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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Rebecca Kilgore – MOONSHADOW DANCE:  The credits list for Rebecca’s January 2016 is really, really long, so if you want to know who played, check out her Press Kit page… I’m more than impressed with her laid-back (yet high-energy) approach to vocal jazz, especially on tunes like the ultra-cool & upbeat “Swing Me Low“… it’s only 3:07, but it will have you yearning to dance ’round the room!  The vibraphone work on the title track, “Moonshadow Dance“, is pure sonic pleasure for any dedicated jazz listener; loved his one.  The album features high creativity and boundless performance energy that you’ll recognize almost immediately as having that “timeless” quality that will have you pulling these tunes back up on your player over & over again… the best example for that of the sixteen songs offered up (for me) is the gently flowing “Aeolian Shade“; Rebecca is totally her own singer, and has a unique vocal style that will capture your heart for the long-term… some sweet flute work, too!  I give this release a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at the Cherry Pie Music 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)

Adison Evans- HERO:  The players on Adison’s February 2016 release are Adison Evans – baritone and alto saxophone; Matthew Jodrell – trumpet and flugelhorn; Mathis Picard – piano; Dan Chmielinski – bass; Roberto Giaquinto – drums and Melanie Charles doing vocals on several of the tracks, and I can tell you from my perspective as a veteran jazz listener/reviewer that this is an album you’ll definitely want to add to your collection… just listen to their performance on the down & fon-kee opening track, “Dropbear Boogaloo“… an Evans original composition, this song alone makes the album purchase worth the price!  Their interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” is definitely different from any performance you’ve heard of this great song… nice, NICE!  Adison & her crew offer up an even dozen fine selections for your aural enhancement; of those, it is the mighty mellow “Do What’s Best for You“, another Adison original, that easily won my pick for personal favorite… soul is at the forefront of this great tune.   I give Adison and her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine release.  You can get more information about this high-talent player in her online bio.         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)

 

Sari Kessler – DO RIGHT:  I often think of my “review hard drive” as a diamond mine, with precious soulful gems to be discovered; there are times when I just can’t get to all of them, and Sari’s wonderful vocal release from April 2016 happened to be one of them.  Just listen to her high-spirited performance on “Sunny“, and you’ll realize that his is an album that is a true vocal jazz treasure that you must have in your collection!  It certainly doesn’t hurt that she has high-talent players that know just how to support her great work… John di Martino- piano; Ron Affif- guitar; Steve Whipple- bass; Willard Dyson- drums; James Shipp- percussion; Houston Person- tenor saxophone and Nadje Noordhuis (pronounced Nadia Nordhouse) – trumpet and flugelhorn all do a stellar job with the dozen tunes… I guarantee you’ll fall in love (in the immediate) when you hear Sari do “Walk on By“… this is (truly) the best performance I’ve heard of this great song!  I give Sari and her musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine jazz vocal set.  Get more information about Sari on this bio 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)

Sarah King and the Smoke Rings – SARAH KING AND THE SMOKE RINGS:  Sarah’s totally unique jazz vocals and Ukulele are featured, with Alex Levin – piano; Scott Ritchie – bass and Ben Cliness – drums supporting her joyful performances on this ten-song swinger!  It was released in early 2016, so (as you can tell) I’m in “catch-up” mode, but as you listen to her jumpin’ rhythm on “Jersey Bounce“, you’ll know (right away) that the flappers never actually “died”… they may have passed, but were reincarnated in high-spirited young ladies like Sarah, lol… this is truly timeless, and will meet with your approval, I’ve no ’bout adoubt it!  The strains of her Uke are woven in quite smoothly on “Smoke Rings“, and the key element of good jazz the world ’round is included – FUN!  The only criticism I have is that the album is under 40 minutes long, but since it’s a debut CD, that can be forgiven by the boundless energy she displays on tunes like my personal choice for favorite track, the opener, Sarah’s rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)“… nicely done, to be sure!  Sarah and her crew get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this album full of merriment.  Get more at Sarah’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)

