Record Label
and Music Spotlight








ANGEL AIR RECORDS – You have to love the English approach to pop and rock. Even in this Godless era of the early 21st century, U.K. rock musicians continue to find new and exciting ways to drape their music in a cloak of mystery and intrigue. A good example of this kitch-in-sync approach to 21st century music, is the 2019 CD release by Deckchair Poets. Recorded in the U.K. and the U.S., A Bit Of Pottery may be a bit of a put-on title, but poetry or pottery, there’s a whole lotta musical ideas bandying about on this remarkable sounding four part CD. Hard to find a better lineup of artists filling out the Deckchair Poets sound stage for this third group album with this lineup including Nick D’Virgilio (drums), Dave Meros (bass), Geoff Downes (keys), Ollie Hannifan (guitars) and vocals by Lynden Williams. With the songs co-written by Ollie and Lynden, the album is quite intriguing yet the only drawback is that there a four lengthy tracks and each combine a slew of musical tidbits that seem to merge into each other, but there a no lyrics or other info that would seem to shed essential light. One analogy would be to Jethro Tull’s Passion Play, which originally combined two extended tracks that only later would be reedited down to make for a 16 track CD. That said, Lynden makes a most impressive vocalist and Ollie’s electric guitar work is truly scintillating. If prog-rock is your thing, then latest Deckchair Poets CD hits right up your street.

APOLLON RECORDS – Norwegian prog-rockers Professor Tiptop are back in the spotlight again with their early 2019 CD called Hybrid Hymns. In the spirit of the band’s 2017 album, Life Is No Matter, their 2019 album Hybrid Hymns contains a well done mix of progressive rock that spans both vocal and instrumental music genres. The four piece band features the music and guitars of Sam Fossbakk, Svein Magnar Hansen (vocals), Stein Høgseth (bass) and Charles Wise (drums). For the fifth Professor Tiptop album, the winning formula of Sam’s electric guitars and melodic ideas combine with Svein’s lyrics and vocals to create another modern day progressive rock masterpiece by this acclaimed Norwegian rock band. Speaking about the concept of Hybrid Hymns, Sam tells "The title reflects an idea about how technology and biology will melt together in the future. With AI, DNA-modification, medical progress, nanotechnology and what not, a future hybrid mankind, or robots will probably have some kind of free will in a Kantian sense; “what shall I do”, ethics and self reflecting questions which leads to existential and religious beliefs. What churches will the robots go to? Which Gods do they believe in? If they shall be like humans, spirituality and irrationality must be part of the gear." Music fans have compared Professor Tiptop to progressive music icons like Camel and Alan Parsons Project with other influences from the early 1970s Canturbury, England school of music and even ‘70s Pink Floyd. Professor Tiptop's finest album yet, Hybrid Hymns is one of the most intriguing European prog-rock albums of 2019. /

AYEMAYDAH RECORDS – With his white-hot guitar chops, smooth vocals and song writing craft down pat, Texas rocker Billy White Jr. is a triple threat among artists and is certain to pick up a bunch of new fans with his 2019 CD It’s About Time. In addition to his singer-songwriter skills and guitar chops, Billy also nails a solid horn arrangement (did I mention he also engineered the album too?) on a track here plus there’s also a solid rock Allman Brothers style rock instrumental called “Shenanigans” to boot. A range of drummers, bassists and horn players add much sparkle and sheen to the album’s slick rock veneer, including keyboard ace Lewis Stephens and plus, the CD was expertly mastered by world-renowned engineer Sean MaGee at the fabled Abbey Road studios in London. With hardly a duff track on the ten-track CD, there’s a whole lot of crisply recorded rockin’ sounds to like on It’s About Time.

COAX RECORDS – Canada is a hotbed of country rock these days and fans of the genre should give a listen to Citizen Alien from the Winnipeg duo known as Leaf Rapids. Featuring the sublime female vocals and acoustic guitar of Keri Latimer and her husband Devin Latimer (bass), the quartet are filled out by Joanna Miller (drums) and Rusty Matyas (keys). Quite a low-key, subdued country rock album, the ten-track, 35 minute album softly and slowly but surely works its magic on the listener and pretty sound you’ll find yourself spinning it again and again. Keri also adds in the spooky vibe of the theremin, which gives some tracks on the album a kind of eerie backdrop. Fans of the CD format will thrill at the Citizen Alien album packaging, which features remarkable artwork and complete lyrics.

CONCENTRIC RECORDS – The 2019 release of Concentric is an excellent album by the New Mexico-based, alt-rock group known as Flagship Romance. The husband and wife duo of singer-songwriters Jordyn Jackson and Shawn Fisher make a gifted team of music makers that blend rock & roll rhythms with a tasty mix of country-rock and folk-tinged pop sounds. From full-blown pop-rock outings to more acoustic-based grooves with easy on the ears percussion keeping the beat, the wide-ranging style and sound of Concentric allows the listener to focus on the music and vocals as well as the top-notch production of Lee Miles Buchanan, who also adds in some fine electric guitar work, drums and other instruments. With its timeless, upbeat message, the pick to click here is track 3, called “California Mansion”. Guest artists on this new Flagship Romance album include electric guitarist Rod Castro and lap steel guitarist Chris Claridy, who gives Concentric a vintage country steel guitar twang. Oh, and extra points for the eye-popping album art and CD packaging.

DOONE RECORDS – Tri-state NY/NJ based prog-rock band IZZ continues breaking new ground for the genre with their ninth album, the 2019 CD release of Don’t Panic. Kicking off with the title track, the 5-track, 44 minute Don’t Panic features several extended play tracks, including the 18-minute album centerpiece called “42” (dedicated to Brooklyn Dodgers baseball icon Jackie Robinson). Also worth hearing is the orchestral flair of the 2-part title track which is brilliantlly connected to the CD-closer “Age Of Stars”, and a surperbly executed, YES-inspired, 10-minute instrumental tour-de-force called “Moment Of Inertia”—the latter a fiery track that all but establishes IZZ as a formidable jazz-rock fusion band. Guitarist Paul Bremer plays brilliantly on the entire album and even gets to shine on his own with the solo acoustic guitar venture called “Six String Theory”. Brothers Tom Galgano (keys, vocals) and John Galgano (guitars, keys, vocals) produced and engineered Don’t Panic while IZZ vocalists Laura Meade and Anmarie Byrnes also sound in fine form here, with drums handled by Brian Coralian and Greg Dimiceli. There’s plenty of tastefully produced and executed music on Don’t Panic to please long time fans as well as newcomers to the ongoing IZZ phenomenon.

DOUG COLLINS MUSIC – Music can sometimes be like a flashback to a kinder, gentler time in history. Case in point is Good Sad News, the 2019 CD by Minnesota-based Doug Collins & The Receptionists. The ten-track CD clocks in just under a half an hour but it covers a wide range of music. Some of the signposts here are country-rock favorites like Buck Owens, Gram Parsons era Byrds and even later period 1950s rockers like Buddy Holly and Buddy Knox. Doug’s vocals and twangy guitars get superb backup by a range of players including the rhythm section of Charlie Varley (bass) and Billy Dankert (drums). There’s a definite 1959-1963 vibe of innocence to Good Sad News. A fine bandleader, guitarist and songwriter, Doug Collins will leave you all misty-eyed with the retro sound of Good Sad News. A good choice for country-rock music lovers of all stripes, Good Sad News is tastefully packaged with memorable cover art.

