Issue # 167 reviews

Our latest and greatest reviews for your reading & listening pleasure

(Click HOME to see the index of all issues)

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! 

If you are an artist/promoter who needs a review more quickly, be sure & check out our new EXPEDITED/EXPANDED review services!

Gerald Cannon – COMBINATIONS:  If you’re a jazz bass fanatic, you won’t be able to resist the high zesty life on Gerald’s “return” album… the eleven song set kicks off with a tune written by one of Gerald’s mentors, Slide Hampton – “Everyman Is A King” will rock your jazz world, as will the rest of the songs!  It’s a stellar crew with him, including saxophonists Gary Bartz, Sherman Irby and Steve Slagle, trumpeters Jeremy Pelt and Duane Eubanks, pianists Kenny Barron and Rick Germanson, guitarist Russell Malone and drummers Willie Jones III (who also co-produced the album) and Will Calhoun, & you’ll hear jazz in all it’s fiery glory on Cannon originals like “Columbus Circle Stop” – this one absolutely KICKS, folks!  If you’re in the mood for something a bit more laid-back, you’ll fall in love (right away) with Gerald’s ballad composition, “A Thought“… jazz as it’s meant to be played (& listened to, of course).  There was no doubt in my mind about what my personal favorite track, was though… the deep & rich tones on “Gary’s Tune” (a tribute to Gary Bartz) is exactly what I want my jazz to sound like – every day, every night!  I give Gerald and his musical amigos a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine release.  Get more information at Gerald’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)

JAMBa feat Bernard Purdie – OFF WHITE:  Another “catch-up” review for this great CD released right around this time in 2016… this nine-song album is what I would term a “sleeper”… it certainly rates your attention, & not just because it features great drumming from Bernard… it’s a (sorta’) tribute to the Beatles, but with some of the most soul-filled interpretations of their songs you’ve ever heard…. in fact, you haven’t LIVED until you hear their take on “Rocky Raccoon“… definitely jazz, with high-energy & strong presence throughout!  In addition to Purdie’s masterful drumming, you get to hear Bruce Bartlett (guitars), Sonny Barbato (piano/Hammond B3), Dave Zinno (bass) and Joe Klimek (saxophone) – & as you listen to “Hey Bulldog“, you just HAVE TO hit the repeat button several times… the soulful sax on this track alone makes it well worth the purchase price, and the guitar leads are just SCORCHING!  Though it only clocks in at 4:39, it is their performance of “Yer Blues” that easily gets my pick for personal favorite on the album… recommendation from me… HEADPHONES ON!  I give JAMBa a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent release – a truly stellar listen.  Get more information on their BANDCAMP 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)

Endemic Ensemble – TANGLED:  Steve Messick leads this fantastic jazz ensemble with his double-bass, joined by Travis Ranney – tenor and soprano saxophones; Matso Limtiaco – baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; David Franklin – piano and Christian Krehbiel – drums,  and as you listen to tunes like the full-bodied 8:49″The Tolovana Stomp“, you’ll hear right away why I got excited as soon as I really sat down & listened to this October, 2016 release (sorry, Steve, I’m only just now able to get ’round to reviewing it).  Steve pointed out in his correspondence that the nine tracks presented here are all originals, but as soon as you hear pieces like the down & funky “The Snort“, you’ll know that… it’s original energy like this that makes jazz what it is today… I just loved Steve’s bass on this fine tune.  What this band best represents (for this listener, anyway) is the POWER that jazz can project, in all it’s forms… & the tune that really cinched that up for me is the excellent closer, “Retro“… it’s an odd thought, but I couldn’t help but think “Peter Gunn” (i.e., Mancini) & at 9:38, the piece has plenty of space for each of the players to shine… and they do that BRIGHTLY!  Steve & his high-talent crew definitely merit the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving them, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information on Steve’s OpusFunkus 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)