Curtis Stewart – OF COLORS:  Curtis’s violin work is absolutely stellar, and in fact, I predict that he will be one of the top attractions on the jazz violin scene in a very short time to come (no later than early 2018)… as you listen to his performance of “Giant Steps“, you will instantly realize why I’m saying that… one of the most unique versions I have ever heard of that huge jazz classic; ultra high-energy and totally in the spirit of creativity!  He’s joined by a cast of players too long to itemize here, so check out his BANDCAMP page for this release to see the player list and much more.  You can’t “pin him down” on his style, either; in one passage, I hear truly “out” work (think Leroy Jenkins), and only a few bars after I’m reminded of Jean Luc Ponty, but with all the “new power” of the 21st Century… a perfect example of those contrasts can be witnessed on the longest piece on the album, “Techtonics“… this is absolutely my personal favorite of the twenty-three (long and short) songs offered up for your sonic enlightenment.  Curtis’s work is certainly worthy of my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and also gets a perfect “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 5.00… which means it gets my “PICK” for “best jazz violin work”.   Get more information on the aforementioned BANDCMP 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)

Jimmy O’Connell Sixtet – ARRHYTHMIA:  Some of the mightiest mellow jazz I heard in 2016, Jimmy’s August 2016 release got shuffled in the queue, and so didn’t get review justice until now… Jimmy’s trombone leads the other five players (Andrew Gould – Alto Sax; Tim Basom- Guitar; Tuomo Uusitalo- Piano; Peter Slavov – Bass and Jimmy MacBride – Drums) on great tunes like the 7:59 “Gray Matter“, where you’ll hear just how “together” they are… Jimmy’s trombone is superb on this one, and when Andrew chimes in with his alto sax, the tune begins to stick in your head; recording quality is top-of-the-line!  O’Connell’s original composition, “Crayons“, changes the pace up a bit, in an odd meter… perfect execution!  It is the simple groove on another Jimmy original, “Solidarity“, that closes the album, and easily won my vote as personal favorite of the eight great songs offered up for your aural pleasure.  I give Jimmy and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for his fine debut release.  Get more information about the album on Jimmy’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)

Enrique Haneine – INSTANTS OF TIME:  Enrique’s drum work leads this fantastic excursion into the musical freedom of being free – in a strictly jazz sense, of course; he is joined by Lori Cotler – Voice; Lex Samu – Trumpet; Catherine Sikora – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones; Michael Rorby – Trombone and Carlo de Rosa on Acoustic Bass, and they SMOKE it, especially on tunes like “Angularity Within“… the title kind of gives away what’s going on with the song… rhythmic corners and turns that most players wouldn’t dare to tackle are easily negotiated by Enrique’s high-talent, high-energy crew!  Though Enrique is currently living & playing in NYC, he was raised in Mexico, and it’s clear from great compositions like the opening salvo, “Bordeaux“, that he learned much about how to use rhythm to appeal to cultures around the world – a superb song that true jazz lovers will be spinning over & over again!  Of the thirteen sonic adventures offered up, though, it is “By Choice” that made my ears choose it as personal favorite… the horns just SWIRL on this one, and the spirit of life is abundant!  I give Enrique and crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine jazz odyssey!  Get more information about Enrique at the Kari-On Productions 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)

Aimee Allen – MATTER OF TIME:  If it’s great jazz vocal work you’re looking for, the time has definitely arrived… just listen to Aimee’s light and airy voice on “Out of Nowhere”… a perfect way to greet the day, so although this album was released (way back) in May 2015 (yes, this is “catch-up time” – my apologies to Aimee), her high-energy jazz vocal work is timeless!  I first reviewed her in issue # 114, where she got high marks from my ears.  The players supporting her are high-talent, to be sure, but the list is too long, so review it here.  I very much enjoyed the gentle sway on “New Day“, and I have no doubt you will be captivated by it as well.  Aimee’s performance on the classic “Corcovado” is unique, but at the same time reminds me pleasantly of my first encounter with the tune when Astrud Gilberto did it.  My personal pick for favorite of the thirteen tunes offered up is the down & slinky “Soul Cargo“… I just loved her interaction with the bass that starts the tune off.  I give Aimee a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this great album.  You can get more information on Aimee’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)

Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe – SANGUINARIA (HOPEFUL SONGS):  I’ve had the good fortune to review Brad’s guitar work before (in Contemporary Fusion Reviews magazine), and he got very high marks from me!  On this new outing, his work with bassist Michael, the duo collaborate quite tastefully on tunes that will (indeed) give you hope for brighter days.  A fine example of that tasty work is “In from Somewhere“… you can hear each & every note clearly – an excellent recording and superb playing/timing from all the players (too many to itemize here) on this one.  From a “pure jazz” perspective, “New Moon“, is among the very best tunes I’ve listened to (yet) in 2017… pacing is perfect, with the “spaces between notes” drawing the listener in with ease.  The most noticeable thing about the music these gents play is that it’s jammed full of “variety”… you can’t shove their playing into any specific pigeonhole, and the best example of that is the romping “Norm’s Ridge“… while it’s certainly jazz, it also has some very nice shadings that might remind you of music from the back country… it’s my personal favorite of the dozen songs offered up!  I give Brad, Michael and their musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this enchanting sonic adventure.  Get more information on Brad’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)