GENTLE ART OF MUSIC – After eight studio albums, a best-of album and a number of live albums, Germany’s acclaimed prog-rock band RPWL returns in 2019 with a science fiction inspired album called Tales From Outer Space. As lead singer / keyboardist Yogi Lang says, “This time it didn’t turn out to be a concept album in the true sense but there are seven short stories about science fiction.” For Tales From Outer Space, Yogi receives excellent support from band mates Kalle Wallner (guitars, bass), Markus Jehle (keys) and Marc Turiaux (drums) with guest music Guy Pratt (bass). After a few spins it’s clear that Tales From Outer Space is the perfect vehicle for RPWL to explore their experimental sounds and what they describe as “all imaginable stylistic devices”. For years, RPWL have been compared to progressive rock legends including Alan Parsons, yet Tales From Outer Space also contains a number of original ideas that blends into a fantastic, 21st century, sci-fi inspired progressive rock classic. The album cover art will catch your eye right away and the music and production of Tales From Outer Space is equally impressive and firmly reestablishes RPWL as a prog-rock force to be reckoned with.

GONZO MULTIMEDIA – Way back on the 1970 album release of No Dice, guitarist / vocalist / composer Joey Molland became a full-time member of U.K. pop-rockers Badfinger. Things went from brilliant to nightmarish with Badfinger after the 1974 suicide of Pete Ham. Little was heard from Joey Molland for many years, despite several attempts to keep the Badfinger name afloat and besides , fans still swear by the band’s Beatles-endorsed Apple Records albums. So in the ungodly year of 2019 comes #9 by the band called The Raz Band. There’s kind of a Badfinger style sound here again, especially on the lead-off track “Breadline Love”, which features Joey on lead vocals and he still sounds great, despite being nearly half a century older! Other songs feature the patented Raz Band sound of group visionary Michael “Raz” Rescigno, who penned a lot of the tracks here. Jim Manzo (bass), Jeff Hutchinson (drums) and a bunch of guest artists enhance the musical feast here. Track seven, a Beatles / Badfinger style track called “Let Me Tell You” features guest artists, the late great Jack Bruce on acoustic guitar and Joe Vitale on keys. No lyrics sheet is included but the #9 CD is accompanied by a second CD called Live ‘N’ More. With both albums produced, mixed and mastered by Joey Molland, the double CD set was released by U.K. based Gonzo Multimedia, a company that started releasing a number of progressive rock reissues and that has branched out far and wide releasing music in multiple genres this past decade. It’s great to hear Joey Molland’s stinging Badfinger-esque lead guitars and vocals again. You can’t bring back the past or even relive it, but The Raz Band gives it their best shot on the sublime sounding

INSIDE RECORDINGS – A mainstay on the SoCal music scene for decades, multi-instrumentalist / composer / producer Jorge Calderón returned in late 2018 with Blue Rhythm Highway. Released on Jackson Browne’s Inside Recordings label, the 12-track CD is very much rooted in the breezy, Jackson Browne style of singer-songwriter rock / pop song writing. Jorge made his first album way back in the 1970s, and it’s great to see him back on the music scene with Blue Rhythm Highway. Although he played in 1972 as a percussionist with Buckingham / Nicks, on his new solo album the accent is purely on his bluesy rock songs, vocals, percussion and guitars. Some top players appear on Blue Rhythm Highway, including top name guitarists Waddy Wachtel, David Lindley and Ry Cooder as well as a number of other session musician heroes, including Van Dyke Parks. The CD booklet for Blue Rhythm Highway features all the info as well as the lyrics to Jorge Calderón’s memorable West Coast flavored pop/rock tracks.

MOTU MUSIC – Falling into the Americana, country-rock and blues genres, Suitcase Full Of Sorrow And Another Filled With Dreams is the 19th album from Long Island NY based MOTU. The stage name for Dr. Richard Michelson, MOTU also features a number of fine musicians, including Dee Michelson (vocals), Bob Rush (keys/harmonica), Mark Loebl (bass), Ed Modzel (drums) and Rich Fry (guitar). Regarding his inventive songwriting and vocals, some of the artists MOTU sounds influenced by include Bob Dylan and Neil Young and on his 2019 album, MOTU proves his own originality as a guitarist, singer-songwriter and bandleader. The ten-track CD release of Suitcase Full Of Sorrow And Another Filled With Dreams covers a lot of musical bases, including blues, pop, rock with some folk flavors and country twang too. Speaking to about the introspective scope of the new album, MOTU says, “At 65, I’m still experimenting with my craft. And yes, it is an introspective effort. The more years I live, and the more experiences I have, the less I understand and the more questions that present themselves to me.” One definite highlight on the Suitcase album, track six, called “New World Order” touches on modern day societal issues to which Motu adds, “The song is dark because we are at a very dark point in our country’s history. Our government is totally disconnected from the problems most Americans face as these leaders only pass self-serving legislation that benefit themselves and the very few extremely wealthy. So this song digs deeper with direct criticism at those at the very top who are the real cause of the current social and economic divides that face us.” Several of the tracks are more inward-looking lyrically while others, some featuring searing electric guitar leads, are more detailed and rocked out. A rare and remarkable sonic treat, highlighting the Long Island Sound of MOTU, Suitcase Full Of Sorrow And Another Filled With Dreams is a very well-rounded album of 21st century blues-rock.

RUTH RECORDS – An interesting title that comes to us via Sweden’s Paraply Records as well as their Swedish-based associates, Ruth Records, Minus One introduces American ears to the music of Texas-based Faris Nourallah. Semi-orchestral pop, semi-acousticana the 14-track CD also combines Americana and folk-music within the context of a self-produced, self-performed pop-centric solo album. Faris was born in Michigan in 1969, so he came out of the post-Beatles era. Unknown to many, Faris has released 9 albums, starting in 2003 and that also includes a 2005 album called King Of Sweden (the Swedish connection again?) The songs on Minus One dates back to 2005 and were recently rediscovered and thankfully finally released in 2019 on Paraply Records via Ruth Records. Fans of former Paraply recording artist Citizen K will enjoy the breadth and scope of Faris and his colorful and underrated brand of pop music. Fans of Ray Davies, Lou Reed, John Cale, Robert Wyatt and other prog-pop stars will also enjoy this left field, sleeper of an album release from Faris Nourallah. /

SCARLET RECORDS – U.K. based singer-songwriter Liz Lenten returns in 2019 with Game Of Faith, the sixth CD by her band Auburn. The follow up album to the 2017 CD release of Love & Promises, the 14 cut Game Of Faith finds the gifted songwriter in the same company as the last Auburn album, including guitarist / producer Thomm Jutz and she’s once again backed up by a tight band including Mark Fain (bass), Lynn Williams (drums) and Britt Savage (backing vocals). Like Love & Promises, the 2019 release of Game Of Faith was recorded in Nashville. Blending her own country-rock style with influences from English pop icons Kate Bush and Dusty Springfield to Americana influences from Janis Joplin and Pasty Cline, Liz Lenten covers a lot of tasty musical ground on Game Of Faith. In addition to the CD, the album Game Of Faith is accompanied by a board game that will enhance the album and that has been created to enhance the words and music so that ‘everyone can play their own game of faith’.

SILKTONE RECORDS – Upstate New York based Mike Brunacini has released several albums and EP releases since 2012 and his 2018 – 2019 album Dreamstate is his boldest, brightest musical statement yet. In the works for at least ten years, the two-part 15-track, 79 minute album is an entertaining mix of progressive music ideas and power-pop hooks, complete with dashes of horns and strings. As a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Mike covers all the bases himself. As such, Dreamstate has a kind of do-it-yourself feel to it yet, with its cinematic effect, it’s being hailed as a concept album and true to form, as the online lyrics indicate, different characters are called upon to sing their parts, all sung by Mike. Prog music fans will like the album’s expansive and ambitious approach although, Mike’s songs are very much rooted in the pop domain. Guitarist Rob Hewitt adds in some additional fretboard textures, yet for the most part, Mike handles all the instruments, as well as all the song writing, lyrics and percussion. Sounding influenced by singer-songwriters from Emitt Rhodes and Harry Nilsson to Jon Anderson, Mike Brunacini will please music fans with the detailed pop-prog harmonics and song writing concepts on Dreamstate.

