Alex Noppe doing horns and Luca Lombardi on bass in a nine-song adventure that constantly crosses the lines between jazz and good solid funk; I totally dug this one! Just listen to the mighty mellow drumming, and beautiful horn work on the 4:08 “Home Again“… and one of the most notable things about this piece is the quartet’s “pacing”… they have TOTALLY got that down on this superb song – I loved it! The down & funky “Old Soul” turned out to be my personal favorite on the nine-song jazz adventure; lots of movement and some great changes! I suspect you’ll be hearing much more from Louis & his cohorts in the very near future… I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information, & purchase the album direct from Louis at the Louis Romanos website.
Ostergaard Art Quartet – MORE STORIES FROM THE VILLAGE: From the land o’ “Claus” (as in Santa, etc.), way up north in the netherworld of the Nordic tundra, tales are being told… painted with mystical tones of improvisation, you’ll thoroughly enjoy (even treasure) this free-form set featuring Kasper Tranberg (DK): trumpet and cornet; Per Jørgensen (NO): trumpet, vocal and darabouka; Marc Ducret (FR): guitar; Michala Østergaard-Nielsen (DK): drums, percussion. Just listen to the excellent “Hunting” to get a feel for how penetrating these players can be – ultra-improv, to be sure, & I’m loving it! They are masters at invoking imagery in your head, as well… the penetrating horn on “A roadtrip to an old mountain” will embed itself in your mind and not let go! Of the eleven gems offered up for non-purist jazz listeners, it is the totally engaging opener, “In the village”, that is my personal favorite, though… raw and barebones, it will illumine your world in more ways than you can imagine. I give OAQ a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those enthralled with experimental and improvised music, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on the CD Baby page for this release. Rotcod Zzaj
Stephen Peppos – LEAVING TERRA FIRMA: In this world of politics and evil (the two go together hand-in-hand in my mind, of course), there are hidden gems abounding – and Stephen’s excellent ambient album is one of the shiniest! Just listen to the aural magnificence laid out for your ears on the 6:52 “Magnetic Fields“… back in the early ’90’s, I reviewed a lot of ambient music, but with today’s improved instruments, soundbanks and players who actually “absorb” the wonder in the universe before they sit down to compose or play, like Stephen! One piece of advice… do NOT try to listen to this in your vehicle… you will become so entranced you’ll be a hazard to your health and all those around you. Stephen has a grand concept that he expresses with talent honed since his mother purchased a piano (instead of the drum set he wanted, lol) for him…. and that is most evident on my personal favorite track of the 12 (plus one “hidden”) tracks offered up… “Finalis” has simple, yet elegant, string washes, with choirs of the heavenly enhancing the listening experience – totally different than you might be expecting, this tune is a true treasure. I give Stephen a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album. Get more information about this highly talented player at the Stephen Peppos website (and tell him you read about him here, of course). Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Ryan Choi – WHENMILL and THREE DANCERS: Those who read our reviews regularly know that I seldom “clump” albums together… but Ryan’s two albums only clock in at just under 1 hour… normally, I wouldn’t have reviewed him due to the short length… it’s a given (here at this magazine, anyway) that music that is “different” will definitely get a review… & I’ll be this is the first time in a long while you’ve heard ukulele as the focus on an improvised/jazz album! As you listen to the pleasing strums, clicks & slides on “Apollon At Eros” (from the Three Dancers CD), you’ll hear why I made an exception for Ryan… a true master at “unique”!
There are definite contrasts between the playing styles on the two albums… on the “Whenmill” album, his debut, I found “Inn Blue” to have a more intricate “weave”… fell in love with it right away… Ryan’s wonderfully calm pacing makes the listening experience even better – but DO it with your headphones on, at least for the first listen.