Janet Lawson – THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET:  For this ol’ jazzhead, there’s nothing more exciting than getting fresh/innovative jazz works in the mail slot… & Janet’s work certainly falls in that “innovative” arena!  Her scatting on the perky and upbeat “Jitterbug Waltz” immediately reminds me of those good ol’ days when saddle shoes were all the rage (I lived those days, lol), and the energy she and the quintet generate are stellar.  If you’re wanting to hear some back-alley late-night smoky room jazz, you’ll just love their rendition of “Round Midnight“… Janet sings in those dark/sultry tones I associate with Peggy Lee & all those lady greats from when jazz was in it’s heyday.  From the standpoint of jazz energy, though, it is the opener, “You Promised“, that has my vote for personal favorite track… simple, but shimmering with the energy of life… a truly impressive jazz opus (10:56)!  I give Janet and her fellow players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information about Janet and her music at the Janet Lawson 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)

Art Fristoe Trio – DOUBLEDOWN:  My first listen to Art’s superb jazz piano work on this double-album (hence the title, I assume) is a real contrast with his West Texas upbringing… it’s hard to believe, in a certain sense, that he developed such strong jazz sensibilities in his home-town, Amarillo… but I can say with absolute certainty that he has… just listen to the splendid work on “Benny’s Tune“… excellent drum intro leads into great bass and keyboard interplay & takes me (way) back to my earliest jazz listening/playing days… absolute cool!  Art grew up around jazz (his dad, jazz bassist Joe Fristoe was a major influence, I’m sure).  He’s a BIG guy (6′ 6”), but that presence is offset by a talent for digging down deep into the heart of a tune and making it SING to your ears… I felt that the best example of that is the totally mellow “Seventh-Four Walkup“, a great Fristoe original… it’s definitely my personal favorite of the seventeen tunes offered up for your jazz enjoyment; a truly beautiful piece of jazz that will spin over and over in your headphones – the release date is 2 June, 2017, so be prepared to get this one!  I give Art and his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this album.  Get more information on the CD Baby page for the CD.        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)

Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh – RIDING THE MOMENT:  Perfectly cut gems aren’t usually found without significant digging… but since I’d listened to & reviewed Denny’s innovative and intriguing work before (issue # 087), it was easy to dig what he does with keyboards and George does with drums & percussion on this 2015 release (yeah, sorry, Denny this is a “catch-up” review).  As you listen to the marvelous “Fermenting“, your ears will be (very) hard-pressed to go anywhere or do anything else… this is truly captivating and creative music!  Some readers have wondered why I “hold on” to music and review it no matter how long it’s been in my queue… it’s easy to give you the answer to that… because of the shimmering and bright wonderment listeners will have when they discover tunes like my personal favorite on this dozen-song “wonder of the world”, the very upbeat “Wheels & Tracks“… if this doesn’t capture the essence of my 4-on-the-floor 1966 GTO – nothing does – a GREAT high-energy piece of music.  I give Denny and George a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00; meaning that this gets a “PICK” for “most creative album”!  You can read more about this magic music at the Sunnyside Records release 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)

Arthur Lipner – TWO HANDS, ONE HEART (BEST OF ARTHUR LIPNER):  This world is full of mysteries, and one of them, for me anyway, is how I could be reviewing music for so many years (nearly 30 now) and not have reviewed beautiful vibe, marimba and steel drum work… oh, well – life marches on, eh?  As you listen to “This Is What The Silence Sounds Like“, you will find yourself just as enchanted as Arthur intended… beautiful use of the pauses in between notes to paint the image for you.  This is a double CD, too, so you have 24 songs jam-packed with a variety of styles… I just loved “Morning Song“… this one will have you hitting the “replay” button often, as it’s just under 4 minutes.  If it’s “lively” you’re looking for, you won’t be able to do without having “Brasil’s Hold On Me” in your collection… great intro, then some scintillating vocals… just FULL of LIFE!  Lots of songs here to choose from, but my personal favorite is the 6:32 “Cool Desert Rondo“… fascinating sounds and superb percussion.  I thoroughly enjoyed Arthur’s work, and have no doubt you will too… I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one.  Get more information at Arthur’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)