SOUND FIELD RECORDS – Florida-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pamela Davis was a featured artist on the Escape The Mind New Age CD sampler from Bongo Boy Records. In 2017 Pamela released her album Escape To Tranzotica, which contained her Bongo Boy track called “New Horizons”. Highly regarded for its ambient, guitar-centric tracks, Pamela’s all-instrumental New Age style album was followed in early 2019 by a completely different album called Marlene Rides Again. A tribute to World War II era singer / actress Marlene Dietrich, the 16 track Marlene Rides Again shows off the vocalist side of Pamela’s muse. Those under 50 probably never heard of Marlene Dietrich yet, after viewing all the videos Pamela has up on her web site, interested music fans may gain a whole new perspective on her life story, especially the timeless music Dietrich recorded in her long and colorful life. Assisting Pamela on Marlene Rides Again is multi-instrumentalist Marty Gilman on clarinet and keyboards. The most famous songs of Marlene Dietrich are given a whole new lease on life on Marlene Rides Again by the versatile artistry of Pamela Davis.

UNCHAINED RECORDS – Swedish fascination for all things Americana continues unabated with the 2019 CD release of The Waiting Game by Buford Pope. Led by, and essentially the vision and music of singer Buford Pope, the five piece rock band was featured on for their 2012 album Matching Numbers and now… several albums later, Buford Pope is back their sixth group album of toe-tapping country style rock mixed with a solid dose of rock style guitar intensity courtesy of Joakim Pettersson. On The Waiting Game, Buford has penned a dozen new tracks and the band clicks. For this 2019 release on the Unchained label, the CD is both well produced and recorded and well presented in crisp digi-pak artwork with lyrics and booklet. While Buford Pope himself wrote the music and lyrics, on the highlight lead off track “America”, he teams with lyricist Mark Drake for a truly moving musical experience worthy of Brecht-Weill. Buford (real name: Mikael Liljeborg) cites influences like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, yet Buford’s own singer-songrwiter style and originality rises to the top on The Waiting Game.

WOODSTOCK RECORDS – Keeping the spirit of the 1960s and early ‘70s alive, Professor Louie (a/k/a Aaron Hurwitz) joins forces with his bandmates in The Crowmatix and the result is the early 2019 CD release of Songs Of Inspiration. Following the 2017 CD release of Crowin’ The Blues and the 2018 CD The Lost Band Tracks, the 2019 release of Songs Of Inspiration leaves the blues (and The Band) behind and is actually a fitting foray into the realm of Gospel music. With new versions of traditional music favorites—like “I Shall Not Be Moved”, “Motherless Children”, along with other torch song favorites like Rogers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone”—Louie and partner Miss Marie also feature some of their own choice originals and the result is a stirring mix of classic favorites and new music. Still featuring some of the best musicians in the NY/NJ area, including Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass), John Platania (guitars), joined by guitarist Josh Colow, in 2019 the Crowmatix sound remains red hot. Professor Louie was a long time member / co-producer of the post-Robbie Robertson era of The Band and anyone missing the classic rock sound of The Band would do well to pick up a CD of the like-minded Songs Of Inspiration.


ALCHEMY RECORDS Ambient-fusion guitar composer Jon Durant continues to amaze the music world with his 2019 solo CD called Alternate Landscapes. The perfect follow-up to Jon’s 2017 Parting Is album, the four-track Alternate Landscapes album features several cuts that clock in over 15 and 20 minutes with track 2, “Aragon” being the shortest, at nearly 7 minutes. As Jon has said, Alternate Landscapes heavily accentuates his ‘Cloud Guitar’ technique and as a result, his usual lead guitar sound has been further sublimated into the mix, replaced by ethereal, atmospheric ‘Cloud Guitar’ patterns for which Jon is very well-known. Speaking about the differences between his current solo albums, Jon tells, "The two records are really very different from each other as I hope all of my records are—I really don’t want to repeat myself. If Parting Is was a representation of how I play on a daily basis, Alternate Landscapes is a representation of how far I can stretch the sonic possibilities of the guitar. I very consciously used a totally different palate of sounds for Alternate Landscapes and included some elements that I’d previously used in other contexts but now have running sort of front and center. In particular, the use of synth sequences that I play on the guitar synth. I’d done similar things on the first couple tracks on Burnt Belief’s Emergent and also on a track on the upcoming Edwin-Durant-Kovtun record." Compared to Jon’s work as a member of the adventurous instrumental fusion band Burnt Belief, Alternate Landscapes is yet another compelling Jon Durant solo album filled with impressionistic soundscapes that will surely appeal to listeners that favor ambient-flavored instrumental guitar-centric music.

AMFI RECORDS – Released on her own AmFi Records label, Road To The Sun is a splendid showcase for Azerbaijan-born, NYC based jazz pianist / composer Amina Figarova. Backed up by a number of players, the eleven-track CD is actually a 20th celebration of her big band. Ms. Figarova’s eclectic jazz band is made up of some truly virtuoso musicians and the most incredible thing about the sound of Road To The Sun is the way her music mixes her acoustic piano with horns and strings. One clear comparison would be to the some of the heavily arranged CTI albums by Don Sebesky during the mid 1970s and also—with the piano at the central focus—some of McCoy Tyner’s adventurous big band albums of the late 1970s. An excellent sounding album of state-of-the-art recording of instrumental jazz, Road To The Sun was expertly recorded at Samurai studio in NYC during the summer of 2018, and features insightful liner notes by Amina discussing the 1998 origins of her big band sound.

APOLLON RECORDS – Norway’s great instrumental jazz-rock fusion band Pymlico are back in action with their 2019 CD, Nightscape. A fine follow up album to the band’s 2017 album Meeting Point, and the band’s fifth album to date, the seven-track Nightscape is highlighted by the music, production and arrangements of brothers Arild Brøter (drums, keys, guitars) and Øyvind Brøter (keyboards). The seven-piece Pymlico on Nightscape features some excellent musicians, including two fine fusion guitarists Stephan Hvinden and Andreas Sjo Engen, while the CD also features several guest artists. With its driving high tech sonic sheen, Pymlico music is definitely Scandinavian influenced fusion, although it’s very much of the 21st century variety. /

APOLLON RECORDS - Norway-based label Apollon Records continues breaking ground for electronic space music with the 5-track 48 minute, 2019 CD release of Fangarmer Gjennom Tid Og Rom from Norwegian space-rockers Alwanzatar. It's quite a mouthful to pronounce but the all-instrumental album continues the fascination of 1970's era progressive instrumental rock ala mid-1970s Gong and Clearlight Symphony. Alwanzatar is referred to as a one-man extraterrestrial cosmic music force and spearheading the sound is flute and synthesizer wizard Krizla of Tusmørke. In 2017 Alwanzatar released an excellent instrumental space rock album called Heliotropiske Reiser and the latest album, consisting of rearranged older material and new music, Fangarmer Gjennom Tid Og Rom will go far to please fans of this Norwegian musical wunderkind. Fans of Gong and German space rock bands such as Faust and Can will get an equally cosmic buzz from this latest Alwanzatar opus. Even so, during the summer of 2019 music fans can expect yet another completely new Alwanzatar album called Helsfyr Terminal Ekspress.