The most engaging piece (for this reviewer, anyway) is “South Aleksandr” – perhaps because it’s the longest on both of the albums… either way, it’s again Ryan’s talent at playing with a deeply intense, yet (somehow) laid-back style that makes his music well worth purchasing. I give him a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on Ryan’s website. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Mz. Mali – NEW WORLD ORDER: Rap & hip-hop don’t often make it our way (not sure why); this female rapper has some (quite) explicit lyrics – which is OK by this reviewer, but ONLY if they are used to emphasize a clear point… on the other hand, though, she & her backing folks DO have some true energy for what they’re doing on the performances… proof of that is evident on the opening track, “Showstoppa“… though this isn’t my cuppa’ tea, I’ve no doubt that those who live, eat & breathe rap 24/7 will find this most interesting! For the “ethic” that drives a lot of this kind of music, wherein the artists are proclaiming “total independence”, I thought “Hate Me” pretty much summed it up. For those who are more inclined to jazz and blues, I can’t recommend this… but, OTOH, those who just must have their daily dose of phrase, beat & rap/hip-hop, this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at this press release for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
Mark Kleinhaut and John Stowell – CROSS COUNTRY LINES: When two master jazz guitarists get together, the result can be nothing but pleasant… and as you listen to their intricate musical companionship on tunes like “Solar“, you’ll understand immediately that they really ARE masters! When Mark submitted this one for review, he said “I think you’ll like this one- john Stowell is quite amazing“… actually, they are both pretty amazing, and he’s right, I really loved their jazz guitar work; of course, that was a given, since I’ve reviewed them both several times, and even had opportunity to watch John play here in downtown Olympia, some many years ago. The liner notes indicate that these two laid-back players will “help you catch your breath and regain your balance”, and that’s an absolutely marvelous way to describe their playing together… no “competition”, just playing for the joy of it, and that’s especially true on songs like my personal favorite of the dozen offered up… “Once I Loved” clocks in at 6:26, and it’s on this one that you really get the sense that they are perfect together… don’t get me wrong, though, there is high-energy involved in each & every note on this fantastic jazz guitar set; the kind of music that would make a perfect gift for friends or family who love jazz guitar! I give Mark & John a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning they also get my “PICK” of this issue for “best jazz guitar duo”! Get more information on Mark’s webpage for this great album. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Mariah Parker – INDO LATIN JAZZ LIVE IN CONCERT: The mix of live recording sounds with the vibrant energy is superb on this January 2017 album; Mariah’s piano leads a stellar crew on this high-energy live recording, including reedmaster Paul McCandless, guitarist Matthew Montfort, Ian Dogole on percussion, as well as bassists Fred Randolph and Kash Killion, percussionist Brian Rice, tabla maestro Debopriyo Sarkar and conga player Duru Demetrius in a glorious celebration of Latin music unequaled by any others! As you listen to the soul-stirring sounds on the 6:55 “Close Passage“, you’ll realize just how right I am about this! It’s actually been a long time (issue # 88) since I reviewed her work (as a leader; I’ve reviewed on several other albums, though). This is truly one of the most “alive” live recordings I’ve listened to (yet) in 2017, as evidenced on my personal favorite of the eight songs offered up… it’s the stirring percussion on “Jaguar Dance” that made it my pick, to be sure… every player is totally on-target, no doubt, and this WILL have you up & dancin’, folks! I give Mariah and her musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb release. Get more information at Mariah’s website. Rotcod Zzaj (author’s note: IF you decide to purchase this, please use the AMAZON link below to help with our Amazon Associates membership – thanks)
Daniel Chia – IN THE MOMENT: Daniel’s sweet saxophone will thrill jazz lovers ’round the globe, no doubt… he’s from Singapore, but don’t let any of your preconceived notions stand in the way of gettin’ on DOWN with this young jazz wizard! I’m sure it’s just an oversight on my part, but I wasn’t able to find a credits list that lets us know who all the players are on the album… that’s a bit of a drawback, for this listener, anyway… would be nice to have that listing on the next album!