Rocco John – PEACE AND LOVERocco doesn’t play “music for the masses”… I’ve been reviewing his works for a good long while now, and can tell you that this is his best improvisational work to date… this album is a live recording with his ICE (Improvisational Composers Ensemble), and the player list is far too long to capture here, so visit the BANDCAMP page to see the musicians who joined his alto/soprano sax and piano work.  There are three (full) performances here, and the one that really struck my fancy is the 22:30 closer, “What If The Moon Were Made Out Of Jazz“… as you might imagine, at that length, the piece takes a few bars to “build”, but when the drums kick in, your ears will be astounded!  It’s a tribute to Will Connell, who passed before he could do his residency at “The Stone”, where it was recorded.  The sax work from Rocco is absolutely stellar and will capture your ears and your spirit!  I give Rocco & his crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this fine set of improvisation… one word of advice… “HEADPHONES”!  Get more information and purchase the album on the aforementioned BANDCAMP page. You can also read more about Rocco on the Unseen Rain Records label page for the release.     Rotcod Zzaj

Billy Jones – 3’s A CROWD:  Jazz drummers are prevalent on the scene, but I can tell you after listening to Billy’s fantastic drum work on this March 2017 release, there are few better… tunes like the strangely titled “John Cage Scared My Dog” prove it beyond all doubt… & of course, with at title like that, you’d expect nothing less than “strange”… the coolest strange I’ve heard (yet) this year, and Mick Rossi’s piano lends just the right “flavor” to make this stick in your head for months, if not years!  There were several different sessions to achieve the sonic wonderment you’ll witness here… far too many players to itemize here, so check the credits page at Jazz Promo Services to get all the details.  Two key things about the recording and the players emerge as I listen to my personal favorite of the ten songs offered up, “Gone Now“… everything on here is packed with a spontaneous flow of dialogue between the players, and the variety of styles offered up between the different sessions/players means that you are going to get a very UNIQUE listen… my key piece of advice?  Listen to this (at least for your first setting) with the headphones glued to your head!  I give Billy & his various players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a perfect 5.00 for this excellent jazz conversation; which means that it also gets my “PICK” for “best drum-led jazz album).  Get more information about this album on Billy Jones website.          Rotcod Zzaj

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Pat Bianchi – A HIGHER STANDARD:  Pat’s Hammond organ on this 2015 release (sorry, Pat, this is a “catch-up” review), when combined with dazzling drums from Byron Landham and great guitar from Craig Ebner makes for one of the tastiest jazz treats you’ve heard in a good long while!  As I sit here groovin’ to the mellow strains of “Bohemia After Dark“, it’s clear that Pat is a master on jazz organ, and his swirling organ sounds on this tune will make you a believer; truly some of the highest energy I’ve heard from a jazz trio in a while!  Things get downright “bouncy” on “Blues Minus One“, to the point you’ll be spinning the track over & over & over again.  Ten absolutely shimmering jazz experiences that will remind you that jazz ain’t dead yet; my personal favorite is the oddly titled “Will Of Landham“… the integration of the instruments on the recording is just flawless, and will hold your ears captive for the entire 6:07 length.  This is a superb jazz album that hearkens back to the days when jazz was king; I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on Pat’s page for the 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)

Rachel Caswell – ALL I KNOW:  Yes, it’s that time again… when I dig WAY down into the stacks and do some “catch-up” reviews… one of the things I’ve always said about this ‘zine is that once I accept you into my queue, your CD will (that’s WILL) get a review… unfortunately, it’s taken me a rather long time to get started on that (story too long to re-tell here)… Rachel’s jazz vocal work on this March 2015 release is superb and timeless!  Just listen to the mellow strains on the guitar intro to “For All We Know“, and you’ll understand why I truly enjoyed her vocals… excellent pacing and silky-smooth voice (the fact that it’s also the longest track on the CD – 6:10 – may have something to do with why the groove was so hip.  Of the dozen tunes offered up, though, it is a shorter tune, “Agua de Beber”, that got my pick for personal favorite… it’s easy to imagine Rachel doing this right in my living room (recording is just FINE).  I give Rachel a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine album.  Get more information about the players and listen to samples on the CD Baby 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)