CHRISTOPHE ASTOLFI MUSIC – Fans of the venerable Gyspy Jazz sound of Django Reinhardt will be in for a musical thrill thanks to the 2018 CD release of a new album of very Django-oriented music by French guitarist Christophe Astolfi. Music fans can’t miss this album thanks to its memorable retro-flavored album cover art, which kind of harks back to the 1960s, when the music on this album was written, by the late Gypsy Jazz icon Baro Ferré. Guitarist Astolfi located a cache of unreleased musical compositions composed by Ferré and on his new album, he has recorded new versions featuring his Christophe Astolfi & Son Quartet. Perhaps the best part of this thirteen track CD is that it mixes the classic Gypsy Jazz sound with wonderful coloration from the unusual pairing of guitar with Hammond B-3 organ, string bass and drums, giving the album a kind of post bebop jazz sound that also merges waltz times and other intriguing flavors. Much like the colorful past and background of Ferré, Christophe Astolfi’s tribute to the late guitar icon is a splendid guitar treat that never fails to amaze and enchant. The CD booklet is printed in French but since all the music here is instrumental, listeners won’t have any trouble delving into Christophe Astolfi’s modern day Gypsy Jazz classic.

BREAK OPEN RECORDS – A very unique artist working in the early 21st century jazz-fusion world, trombone player and composer Naomi Siegel turned heads around with her 2016 debut album Shoebox View and she’s back in 2019 with her second album called Live At Earshot. Featuring reworked versions of her 2016 studio album, the nine-track, 54 minute Live At Earshot was recorded live in 2017 at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival. Always entertaining, Ms. Siegel’s trombone-based instrumental, jazzy, folk-tinged, World-fusion sound is greatly enhanced in a live setting with her fine band including Sean Woolstenhulme (electric guitar), Eric Eagle (drums), Wayne Horvitz (piano) and Geoff Harper (bass) along with guest artist Thione Diop (percussion). Based in Montana, with her roots in the Seattle music scene, Ms. Siegel is totally in her element on the highly entertaining sound and vision of Live At Earshot.

ROLAND BÜHLMANN MUSIC – In 2018, Switzerland-based guitarist / composer Roland Bühlmann released his Bailenas album to great acclaim and in 2019 he’s back with an even more impressive album called Crucial. Roland’s sound on Crucial is very electric guitar oriented and his arsenal of guitars is quite impressive. Roland fills out the wide range of guitar sounds with a number of accompanying instruments including electric bass, guitalele, e-bow, mandola and a host of percussion instruments yet, incredibly there are no drum samples on the album. With bands like Sonar making waves on the international musical landscape, Roland’s fantastic sounding and totally electrifying instrumental rock fusion sounds will appeal to fans of Sonar, and erstwhile guitar legends like Robert Fripp and Norwegian guitar hero Terje Rypdal. As on Bailenas, the 2019 CD release of Crucial fits into Roland’s description of his music, called “PRIM”, as in Progressive – Rock - Instrumental – Minimal. Also on Crucial, the cover art photos were taken by Roland through his pinhole lenses cameras and that gives the art a kind of fractal look. After playing Crucial several times, it’s clear that Roland Bühlmann well deserves to have his guitar-centric musical vision heard and appreciated well beyond the Swiss borders.

CRS – The sounds of rock-based guitar instrumentals are back in style again with @Ventures In The Shadows, the 2019 CD by Holland’s very cool guitar trio The Space Age Travellers. According the band, the 15 track CD owes a lot to 1960s guitar legends like The Ventures and The Shadows, yet other influences creep into the mix, including the late great guitar pioneers Dick Dale and Link Wray as well as modern day players like Jeff Beck and guitar-noir mavens such as Ry Cooder, Marc Ribot, Jim Campilongo, John Blakeley and Norway’s guitar ace Steinar Karlsen. To that mix of guitar heroes you can now add in the name of guitar ace BJ Baartmans, leader and main composer of this cool new guitar discovery that also features key contributions from Gerco Aerts (bass) and Sjoerd van Bommel (drums). Speaking about his many musical influences in the following interview, BJ tells, "I love American classic movies from the 1930's and 40's, all the things Hitchcock did, Spaghetti Westerns, anything from Pixar and I have seen a lot of “art house” films. Randy Newman's scores are fantastic, Ry Cooder's work on Paris Texas, Ennio Morricone comes to mind, the 60’s James Bond scores and Shaft and, of course the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Since there's no lyrics on Adventures In The Shadows, there's a lot of room for imagination when you play or hear the music. I often had movie scenes, paintings or images or complete movie scripts in my head when I envisioned and named the tunes." A most impressive album debut from The Space Age Travellers, @Ventures In The Shadows is packed with 15 original tracks and is an essential spin for fans of classic instrumental rock guitar sounds. /

DAYBROOK RECORDS – The perfect album to unwind with after a hard day’s night, Mystic Messages is a fine introduction to the sound of the duo known as Brooks & Day. Pastoral sounding and very relaxing instrumental music, Mystic Messages features tasteful performances by Ben Brooks (flute, keys) and Peter Day (guitar, keys), along with Rob Mullins (keys, percussion) and Rich Mangicaro (percussion). Ben’s flute sounds soars far above the heavens while the guitars and keyboard sounds synchronize the sound perfectly. Very much New Age in scope, this album is perfect for lowering your blood pressure while taking in the scenic, sonic route to musical nirvana. What is also remarkable is that the tracks on Mystic Messages were created as improvisations with orchestrations added afterwards. Mystic Messages is a sublime album of instrumental music magic.

DESTINY RECORDS – Brought to the attention of by Brooklyn-based guitarist Cameron Mizell, the 2019 CD release of Sense Of Place is a great introduction to the art and craft of vibes master Tyler Blanton. Backed up by key players, including Drew Gress (bass), Jon Cowherd (keys) and Johnathan Blake (drums), the ten track CD is a mesmerizing sojourn into the depths of 21st century jazz. Sans guitars, the album has a near acoustic feel. Several notable covers include standards by jazz piano icon Lenny Tristano, Jimmy Van Heusen and the late, great song writing melodicist, Richard A. Whiting—the latter being the composer of “On The Good Ship Lollipop”. The mix of these lesser-known jazz standards, with a range of original compositions, gives the album a kind of timeless and eternal vibe. Featuring excellent recorded sound and eye-catching album artwork, on Sense Of Place, vibraphonist / composer Tyler Blanton proves his worth as both a recording artist, band leader and 21st century jazz taste maker. /

DESTINY RECORDS – The art of 21st Century jazz-rock fusion owes a lot to the sonic breakthroughs of the 1970s and ‘80s yet it continues to not only find new audiences but also continues to be refined and/or reimagined with new and revealing developments. Case in point is the 2018 CD release called Presence by NYC based keyboardist Brad Whiteley. The eleven cut all-instrumental CD was released on Texas-based Destiny Records and features a range of great musicians backing up Brad’s piano-centric melodies and arrangements. Some of the arrangements remind me of the very first Pekka Pohjola album from 1972, yet, with the white-hot electric guitar skills of Tom Guarna in the mix on many of the tracks, there’s a definite Holdsworth-style guitar sound going on. A good example of all the above can be heard on track eight, “Demagogue”, which is all over the musical map but well worth the time to explore. Also on Presence are, Michael Eaton (sax), Matt Pavolka (bass) and Kenneth Salters (drums). That these guys can keep up with Brad’s turn-on-a-time melodies is a true testament to their musicianship. Jazz-rock fans looking for new, exciting music are advised to listen to Brad Whiteley’s Presence.