Emily Hay, Brad Dutz, and Wayne Peet – EMILY HAY/BRAD DUTZ/WAYNE PEET:  I first became enchanted with Emily’s vocal spook-werx many years ago, and only got to meet her for the first time when she performed with Amy Denio at the 2016 Olympia Experimental Music Festival… if you’re not just as hooked as I was when I reviewed her “Like Minds” CD in issue # 71, there’s something aurally wrong with you, lol!  She handed a couple of CD’s off during the 2016 meeting, & this is (I believe) the last of that batch.  As you listen to the sample for “It Can Be Thick“, you’ll hear why I was immediately drawn to her talent… Brad’s percussion and Wayne’s high-end organ works support Emily’s flute/voice lead in marvelous ways, and make for a few moments when you’ll think you’re at a concert… a SUPERB song!  Of the nine songs offered up, though, it’s the closer, the 12:27 “Possum” that made it a perfect pick for my personal favorite… one word of advice (especially for this song, but really for the entire 1:06 album) – listen with your HEADPHONES ON, & the volume at mid-levels, so you can catch every scintillating nuance these wizards create!  For those who love improvised and creative music, this album is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) of 4.99.  Get more information, and purchase, at the pFMentum label 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)

Andrew Hartman – COMPASS:  I’m not sure what’s up with my REVIEW QUEUE… it seems like everything in the lineup this week is guitar-led jazz… Andrew’s excellent playing on this superb quartet (he’s joined by Chris Cheek doing tenor/soprano sax, Ike Sturm doing bass and Zach Harmon on drums) – the keyword for what they perform here (all originals, except for “America”) is mellow… as you listen to the 6:53 “Waiting“, you’ll be as impressed as I am on this fine Great Northwest sunny morning… loved this tune!  “London Blues” isn’t exactly what you might think it would be from the title; in fact, it starts off with an excellent percussion intro that transitions right at the 1:25 mark to some of the best quartet jazz I’ve heard (yet) in 2017.  You get ten excellent tunes that are perfect for iPhone/Bluetooth playing (I’ve already played this album three times in my car player, & it remains a favorite)… of those, it was very easy to pick “Chic Korea” as my personal favorite… lots of well-coordinated energy and an excellent recording quality.  I give Andrew and his cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this very collectible album.  Get more information about this excellent player on Andrew’s 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)

Alex Wintz – LIFECYCLE:  One of the sheer joys of doing a review magazine for an old jazzhound like me is getting to hear all the fresh new talent that’s out there, and Alex & his crew (tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino on tenor sax, Jimmy MacBride on percussion, Victor Gould doing piano, and bassists Dave Baron and Ben Williams) have put together a debut release that will absolutely astound you for the talent and energy displayed on this nine-song gem… Alex plays some of the most tasty jazz guitar you’ll hear this year!  Just listen to his full-bodied approach to playing jazz guitar on the mellow “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You“, and you’ll hear why I dug his playing within the first few bars of the opening track, and he leaves plenty of space for each of his players to shine on this great song.  Speaking of openings, the energy displayed on his original “Action/Reaction” will convince your ears that this young cat is the wave of the future when it comes to guitar jazz – & when Lucas’s sax kicks in, it just SOARS, folks!  It was the energy (not to mention the masterful changes) on “Taking Sides” that made it my pick for personal favorite.  If you’re looking for “wave of the future” jazz that’s totally accessible, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  You can get more information on Alex’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)

Catherine Marie Charlton – I DREAM ABOUT THIS WORLD (THE WYETH ALBUM):  I didn’t realize just how prolific Catherine was until I read the promo material on this July, 2017 release; this is her twelfth release, and takes the listener even deeper into her intricate piano work than when I reviewed her “River Flow/Sanctuary” album in issue # 133.  Her concept for the beautiful music she immerses your spirit in grew out of her daily “Wyeth Walks” in scenic Pennsylvania (something I am well familiar with, since I grew up in the same area).  When you hear her integration of vocals on the wonderful and introspective title track, “I Dream About This World“, you will be just as amazed as I was… some excellent integration of strings into the piece as well.  The emotions she pulls from your heart on “Off at Sea” will bring you close to tears… just loved her pacing on this tune.  It was Catherine’s skillful weave of nature sounds, native drum and other instruments into the stunning 9:50 “Outside of Time, A Healing” that made it an easy pick for my personal favorite of the eleven inspiring songs she offers for your sonic enjoyment… one of the most engaging tunes of this nature I’ve heard (yet) in 2017.  I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most enjoyable musical adventure.  You can learn more about her at the Catherine Marie Charlton 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)