Urbanity – URBAN SOUL:  This is my first listen to Phil Turcio’s keyboards, but Albare’s (aka Albert Dadon) fine jazz guitar has been reviewed here (most recently in issue # 152)… when the two of them get together, it’s a truly stellar jazz experience… just listen to the laid-back approach they take on the 5:01 title track, “Urban Soul“, to get a feel for their mightily groovin’ energy!  What’s truly striking about their performance together is that it’s almost like they’re reading each others minds – and you’ll hear that fully on the opening track, “The Mind Reader“… the best word to describe this track is “mellow”… loved this one & predict that it will get heavy (as in HEAVY) airplay ’round the globe!  Of the ten tunes offered up for your jazz enjoyment, it is the 6:16 “The Eye of the Storm” that is my personal favorite; some of that has to do with the sitar that Albare plays on the song, but the real attraction is the full-tilt energy they display for life and the living of it… just a GREAT song!  I give Urbanity a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this intriguing music, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information on the Alfi Records page for the album.            Rotcod Zzaj

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Clint Holmes – RENDEZVOUS:  This is my first listen to Clint, & a most pleasant one, I’ll tell you… on the opener, “Stop This Train“, the word that comes to mind is “mellow”, to be sure!  On the other hand, the second track, the title tune, “At The Rendezvous“, clearly demonstrates his skill at all the moods of jazz, and is greatly enhanced by having the high-energy organist Joey DeFrancesco supporting Clint’s vocal work – but the real key is the story Clint tells about his dad taking him to where the jazz was at, & how he was hooked ever since… cool!  Another key aspect to Holmes’ release is that though most of the songs were covers, there are two that were penned by Clint… for me, that “makes it”, without any doubt… just listen to my personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up, “Say Something“… though it’s a really short piece, it packs a real emotional punch that will spin in your head for days!  I give Clint and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.  You can learn more about Clint on the Allmusic page for this 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)

Bob Baldwin – THE BRAZILIAN/AMERICAN SOUNDTRACK:  Bob’s keyboard work on this fine double-CD is elegant, to say the least… just listen to the opener, “Funky Rio“, to see how smoothly he incorporates well-founded soul rhythms into Latin jazz & your ears won’t be able to stay away from the other 25 songs; this track rolls for nearly nine minutes, so I guarantee you’ll be up & slippin’ ’round th’ floor in only moments!   The percussion on “Eu Te Devoro” ensures that Bob’s tunes don’t get mired too deeply in the “smooth jazz” label, and every note is full of the vibrancy of life… impressive is the word, VERY impressive.  If it’s “hip” you’re looking for, you’ll definitely dig the second movement tune called “My Soul“… stellar Rhodes/electric piano on this one.  For pure & raw energy, though, it was “South of the Border” that is my personal favorite of the twenty-six songs offered up… just absolutely kickin’ music!  I give Bob & his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this very cool release.  Get more information at the official Bob Baldwin site.          Rotcod Zzaj
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The Microscopic Septet – BEEN UP SO LONG IT LOOKS LIKE DOWN TO ME:  This long-time NYC group has soprano saxophonist/composer Phillip Johnston, pianist/composer Joel Forrester are joined by Drummer Richard Dworkin, baritone saxophonist David Sewelson, bassist David Hofstra, and altoist Don Davis, with tenor sax from Mike Hashim, and they RAWK that jazz/blues out, folks!  They definitely “fit right into the groove” on “Dark Blue” one of my favorite blues listens (yet) in 2017, and will have you snappin’ yer’ fingers right along with them on this laid-back (yet vibrant) tune.  If you’re yearning for something a lil’ more “uptown” & upbeat, you’ll dig “Migraine Blues” (& no, it won’t give you a headache, lol).  My personal favorite of the fourteen tunes offered up is the oddly-titled opener, “Cat Toys“… ‘coz it’s “got that swing”.  I give TMS a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this totally cool album.  Get more information on The Microscopic Septet FB page.            Rotcod Zzaj

Nancy Shoop-Wu – RAINBOW ROAD:  Having lived in the Hawaiian Islands for several years, I can vouch for the calming and soothing effects they can have for the soul… and when you combine that with Nancy’s beautiful all-original violin, piano, and Hawaiian guitar work, you’ve got a combination that can’t be beat for soulful relaxation.  An even dozen pieces that reach right out and touch you (and your emotions) down in the deepest parts… I particularly enjoyed songs like “Waimanalo“… the piano lines are simple, yet strong, and when her powerful violin merges in, it’s one of the most memorable and striking pieces you’ll hear this year.  Acoustic guitar on “Ma’noa Rain” is perfectly recorded, and you’re able to hear every note of this gentle and comforting song with perfect clarity.  A very impressive album… the song that is my personal favorite of the twelve tunes offered up is the 4:40 “Always in My Heart“… perfect pacing and a beautiful blend of instruments.  I give Nancy and her cohorts a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this fine sonic journey.  Get more information on Nancy’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)