EARS & EYES RECORDS – Back on the scene with his third solo album, NYC-based guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi returns in 2019 with Book Of Hours. Back in 2016, reviewed Gregg’s then new album Tenebrae, and now a few years later he’s back with what might be considered to be his definitive album, Book Of Hours. Released on the Chicago-based Ears & Eyes Records and produced by Grey Mcmurray and recorded in Brooklyn, NY, the album features Gregg in the studio with top players including Dov Manski (keys), Matt Aronoff (bass) and Michael W. Davis (drums). Musically, the eight cut, fifty-minute, all-instrumental album maintains a steady, 21st century instrumental jazz tone, with influences from avant guitarists such as Bill Frisell and even Pat Metheny’s more instrospective moments. Guitar ace Ben Monder wrote some nice things about Gregg’s new album and he perfectly describes it as a splendid balance between ‘lyricism and dissonance’. After spending time with this excellent new album, the word atmospheric comes to mind in describing the wide-ranging guitar sounds created by Gregg Belisle-Chi. Fans of 21st century instrumental guitar-centric jazz will enjoy hours of musical intrigue with the prismatic, guitar-centric sound of Book Of Hours. www.greggbelislechi

FRAUD PROPHETS MUSIC - An excellent example of where jazz-rock fusion is heading in the early 21st century, the 2019 CD by L.A. based Fraud Prophets, humorously entitled Poptosis, is a most electrifying instrumental music experience. Essentially a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Sean Halley and drummer / percussionist Nate Morton, on the 10-track, 63 minute CD, the duo are joined by several guest artists including electric guitar ace Oz Noy and B3 player Matt Rohde. A good example is track one, called "I Think I Just Said That", featuring Sean Halley's well-rounded electric guitar chops. Careening between jazz-rock and funky riffs, held together by a decidedly 1970s instrumental fusion groove, Poptosis is a wake-up call for anyone that might have prematurely written off the power of instrumental jazz-rock in the early days of the millennium.

FREE WILL RECORDS – Guitar fans in the know have been hip to Upstate NY guitarist Mark Doyle, and specifically his rock-based Guitar Noir series of albums. Released in the summer of 2019 is Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III, the third installment of Mark’s acclaimed guitar-noir series. For this third Guitar Noir album, Mark mixes up a fine batch of cover songs and new originals and the results are sonically stunning. The 1960s and the early ‘70s was clearly a great time to be into movie and TV soundtrack music and Mark chooses a pair, including the themes from television shows “Get Smart” and “The Untouchables”, merged with an early track by Elvis Costello called “Watching The Detectives”, to start things off on the opening “Detectives Medley” track. Theme songs from “Kojak” and “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” rub shoulders with other familiar themes, all done with Mark’s guitar flair. Clocking in at 49 minutes the entire album is a timely reminder of some great music composed by icons such as Nelson Riddle, Elmer Bernstein, Dave Grusin, Andre Previn and even Frank Zappa. Mark keeps the spotlight on track with two originals also included here called “Noir Alley” and “Thirteen Crimes”. With Mark handling the guitars, keys, bass and drum programming, Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III also features performances by Josh Dekaney (drums, percussion) and a real string section that is featured throughout the ten track album. The guitar instrumental genre, especially with the accent on 1960’s soundtracks is still fertile ground for the composing guitarist world wide, and wrapped up in effective CD cover art, Mark Doyle’s Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III hits its target with a solid bullseye.

GREYDISC Guitar innovator Kevin Kastning may be best known for his modern approach to acoustic, ambient guitar instrumental music, yet he’s also gaining acclaim for his mesmerizing piano albums. That piano side of Kevin Kastning is best explored on Ethereal III, the 2019 album by Kevin and fellow guitarist Sándor Szabó. Compared to Piano I, the early 2019 album of solo piano music by Kevin, the May 2019 release of Ethereal III features Kevin’s acoustic piano enhanced by computerized orchestrations by Sándor. The computerized orchestral sounds by Sándor is a great way to frame Kevin’s experimental acoustic piano music. Eschewing the popular orchestral software, on Ethereal III, Sándor incorporates recorded samples from real string instruments, which weren’t modified. Even though these string sounds are sampled, the idea seems to get around the idea of assembling various violins, cellos and double bass played by live musicians in the same room. Commenting on the unique approach of the entire Ethereal series, and especially this third installment, Kevin explains, "When Sándor and I were discussing and formulating the concepts for the Ethereal album series, one thing upon which we both agreed was that each record in the series must be different than the others in the series. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves, and wanted the Ethereal series to be something apart and perhaps even partitioned off from our acoustic guitar duo works. This direction provided Sándor with the freedom to explore our music using electric guitar and placing its environment within the context of my acoustic environment. That alone set us off into an entirely new direction." Classical music purists may rebuff it at first, even though the modern day technology of editing samples into recordings is expedient and the net result, in this case, sounds quite excellent. Kevin and Sándor are true pioneers of the guitar world and on the release of Ethereal III, they also establish themselves as trendsetters in the world of 21st century recording technology. /

IHO RECORDS – The sound of instrumental jazz-rock fusion has always been a big deal in the Northern European country of Finland. It’s undergone a series of intriguing style changes since the early to mid 1970s, yet keeping the progress alive is Intergalactic Huso Orchestra. The creation of multi-instrumentalist Jari Riitala (bass, keys, guitars, percussion) and Jimbo Mäkeläinen, the 12 track, 63 minute CD features a bevy of guest artists, including a realm of guest guitarists who add further zest and zeal to an already explosive sonic setting. Jari adds in track by track liner notes in the CD booklet, which is also quite detailed about listing all the artists and what tracks they appear on. Building upon the foundations of classic 1970’s Finnish fusion, Intergalactic Huso Orchestra brings the genre up to date with style and passion. IHO boldly goes where no Finnish fusion band gone before.

INCENDIO MUSIC One of the finest Contemporary instrumental, flamenco-flavored, guitar-based instrumental groups on the planet, Incendio returns in 2019 with their latest CD masterpiece appropriately entitled Summoning The Muse. Looking for a way to make their new album different or perhaps to move a step forward compared to their earlier albums, Incendio cofounder / guitarist / composer Jim Stubblefield tells , With Summoning the Muse, I’d like to think we’ve moved away from our rumba roots and into a broader contemporary instrumental sound that includes acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, violin, etc. In fact, I think there is only one rumba out of 12 songs on the new album. We have a full United States summer tour planned which will run from June through the end of August - The Summoning The Muse Tour. Lots of new stuff in terms of how we are presenting the music and JP and I are playing electric guitars about forty percent of the show." Combining with Jim's primarily acoustic guitars are the guitars, bass, keys and horn arrangements of Incendio cofounders Jean-Pierre Durand with Liza Carbe, adding in in her usual guitar, programming and bass flair, while the drums are handled by Tim Curie. Speaking about his work on this ninth Incendio album JP Durand explains, "We decided to make the pop and dance influences a little more obvious on this album. We have always been known as primarily an acoustic guitar band, so we wanted to add a bit more electric guitar than usual plus some keyboards." A number of guest artists add in a range of instruments—from horns and percussion to accordion, Hammond B3, strings and even ‘virtual’ orchestration. Featuring a wealth guitar-centric songwriting ideas from Jim, Liza and Jean-Pierre, Summoning The Muse is a winner on a number of musical levels and is the most dynamic and diverse-sounding Incendio album yet.

JAZZTOKYO - The place where jazz meets fusion is where you’ll find the music of Racha Fora. Featuring the flute and EWI playing of group leader Hiroaki Honshuka, the nine-track, 56 minute Happy Fire also features the expert playing of Rika Ikeda (violin), Andre Vasconcelos (guitar) and several other musicians, including a couple Cajon players who provide a most unique percussion sound. With its cosmopolitan mix of the jazz and fusion elements, the music blends elements of Jean-Pierre Rampal’s classical, flute-based albums, some Jobim flavored Brazilian bossa rhythms and, thanks to the fiery electric guitar work of Andre Vascancelos, the instro fusion vibe of Al DiMeola, for example. As heard on the title track, “Happy Fire”, Hiroaki is an excellent composer, yet for the most part the Happy Fire album features Racha Fora covers of a range of jazz standards including tunes written by Miles Davis, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and other composers. Sounding great after several rotations, the music on Happy Fire is clearly well played and quite easy on the ears. All told, Happy Fire is a splendid choice for fans of mainstream jazz and eclectic instrumental fusion. /

KENT JOHNANSSON MUSIC – Sweden continues its fascination with all things Sixties—as in the fabled 1960s. Nearly 40 years after the golden renaissance revival of guitar instrumental sounds in Sweden—following that first 1981 album release by the band 1961—guitarist Kent Johansson released his 2018 CD called Adventures In Cathyland. A self-released album, the 18 track album kicks off with “Behind A Shadow”, a tribute track, if there ever was one to Hank Marvin and The Shadows. The album goes on to showcase a number of tracks that feature Kent’s heavily reverbed Burns electric guitar sound, backed up by his performances on bass, drum and keyboards. Fans of 1961, and other artists on the Nordic Guitars series of guitar instrumentals will be in for a tasty guitar-based treat with fretboard ace Kent Johansson and his Adventures In Cathyland album.