The promo sheets are pushing hard on him being a “smooth jazz” artist, but as I listen to the title track, “In The Moment“, which features another of my favorite artists (Paul Brown), I’ll have to say that his music is more along the lines of “soul jazz”… he’s really GOT it, folks, and plays in his own (most) unique style… you can (and should) watch the YouTube EPK video below to get a strong sense of what they’re really all about:
One thing I can guarantee you – over the next months (& years, more likely), you’ll be hearing much, MUCH more from this high-talent, high-energy player… it will be truly interesting to see how he evolves as a player after this great debut CD. My personal favorite tune of the ten offered up is also the longest on the album… “Tender” clearly demonstrates Daniel’s above-average talent, and brings back many great memories for the listener. I give Daniel and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this release. Get more information about him at Daniel’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Giovanni Ferri, Mirco Ballabene, Mirco Bindelli – STRADE: This group presents a very “straight-ahead” jazz trio excursion that your ears are sure to enjoy if you’re one of those “true-blue” jazz fans (like me)… Mirco Ballabene on Double Bass, Electronics; Mirco Bindelli doing Drums, Percussion, and Giovanni Ferri with some sweet Sax (Alto) work! As you listen to tunes like Primoamor, you’ll find yourself totally engaged with their high-energy, and “jazz story” building abilities… suspense builds throughout the 6:02 piece. If you like your listening more laid-back, you’ll especially enjoy the great bass intro/lead throughout Marisa… be sure you do this with headphones on, at least for the first listen, so you can absorb every little “shade” of jazz they paint in… this is far more than “just another jazz noodling session”… you’ll be hearing what they’re seeing! My personal favorite of the dozen songs offered up, though, is also the longest on the CD… for those who don’t know, I was known as “Captain Cappuccino” in a former existence (too long a story to tell here), and the way they build layer upon layer on Espresso a Oriente is just marvelous… and when the “bean” hits at about the 2:25 mark, you’ll feel as though you just gulped down 2 quarts of espresso-ground coffee, lol! I give the trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. You can get more information on the Slam Productions page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj
MU – OF STRINGS AND BRIDGES: Our friends at SLAM Productions always come up with very interesting music to listen to, and this cello/guitar release is no exception… it features cello by Federica Vecchio and amplified acoustic guitar/effects from Adriano Lanzi… I’ve no doubt my improvising friends Dom Minasi and Jack DeSalvo would totally dig on this one (since it falls in the same realm as some of their own releases)! As you listen to “Il primissimo kiwi“, you will quickly realize that this is some of the most relaxing improvised string work you’ve ever listened to. Just under an hour’s work of on-the-fly compositions that are totally tasty and will hold you spellbound, especially since their “pacing” is so laid-back! They’ve both composed and played extensively with other groups, and their skills certainly show… especially on pieces like my personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up, the 5:50 closer, “Love in outer space“… there are a ton of “little sounds” buried down under the main instruments, so make sure you listen to this (at least the first time around) with your headphones on, so you can catch every little nuance of their sensational playing. Get more information at the SLAM Productions page for this release. Rotcod Zzaj
Art Patience – THE RECOGNITION: There are many artists we are familiar with on Art’s beautiful, and totally unique, album release… you can view the player/credit list to find out who they are (it’s too long to itemize here). Though the promo sheet files the album as “New Age”, “Contemporary Instrumental” and all the other monikers, Art’s background in “playing the blues” (a natural, I suppose, since his primary instrument is the harmonica) is what makes this listening experience so totally unique… just scope out the string intro to the 5:15 “Memorial Day“, and you’ll hear why this is different than any new age album you’ve ever listened to! Another totally original and most intriguing element he brings into the songs is his knowledge of the Great Northwest woods (where I live), and nowhere is that more evident than on “Spirit of the Woods“… no “overplaying”, no “rush to capture your ears”, just simple nature sounds woven in (very tightly) with Art’s “top-o-th-woods” harmonica… I just LOVED this track! My vote for personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up, though, is “Winds of Change“… both Native American and high-tech train sounds woven into this fine piece of musical craft/magic. I give Art a 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 “most creative music”. Get more information about this Seattle & Arizona based master musician on his website bio. Rotcod Zzaj