Janice Lacy – SANCTUARY FOR THE SOUL:  Piano master Janice is joined by top-flight players on this effort – pianist and keyboardist Rob Mullins, cellist Jeness, bassist Larry Antonino, and drummer and percussionist Tony Braunagel, and their collaborations are definitely in the “healing zone” (something we all need right now, I believe)… though the promo sheets have her billed as “new age”, you will also hear many other influences, particularly on pieces like the oh-so-beautiful “Take Care of My Heart“… the strings against her piano on this song are superb!  I also loved the shining qualities on “Sunrise Dance“, and have no doubt you’ll love them too, if you’re in love with piano and strings as much as I am – a tune totally full of life!  The strongest composition on the fourteen-song opus is the full-bodied “Tell You That I Love You“… I just loved the keyboards on this one, and all the players are in full support… nears the jazz realm, too; great energy!  I give Janice and her cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this very listenable album.  Get more information about Janice and her projects on the Janice Lacy about 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)

David Franklin – SONGS OF POTENTIAL EMBRACEGoodness sakes alive… a totally excellent listening experience from David… I last reviewed him in issue # 157, where he got very high marks from me for his creativity and skill, and as you listen to songs like the tasty “So Far Below“, featuring his sensitive and engaging guitar work, it will be immediately evident to your ears why this new release gets even better ratings.  David has a most unique ability to weave sonic dreams that will stand the test of time, to be sure… again, plug your headphones in and listen to his marvelous synth/piano on “Allowing” to get a taste of how in touch he is with what listeners need… I loved this track, and it will spin often (though, because it’s only 3:39, I will need to use the REPEAT function, lol).  A true “multi-instrumentalist”, David makes your sonic dreams come alive… my personal favorite of the sixteen songs offered up, the 4:48 opener, “The Failed Experiment of Consciousness”, demonstrates a talent at using the “spaces” that few other musicians have.  I give David a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent sound adventure.  Get more information about this fascinating player at David’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)

Terra Guitarra – OF SEA & STARS:  Bruce Hecksel (acoustic guitar) and Julie Patchouli (rhythm guitar) are Terra Guitarra, and they offer up a very inspiring and lively sonic look at the “connectedness” between the sea and the stars on this fine thirteen-song album… they’ve been reviewed here many times, most recently in issue # 150, and this new album just amplifies my opinion of them as masters of their craft.  Listen to the 5:38 “Algeria” to get a glimmer of why my ears have been so attracted to them over all these many years!  One of the most striking statements in the promo sheet indicated that “I believe music is one way to reach for bliss”… I surely share that belief, and hear a lot of healing in compositions like the beautiful “Night River“… the flute work is both captivating and astounding… a perfect compliment to the acoustic guitar, of course.  My personal favorite is the closer, “Aurora” (which is also the longest song on the CD, at 6:19)… if anything in this world can help us achieve our long-sought peace, it is music like this duo plays.  I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information at the Terra Guitarra website (and, of course, tell them you read about them 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)

The Reunion Project – VARANDA:  As the band name implies, this quintet “got back together” to do this splendid ten-song jazz set after 20 years of not having played together.  Saxophonist Felipe Salles, guitarist Chico Pinheiro, pianist Tiago Costa and drummer Edu Ribeiro, joined by bassist Bruno Migotto, give you nine all-originals and one cover on this sonically tasty adventure!  Just listen to “Reunion“… mighty mellow, and I’ve no doubt you will love the flutes on this one as much as I do… Chico’s guitar is very nicely mixed in on this track too.  If you’re seeking something with both strong Latin flavor and superb jazz vibes, you will find the opener, “Sinuosa“, very much to your liking… every instrument is clear and full of vibrant life on this fine song.  My personal favorite on the release is the 9:28 “Sunset“… you can easily imagine yourself kickin’ back on a beach in the Southern hemisphere, sippin’ your favorite beverage and easing on into the night… very impressive bass work on this one from Bruno, and the recording is flawless.  I give these folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Get more information on the Republic of Jazz page for this 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)

 

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