MAGNATAR MUSIC The 2019 album debut by Florida-based Magnatar, Parallel Worlds gives rise to a fantastic new sound in the world of 21st century progressive instrumental rock. It is interesting to note that the music on Parallel Worlds was composed by Glenn Smith, who adds in unique sounding textures on his electrified 1971 Harmony A Style mandolin. It’s quite special that a mandolinist would compose an all-instrumental progressive rock-fusion band, but for open-minded music fans, Parallel Worlds will clearly prove to be an entertaining sonic experience. Speaking about the rare sound of a mandolin framed by an instrumental rock band, Glenn tells, "I feel the compositions I write allows each player in Magnatar to rise to another creative level and release something new from within them. Great players sometimes just need a new or different avenue to take them to a somewhat different feel and sound. It has been a very interesting process to develop a prog song on the mandolin, which is quite a different approach to say the least, and then turn the guys loose on it to put the meat on the bone so to speak. It is also a lot of fun as well as gratifying to watch the creative interaction of the band, as each member feeds off of the others to come up with their specific contribution to the song. The results have far exceeded anything I could have hoped for". Crafting an elegant sonic backdrop for Glenn's mandolin and songwriting are his very capable bandmates Joey Costa (bass), Reed Hayes (drums), Ryan Rivas (guitars) and Dave Norton (keys). Progressive instrumental rock fans looking for fresh musical terrain, should give Magnatar a good listen. In the CD booklet, the band cites YES as a major inspiration and one can easily see fans of YES, and their long-standing guitarist Steve Howe, enjoying Parallel Worlds. While Chris Squire’s ghost can be heard hovering somewhere above this album, another accurate influence would be Steve Morse in the Dixie Dregs. Magnatar brings their unique musical vision to life on their superb sounding, all-instrumental, 9-cut debut album.

ROB MULLINS ENTERTAINMENT – In 2017, pianist and composer Rob Mullins was a featured artist on the Escape The Mind, a multi-artist New Age CD sampler on Bongo Boy Records. In 2018 Rob released The Nearness Of You – a 40 minute, ten track CD of a straight ahead jazz piano trio featuring Will Lyle (upright bass) and Nikko Salvadore (drums). Rob’s 35th album, the musical fare on the ten track release of The Nearness Of You is quite varied, ranging from Mullins originals to covers of classics written by a wide range of jazz icons and, most of which are considered jazz evergreens. One thing constant between this solo album and his work on Escape The Mind is the high quality of the recorded sound and, more specifically here, the way Rob records his piano in the style of Dave Brubeck circa 1953. With its pure accent on classic-sounding, instrumental piano-based sounds, The Nearness Of You is quite essential jazz listening.

MVD AUDIO – The sounds of jazz-rock fusion is alive and well on the 2019 CD release by drummer / composer Bob Holz. The ten-track 60-minute Silverthorne captures the energized sound of Bob Holz in primo form. Backed up by a range of legendary jazz players, the album blazes a trail through the art of 21st century instrumental jazz adding in elements of funky and smooth jazz as well. A fine follow-up to his 2018 Visions album, the 2019 CD release of Silverthorne features Bob in the studio backed up by some of the very same players that appeared on Visions along with a number of other music legends, including guitarist Mike Stern, who adds his patented electric guitar skills to four tracks here. Other electric guitarists appearing include Alex Machacek and Jamie Glaser. Billy Steinway (keys) Alex Acuna (percussion), Andrew Ford (bass), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Ada Rovatti (sax) round out the lineup of jazz-fusion all-stars adding their talents to the Silverthorne sessions. Featuring an entertaining array of originals, composed by Bob and Billy Steinway, Silverthorne is a sonic powerhouse, with ten tracks of electrifying jazz-fusion instrumentals, certain to please the discerning 21st century jazz-rock listener.

NORDIC TONE – Like their neighbors to the east, Sweden, the country of Norway has been inspired by the big guitar beat brought to life in the early 1960s by Hank Marvin and The Shadows. Celebrating nearly 60 years of Shadows-style instrumental guitar rock, and nearly 40 years since the resurgence of the Shadows' legacy in 1981, The Pistoleros offer a new for 2019 CD called On The Right Track. Kicking off with a great guitar rock version of “Begin The Beguine”, the album combines Pistoleros versions of well known Shadows covers, a couple group originals, some John Barry covers, a cover of “The Munsters” TV theme song and some lesser known tracks which serves the band’s sound quite well. Hard to find, but overall a fine choice Hank Marvin and Shadows fans, with On The Right Track, the 3 guitars and drums instro rock sound of The Pistoleros makes for very fun times and inspired listening.

ORANGE BAND RECORDS – Pianist / composer Ann Sweeten once again teams with producers Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton and the results will be music to the ears of solo piano fans. Will Ackerman was the architect of the classic Windham Hill New Age music sound back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and he imbues his keen production sensibilities to Ms. Sweeten’s 2019 CD Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow. After fourteen solo albums featuring her harmonious blend of instrumental piano magic, Ann Sweeten is truly a piano heroine to take note of. A mix of meditative emotions, superb piano technique and smart composition, Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow features several esteemed artists backing up Ms. Sweeten’s piano visions, including Nancy Rumbel (English horn), Eugene Friesen (cello) and more. For those suffering or in pain due to life’s many tribulations, Ann Sweeten’s latest piano masterpiece, Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow is a worthy sonic elixir.

ORIGIN RECORDS – Although she’s often thought of primarily as a jazz guitarist, Queens NYC native Mimi Fox delves into a range of musical genres on her 2019 all-acoustic CD This Bird Still Flies. Mimi claims she learned to play guitar after years of studying the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album and, aside from the “Norwegian Wood” references of the album title, there’s also a stomping acoustic guitar rendition of “Day Tripper”. Beatles fans will recall that song as the flip side of the Soul sessions-era single “We Can Work It Out”. Pictured on the CD cover art with her Taylor, Mimi presents a range of original acoustic instrumentals on her 2019 CD although, there are covers, as well, of the Beatles White Album era favorite “Blackbird” as well as a CD-closing rendition of “America The Beautiful”, along with versions of jazz standards “Blue Bossa” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. An excellent solo acoustic CD, This Bird Still Flies features a guest appearance by guitar ace Andy Timmons on the title track. The Beatles’ connection on This Bird Still Flies brings to mind guitar influences like Tommy Emmanuel. Mixing acoustic finger style guitar styles with a solid jazz background and a fondness for covering pop standards will certainly introduce the guitar artistry of Mimi Fox to a larger audience.