Dom Minasi Jack De Salvo – SOLDANI DIECI ANNI: Something I didn’t know – Dom and Jack had never recorded together before this splendid improvised guitar session was captured in November of 2015, and released in 2016. Due to “senior moments” on my part and a failure to enter it into my database properly, it’s languished for awhile… but, don’t let that deter you from exploring with these fine improvisors… as you listen to the excellent opener, “The Bee and the Fly“, you’ll be improvising right along with them (in your head), filling in the spaces between the flowers that the insects are traversing, lol. There are moments where I’m reminded (most strongly) of another improving guitarist friend of mine, Davey Williams, on the short (3:03) track titled “The Indelible Decibel“… the high-flight “runs” from both Dom and Jack will hold your attention, as you (sonically) gaze in awe! My personal favorite of the eight improvisations offered up, though, is the 8:37 “Blues for T.M.“… it’s very clear these two giants in the improv world had a blast playing this, and their talent just shines right on through, with some of the heaviest blues licks you’ve EVER heard in an improvised guitar walk. I give Dom & Jack a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superbly crafted album. Get more information at the BANDCAMP page for this album (& be sure to tell them you read about them here when you purchase the release, of course). Rotcod Zzaj
Anaamaly – URBANMETTA: Everything you need in order to listen to samples and read about Anaamaly (Phil Strickland) and his wonderfully calming music is right at your fingertips at Phil’s website… it’s less hip-hop than chill, and in fact I would consider it to lean more towards what we used to call ambient back in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s… as you listen to the grand washes that abound on “I Live in the Current Moment“, you’ll realize that he is living the dream his own way, and that alone makes his music welcome here! I can tell you, though, that you must find a quiet space before you sit down to listen to compositions like the marvelous closer, “I Am Healed on All Levels“… it’s ultimately important that you absorb what Anaamaly is projecting here… the string washes are simple, yet total beauty! There are eleven long tunes, and the album clocks in at just over an hour… my personal favorite is a perfect illustration of this high-talent artist, and certainly takes him ever closer to his goal of healing and enlightening… “I Walk Through the Fire” is pure pleasure to listen to and will bring joy to your spirit. I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information on the Anaamaly website. Rotcod Zzaj
Quentin Tolimieri – PIANO: This reviewer, who used to perform somewhat similar antics on keyboards (though nowhere near as qualified as Quentin) fell in love with this totally improvised piano recording as soon as I heard the first 4 bars! There was only one sample I could find on the web, but that’s fine, because this is the tune that drew me to his wild playing in the first place; the opener – “pointlinesplanes” is nothing but a frolic, superb high-energy from start to finish! The other thing that’s excellent about Quentin’s playing style is that he’s not limited to “just letting ‘er rip”… as you listen to his (very) unique 5:09 interpretation of “on green dolphin street”, you’ll be impressed with both his laid-back style and his use of the spaces between the notes (i.e., silence) to draw the listener into the spell he weaves. Of the eight tunes he offers up for serious piano listeners, though, it is the closer, “fin”, which is my pick for personal favorite… “orchestral improvisation”, if you will… there’s no question but that having master guitar improvisor Davey Williams join him on this one would make it THE best piano improv I’ve ever heard, but even without Davey, Quentin REALLY buries you in a “wall of notes” that you’ll not soon forget, and the “overtones”… all I can say is WOW! Get more information at the pFmentum website page for this album. Rotcod Zzaj
Saturday Nite Fish Fry – VOLUME I ft SHAKURA S’AIDA: This album is in from a promoter called “Radio Direct X” that we only encountered late in 2016 – & am I ever glad we did! If you dig git-down & dur-tee old-fashioned blues with the kind of energy we only used to get on gravel & grit floors down Alabama way (with peanut shells all over the “floor”, lol). You get a total of ten glorious blues/R&B tracks that will have you rockin’ ’round the floor (after you’ve had the appropriate amount of Jim Beam or Old Crow, of course; along with those splendid greasy pork ribs, ha! ha!). Songs like “Here I Am” take me way back to the old Gladys Knight & the Pips, no ’bout adoubt it! If you’re lookin’ for somethin’ with a bit more “jump”, you’ll totally dig on “Poor Ole Me“… man, this will have yer’ livin’ room (or yer’ juke joint) a-ROCKIN’ – & those guitar leads just SCORCH! Since my main attraction is to the “blues” side of things, it is “Give” that is my pick for personal favorite of the ten songs offered up… superb energy and high talent from the first note to the last! I give SNFF a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine rockin’ blues album. Get more information on their CD Baby page. Rotcod Zzaj