Michelle Qureshi – SEVENTH WAVE:  Michelle’s work was very pleasant to listen to when I reviewed her 2016 album in issue # 163, and it’s even more enchanting on her new July 2017 release… the one word of advice I’ll offer right up front, though… be SURE you listen to this with your headphones on for your first sitting… as you absorb the enchantment she weaves for your ears on pieces like “Page of Cups“, you’ll understand why I say that – simple, yet beautiful.  The vibrant sonic waves on “Radiant Ones” will make your spirit soar with the joy of being and her shift to vocal at the 1:17 mark is a perfect change.  It was music much like this that my therapist (another story, far too long to tell here) recommended… full of innovation and imagination.  You get just over an hour’s worth of sonic beauty… for this reviewer, it is the full-tilt energy and beautiful tones on “We Were Once Like This” that made it my personal choice for favorite of the thirteen songs offered up for your aural enlightenment.  Michelle’s new album is one you will want to have in your collection, and it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Learn more about this fascinating and talented artist at the Michelle Qureshi 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)

Elysian – VOYAGEUR:  An absolutely tasty jazz 10-song adventure from double-bassist and percussionist Duncan Hopkins and his playing friends Thierry Peala doing vocals and Nikki Iles on piano… nine of the tunes are originals from Duncan, which always makes it more exciting for this listener!  Before we get to the originals, though, I want to ensure you understand that their work on the traditional spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger” is a perfect example of how well they play together… I’ve loved this song since I started singing it when I was about five, and they carry it to cosmic heights – simple, yet beautiful.  The one (very minor) criticism I have to offer for the album is that the copy I received for review didn’t have “track numbers” – that should be included on the next release.  The entire album is in a very mellow and thoughtful mood, but lighter moments are a part of the experience, too, as you’ll hear on “Escape To Madeira“… if you can’t escape with that wonderful scat work, you’re beyond all hope anyway.  The most impressive of the ten songs, ergo my personal pick for favorite, is “Behind The Lines“… solid jazz that will transport you to “other regions”… loved this one!  I give Elysian a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album.  Get more information about this fine group on their CD Baby 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)

Ernesto Diaz-Infante – MY BENIGN SWORDS:  There will be a few readers who have been following this magazine ever since it started way back in 1988 who know that I played on several tapes (now CD’s) with Ernesto, as well as a few live shows along the way.  To give you a rough idea of what those experiences were like, here’s a YouTube clip of one of the songs we did together:

The first thing I must offer up is an apology to him for only getting back around to his work on this unique and tasty submission… we sort of “lost touch” after I started on numerous deployments all over the world, but his unique guitar work just SHINES on tunes like “Fear Of Love” (these samples are linked in from Ernesto’s Bandcamp page for the album).  You CAN watch him in performance on this great June 2017 video, though:

But, I digress… as you listen to his on-the-spot improvs on pieces like “Yin“, you’ll realize that you’re in the presence of a true musical master… ’tis really nice to hear his work again!  In point of fact, if you don’t purchase any other album this year, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that it also gets a “PICK” for “best improvised guitar”.  Get more information at the Public Eyesore label page for the album.             Rotcod Zzaj