ORIGIN RECORDS – When you’re a vibes players and you have a quote on your web site home page by Gary Burton, then suffice to say, you must be good. Of course we’re talking here about the 2019 CD release of Epoch, the latest Origin Records release by NYC-based, Canadian bred Dan McCarthy. Talk about Gary Burton, a musical giant who has released dozens of classic albums over the past 50 years so, just maybe it’s about time for vibraphone aficionados to tune into a rising new talent like Burton-inspired vibes ace Dan McCarthy. The key word on Dan’s new CD is atmosphere, as the trance-inducing sound is quite lush and deep. To help him realize the sonic grandeur on Epoch, Dan has enlisted the help of some truly legendary jazz musicians, including the legendary Steve Swallow (bass), Ben Monder (guitar) and Mark Feldman (violin). Dan gave the inside story on how he put the album together: "So I had been living in New York for many years, when my wife and I decided that we would move back to Toronto so I could go back to school for a masters in music. With time running out in the greatest jazz city in the world, I decided that I would try and put together one or two final projects, and to try and find my absolute favorite improvisers to collaborate with. "Epoch" represents a dream band for me. I first met Ben Monder when I was working at the Cornelia Street Cafe, a little club in the village. I was a bartender there, and he would play relatively often. His playing was so original and incredible, and so when I was putting this together, he was the first person I reached out to. I was thrilled that he agreed! Around the same time that I was planning this project, I had been listening to a lot of John Abercrombie Quartet records, and was blown away at how much I adored Mark Feldman's playing. His artistry transcends the instrument, and to this day I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of performing with someone that plays as beautifully as Mark. And then there's Steve Swallow. I am a HUGE Gary Burton fan, especially his stuff on ECM from the 70s... Dreams So Real, Ring, Passengers, etc... And Steve is on every one of those records. I've always been a fan of his playing and composing, much like Carla Bley, and I figured that it wouldn't hurt to reach out to him and see if you would want to play. I didn't have my hopes up, but it was worth a shot! I didn't hear back from him for months, and one WEEK before the recording date, I got an email back from him. The email had gotten lost somehow, but as luck would have it, he was actually free the day of the recording, and so he drove down form his and Carla's place in upstate NY just for the session. I was a little star struck when I walked in to the studio and saw him there setting up. I am so honored to have a record with the great Steve Swallow! Long time associate of Gary Burton, Steve Swallow is 78 years young in early 2019, so he brings a depth of musical experience to the Epoch sessions. Ben Monder is one of the great electric jazz guitarists of the time, so you’ve got quite a musical team in place. Even with so much musical expertise, the spotlight is right on Dan McCarthy, who although born in 1980, fits right into place among these more seasoned hands. Mark Feldman’s soaring violin work often pairs melodic lines with Ben Monder and Dan’s vibes playing provides a sonic roadmap to some of the most relaxing and satisfying instrumental atmospheric jazz of the decade. A sensational late night spin, Epoch is a masterpiece of lush, New Age flavored instrumental jazz.

SONIC BEAR MUSIC – His most recent sonic trip into the realms of deep space, Virginia-based Stephen Peppos returns in 2019 with his seventh album called Deep Listen. Credited as the artist’s second ambient instrumental album, the ten-track Deep Listen clocks in at 78 minutes. Established as a soundtrack artist, Peppos has produced over 2000 tracks in his vast catalog of music, which in turn has been featured in a variety of television productions and more. Deep Listen sounds very influenced by the ambient music boon of the late 1970s yet there’s also a number of original musical ideas in play that warrant serious listening among fans of minimalist instrumental New Age electronic music. The album cover art is also quite unique and unusual and it befits the sounds within. A 21st century masterpiece of instrumental art, Deep Listen is trance-inducing electronica at its best.

SOUTHPORT RECORDS / BLUJAZZ PRODUCTIONS – At 92, guitarist George Freeman is hardly a newcomer to the jazz and blues music world, yet on his 2019 album George The Bomb! the veteran musician turns in a most remarkable performance. Born in 1927, George shared the stage with Charlie Parker and countless other jazz legends including his nephew Chico Freeman. Most of the album tracks are instrumental-based bluesy jazz and others feature vocal conversations that borders on scat jazz. Recorded in Chicago in December 2018, the eleven cut, 60 minute CD features George in the studio backed up by blues-harp master Billy Branch, John Devlin (bass), Luis Ewerling (drums), Joanie Pallatto (vocal) and Bradley Parker-Sparrow (piano). In addition, the CD packaging is excellent and features very cool liner notes from a range of artists and writers. Some of the tracks on George The Bomb sound inspired by BB King and others have a more adventurous, jazz appeal but either way, George Freeman’s new album George The Bomb! is quite an entertaining album on many levels and it will certainly bring a smile to the faces of jazz and blues guitar fans.

SPOTTED PECCARY – Spotted Peccary founder Howard Givens keeps the electronic music spirit high by releasing Fire Opal, the debut CD by Chicago-born, Texas-based artist Massergy. The brainchild of artist / producer Eric Jensen, the 7-track, 70-minute CD was inspired by the fire opal of Mexican folklore—a stone said to have healing and protective powers. Mixing guitars, synths and all kinds of electronics, the album was performed and recorded by Jensen free of computer plug-ins, creating a magical, almost visceral effect that makes it sound different from other more high-tech electronic music albums. Eric Jensen created Massergy as a tribute to hone his brother Adam, an electronic musician that was killed in a car accident in 2002. The fact that Eric has chosen to carry on his brother’s unfinished work speaks volumes of his devotion to the modern day electronic music art form. The press release succinctly sums of the Fire Opal album as creating a vivid sonic world that balances dynamic tranquility with a delicate ambiance.

SPOTTED PECCARY – Oregon-based Spotted Peccary keeps the music flowing with the 2019 CD release of Lotus Rising by the Oregon based Chronotope Project. Featuring the musical genius of Jeffrey Ericson Allen, this latest Chronotope Project release on Spotted Peccary continues onward with the same New Age flavored sonic vibes as their 2017 Ovum album although, in his album notes, Jeffrey makes it clear that Lotus Rising was very much influenced by his thirty-year study and practice of Zen Buddhism. The lotus flower is one of the most recognizable symbols in Buddhism and this latest electronic music masterpiece by Chronotope Project is the perfect way to transport your mind and spirit into the unconscious depths of the psyche. Featuring the compositions and performances of Jeffrey Ericson Allen, Lotus Rising provides yet another welcome journey into the realm of electronic New Age instrumental magic.

SPOTTED PECCARY – A world-renowned producer and engineer, New Age electronic composer and recording artist Tom Eaton follows the 2017 CD release of Indesterren with the 2019 album release of How It Happened. Tom’s first album release for the Oregon-based Spotted Peccary label, the eight cut 70+ minute album follows very much in the footsteps of both indesterren and his 2016 album abendrommen. Steeped in mysterious sounding nocturnal electronica How It Happened is filled with a wealth of relaxing sonic textures, making it a near perfect reflection of Tom’s fascination with entire ambient New Age flavored music. When it comes to self-produced recordings, Tom Eaton is a master multi-instrumentalist and on How It Happened Tom works his magic on a range of instruments, including piano, guitar and all forms of synth keyboards, all perfectly linked together by way of his studio expertise. The perfect album to slow down your life to stop and smell the roses so to speak, How It Happened makes for a truly magical listening experience.

ULTIMATE VIBE RECORDINGS – Although U.K. born / California-based guitarist Chris Standring has been releasing albums since the 1990s, he’s never had a greatest hits album out. For the 2019 CD release of Best Of Chris Standring Remixed, the guitarist has reassembled eleven of his finest tracks. Although accurately dubbed as one of the foremost smooth jazz guitarists on the music scene, Standring’s mix of instrumental R&B, soul jazz and electronica has often produced guitar albums that were easy on the ears while pleasing fans of fusion-lite. Naming these remix tracks after planets in the solar system, Standrings’s music has been reshaped by U.K. techno DJ Matt Cooper and fellow musician Rodney Lee who give his tracks a renewed vigor and urgency, simply by adding imaginative bursts of electronic ingenuity and clubby trance vibes. All this would be superfluous if the music itself couldn’t stand up on its own, which it does nicely. In Chris’ own words, “My hope is that everyone embraces the experimentation that took place and simply loves it.”