Ghost In The House – SECOND SIGHT:  The promoter who sends these particular types of albums just KNEW I would find this attractive… and the player list is totally impressive – Kyle Bruckmann, Tom Nunn, David Michalak, Karen Stackpole… with Special Ghosts: John Ingle, Dean Santomieri, Polly Moller, Cindy Webster, Bart Hopkin… names that ensure that any dedicated fan of improvised music will recognize one (or more) of.  David came up with the concept – tunes that all suggest an image, and it will be very easy, even for the novice experimental listener, to “see” what’s being sung/played about, as on the opener, “Ghost Train“; and the real beauty of what they’ve done with that idea is that the tunes are “accessible”!  If you can’t grasp the image on “The Bats” (scary though it may be), your ears (& maybe your heart) are “sonically dead”… this group of genuinely creative players have put together very pleasing sonic imagery that will hold a treasured position in your library.  The most impressive song, ergo my personal favorite, of the eight offered up is the marvelously intricate “The Dream Machine“… the recording is flawless and chock-full of sights through sound that you’ll not soon forget.  I give Ghost In The House a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most inspiring and creative album.  Get more information on the Public Eyesore label 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)

Ryan Meagher – MIST. MOSS. HOME.:  Though Ryan’s band (part of the PJCE – Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble) is just down the road from me in Portland, his guitar, the sax from Tim Wilcox, bass by Chris Higgins and drums from Charlie Doggett have a decidedly “east-coast NYC” kinda’ feel… there are actually some pretty strong elements of rock merged in with the excellent jazz lines, and this one will have you tappin’ & snappin’ right along with the players.  I found tunes like “First Place” to be more than “just attractive”; they will be mainstays on any jazz listener playlist, and clocking in at nearly six minutes, it’s long enough for plenty of development room in their improvisations… too cool.  I first listened to & reviewed Ryan’s jazz guitar work way back in issue #92, so it’s been a while… as I listen to the haunting mellow on “Vasona“, it’s clear he & his fellow players have come a long way since those years… I would (most strongly) advise that you listen to this piece with headphones; in fact, it would be best to use the headphones for your first listen… simply stellar!  If it’s bright & lively you’re looking for, you’ll enjoy my personal pick for favorite of the eight tunes offered up, “The Hipster’s Folly“… a truly splendid opener for an album that gets my MOST 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)

 

Clay Giberson – PASTURES:  As I listen to Clay’s superb jazz piano work (for the third time through the album now), one word comes to mind – POWERFUL!  His strong style first enchanted my ears in issue # 162, and he got (very) high marks from me on that release as well (in fact, I went back and listened all the way through that album, too – as I often do with jazz players who exceed all expectations).  On this (even better) release, he’s joined by Donny McCaslin on tenor & soprano sax & flutes, Drew Gress on acoustic bass and Matt Wilson on drums, and tunes like the 8:07 opener, “The Time For Now“, will capture your musical attention immediately… super recording quality, infinite mesh of the players and all of the other qualities that make a jazz song stay in your memory for the long term!  Drew’s bass intro on “Highwire” sets the tune up for exactly the “edge” energy you would expect from a song with that title – superb energy on this one!  My personal favorite of the nine tunes offered up is the wonderful “Infinity X“… an absolutely stunning piece that uses the full range of each of the players.  I give Clay and his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most memorable album.  Get more information at Clay’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)

Mamutrio – PRIMAL EXISTENCE:  Jesse Dockx, drummer extraordinaire from Belgium, helped to found this absolutely tasty jazz trio, and with his mentors & mates Piet Verbist (bass) and Lieven Cambre (saxophone), they put together some tunes you won’t soon forget… a “prime” example of that is the 5:26 “To Remember“… great drum intro from Jesse, with his partners weaving in right before the one minute mark… you’ll listen to this one over & over again (this reminds me quite strongly of some of the old ECM releases, but with a more straightforward energy).  I found the opener, “In Peace With Gravity“, to be one of the most attractive jazz trio pieces I’ve listened to (yet) in 2017; some of that may also have to do with the fact that this is the longest cut on the album (9:43), with the gradual development of the tune in a “musical conversation” sort of way leaving the listener completely satisfied.  This is a debut recording, and after listening to the entire one-hour set, I guarantee you will surely be hearing much more from these talented players… if you listen to my personal favorite of the ten songs offered up, “You Are Too Beautiful“, you will (easily) realize why I say that, too… fantastic bass intro, and a wonderful interaction between the players that will make you glad you’re a jazz fan.  I give Mamutrio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine debut.  You can get more information at Piet’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)