WHALING CITY SOUND – One of the top jazz record labels in the US today, in 2019 Whaling City Sound released Bright Idea by The Greg Murphy Trio. Featuring Greg’s acoustic piano and occasional synth keyboards, backed up by Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums) and Eric Wheeler (bass), the thirteen cut, 75+ minute CD features mostly originals composed by Greg, with several covers including versions of music written by John Coltrane, Bruno Mars and more. The album reflects Greg’s fondness for fast tempo jazz piano fills in the spirit of giants like McCoy Tyner, while other tracks reflect his affinity for classic jazz, pop-funk, Latin jazz and more. Although he's still relatively unknown, Bright Idea is Greg’s fifth album as a leader and his second for Whaling City. Bright Idea is a testament to Greg’s jazz expertise as well as his drive and determination to write and record the definitive album that reflects his brilliant keyboard arrangements and compositional creativity.

WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS – Drummer Jeff Williams recorded his latest album Bloom in Astoria Queens NYC in August 2018 and the outcome offers one of the best mainstream jazz improv albums of 2019. After several jam sessions, Williams recruited pianist Carmen Staaf and bass player Michael Formanek and the 11 track, 60 minute Bloom album captures the best of these gifted jazz improv masters. Jeff Williams has played with masters such as Stan Getz, Dave Liebman and the late John Abercrombie and, while there’s no guitarist on Bloom, the interaction between these three fine players borders on telepathy. According to Jeff, “I grew up listening to many piano trios, especially Ahmad Jamal’s from around 1958 to 1962, so that influenced my playing. But there’s no fixed concept, and this was simply a case of ‘let’s see what we can do with it’, so I hope Bloom will allow us to flourish in pursuing this trio further.” Fans of mainstream 21st century jazz will dig Jeff Williams and his Bloom album. Also extra points for the dazzling CD cover art and packaging. /



– Jazz-fusion buffs know the name of guitarist Steve Khan thanks to a series of solo albums he has released over the past 40+ years. U.K. based BGO Records keeps Steve’s name flying high in 2019 thanks to the label’s latest Steve Khan reissues, this one a double CD combining Public Access, Headline (three tracks only) and Crossings—three albums he recorded in 1989, 1992 and 1994. As far as mainstream jazz fusion goes, Steve Khan was right up there with the finest guitarists and all three albums feature a wealth of musical talent including major jazzers like Anthony Jackson (bass), Dave Weckl (drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion), Dennis Chambers (drums), Michael Brecker (sax) and more. Liner notes by Bill Milkowski puts a fresh spin on these classics from an earlier era in music history. Steve Khan’s recent album releases have been filled with jazzy Latin rhythms and Afro-Cuban grooves, the seeds of which were planted on these early Steve Khan album classics collected on this double CD BGO retrospective.

BGO RECORDS – The magic that was the year 1965 also included the introduction of musical duo Sonny & Cher thanks to their huge number one debut hit single “I Got You Babe”. The reissue kings of England, BGO Records has a 3 CD set out in early 2019 that recaptures the heyday of the ATCO Records era Sonny & Cher—1965, ’66 and ’67. The follow up to “I Got You Babe” was “The Beat Goes On”, the song by Sonny & Cher that must have inspired the name of BGO Records! (Mike Gott, let me know!) Capturing the heyday of the early Byrds era, when AM radio was first really acknowledging the huge amount of Beatles era bands, it’s safe to say that Sonny & Cher were a big part of it. Inspired by the productions of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and of course the British Invasion groups, the 33 songs featured on the first three Sonny & Cher albums—Look At Us, The Wondrous World Of Sonny & Cher and In Case You’re In Love—are merged on this historic BGO set, along with a third CD with 17 rare ATCO era singles tracks. Liner notes by John O’Regan are excellent and tells you all you need to know about the unique history these two pop heroes especially Cher, who went on to even further greatness as well has sad ending of Sonny that followed his deadly skiing accident in 1998. This tastefully put together Sonny & Cher box set on BGO is like a trip back to the heyday of 1965.

BGO RECORDS – BGO takes us down memory lane with West, Bruce & Laing with the reissue of Why Dontcha?, long considered the power trio’s shining hour. Released on black vinyl LP by Columbia Records at the end of 1972, the ten-track album was notable for the unique mix of songs and sounds that these master players brought into the studio, serving up a mix of Cream and Mountain with Jack Bruce, Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing. The mix of Jack and Leslie on vocals, sometimes on the same track remains great and production by Andy Johns was stellar for its time. Strangely absent from the picture was Cream producer and Mountain cofounder Felix Pappalardi, although the ill-fated Felix is mentioned in liner notes by Neil Daniels that are quite informative, featuring Corky and Leslie interviewed by various scribes, the high point being Leslie’s memories of seeing Cream at the Fillmore with his brother Larry. Short-lived, like a shooting star, it was a sign of the times as WBL split up not long after the July ‘73 release of a second album called Whatever Turns You On.

FAT POSSUM RECORDS - Mississippi-based Fat Possum is making waves in the music world with their 2018 CD reissues of the first four albums by the famous L.A. punk rock band called X. The four piece X features the music and lyrics of singers John X. Doe and Exene Cervenka. Not to everyone's taste at the time, X kind of reflected the angst of the country during the early Reagan years and, that was especially true of the band's fourth album More Fun In The New World. Back in 1983, the new world wasn't all it was cracked up to be although it was surely going to be a wild history-changing decade and X were right at the forefront of it. Produced by Ray Manzarek of The Doors, the band's fourth album 1983's More Fun In The New World is considered the most polished X album and was the last X album produced by Manzarek. More Fun In The New World mixed the band’s usual punk-rock elements yet also found them moving into the realms of rockabilly, funk and even folk music. The title track "The New World" is a still a great anthem of its era and was the perfect track to show off the talents of X guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebreak. In addition to the group's vinyl remasters, Fat Possum also have 2018 CD remasters of the bands first three early albums Los Angeles (1980), Wild Gift (1981), Under The Black Sun (1982). At least on the CDs, no frills packaging of the original albums minus any liner notes, but these albums will rock your sox off. /

MIG RECORDS – Living in an apartment and working just a few city blocks away, I remember being shattered by the murder of John Lennon, and to my own amazement, a few months afterward I found myself living in Sweden, still in shock from the life-changing events that would mostly mark that fateful decade. While living in Sweden in 1981, I bought a ticket for a concert in Stockholm by Jack Bruce and his then band Jack Bruce & Friends, featuring Clem Clempson (guitar), Billy Cobham (drums), David Sancious (keys, guitar) and of course Jack on bass and vocals. Several years after, in 1983, Jack released his historic Automatic album, which was his first major studio album of the 1980s. Which brings us well into the future times, all the way, in fact, to the 2019 CD/DVD box set called Jack Bruce: Live At Rockpalast. Encompassing 5 CDs and 2 DVDs, the live box set recaptures Jack’s 3 Rockpalast concerts from October 19th, 1980, (with Jack Bruce & Friends), then a truly revealing November 1st, 1983 concert with Jack Bruce Band, featuring Jack on bass, keys and vocals with David Sancious (keys, guitar) and the late, great Bruce Gary (drums) playing a range of tracks from Jack's rare and totally overlooked Automatic album. The third and final concert is from October 16th, 1990, featuring Jack performing his best-known solo hits in true solo mode on vocals, harmonica and keyboards. The CDs sound good but have a rather live feel to them but the DVD shows, especially the 1980 show, is a superbly filmed sequence of great music by a topnotch band that will live on forever. Cream fans will love this box set as it features Jack in the company of some brilliant musicians, a career trend he put into motion, all those years ago, way back in 1966. The 5CD and 2DVD box set on MIG is packaged in the usual black and white fashion with in-depth liner notes many photos of Jack. Two CDs for each the 1980 and ’83 shows and one for the 1990 solo show, and with all the superbly filmed in color video performances spread over a pair of DVDs, makes Jack Bruce: Live At Rockpalast an essential box set for fans of the late, great Jack Bruce. /


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