selected by Adam Holzman

1) All Night Wrong (live) -Allan Holdsworth
A complete original, continually going deeper into his thing.
>preview "Lanyard Loop" (real player)

The title may offer insight into guitar legend Holdsworth's notorious aversion to the pressures of live recordings; indeed, this marks the first live solo album of his long career. But the nigh-flawless performances here (recorded in May, 2002 at the Roppongi Pit Inn in Tokyo, Japan) also suggest a certain irony to the fusion pioneer's concerns. His distinctive chordal melodic technique sets "Lanyard Loop" (and much of the album) in a quietly savory orbit; but it's a deceptively languorous framework that Holdsworth masterfully uses to contrast his often-aggressive soloing. "The Things You See" showcases some remarkably fluid tonal shifts and a solo tack that's as free and Coltrane-esque as advertised. The soft focus of "Alphrazallan" proves it can also be a tightrope walk, while drummer Chad Wackerman's playful, funk-edged solo introduction gives the dark, cascading mystery of the guitarist's playing on "Zone" yet another compelling facet, with bassist Jimmy Johnson capably adding yet another layer of rhythmic complexity. The jazzy, neo-swing of "Water on the Brain, Pt. II" and "Gas Lamp Blues" (where Johnson in particular shines) displays the trio's forceful, economic interplay to good effect, and one that stands in dramatic contrast to the dreamy soundscape "Above & Below." Fusion remains an underappreciated musical language, but this is a fine live showcase for one of its master linguists. -

Check out Allan's website


2) Signals -
Wayne Krantz
An exciting new voice and my personal favorite of the 'next generation' of guitarists.
>preview "Alliance" (real player)

Wayne Krantz is an exceptional talent and the solo pieces on this CD are first rate. This is an exciting original work by a very creative artist and performer. The flow of the music is hypnotic and full of energy. The sound expresses both breadth and depth of character and range. It is a "must" for jazz-rock enthusiasts. Mr. Krantz's work is technically precise and musically unmatched. -

Check out Wayne's website


3) No Room for Argument -
Wallace Roney
Wallace has been combining the spirit of Tony Williams Lifetime, Herbie's Mwandishi band and Miles's second quintet for the past several years, making his own creative statement.
>preview "No Room for Argument" (real player)

Wallace Roney 's "No Room for Argument" is about "heritage, mentors, wisdom, responsibility, and spirituality." This CD is packed with excellent straight-ahead, avant-garde, and free jazz that also features samples from speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and audio by Deepak Chopra. Roney 's evolved, imaginative use of his muted trumpet to achieve the meditative and philosophical concepts inherent in the opener "No Room for Argument" is accomplished effectively. Roney weaves its sound into the well-known orations delivered by King and Malcolm X, giving each note a new design that offers his solution to the challenges of performing respected works in a new medium. His mentor piece, an arrangement and direction of "Homage & Acknowledgement," a vital rework featuring the duality of the great Buster Williams at work on the bass line for John Coltrane 's "A Love Supreme," and Roney 's interpretation of the trumpet sounds of Miles Davis on "Filles de Kilimanjaro" is a exceptional seven-minute masterwork that supplies both the spiritual depth and insistent ground rhythms inherent in the original recordings of the '60s. "Virtual Chocolate Cherry" is a boundless arena for the world-class drummer Lenny White. He makes a very strong impression and his very presence on this CD serves to further the respect Roney has for the lasting mark on his playing on this CD -- the open sound of the '60s that Lenny White helped Miles Davis to initiate. He gives his Gretsch a workout tempered by excellent solos from Geri Allen and Adam Holzman. This CD is a great one and shows Roney as a leading jazz trumpeter. ~ Paula Edelstein, All Music Guide

Check out Wallace's website


4) Matthew Garrison -Matt Garrison
For the latest word on BURING BASS PLAYING. He's played with Zawinul, Herbie and McLaughlin. This is a great solo album.
>preview "Groove Tune" (real player)

The long, let me repeat that, LONG overdue solo debut from bassist extraordinaire Matthew Garrison, who has performed with John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Steve Coleman, and Jim Beard. This mostly instrumental, middle east/ funk/ fusion electric project, has Matt performing in duets, trio and larger groups. Matthew Garrison, basses, keys; Adam Rogers, David Gilmore, Mordy Ferber, guitar; Amit Chaterjee, sitar, vocals; Scott Kinsey, keys; David Binney, sax; Pete Rende, accordion, Wurlitzer; Gene Lake, Elie Katz, Ben Perowsky, John Arnold, drums; Arto Tuncboyacian, percussion; Karina Braunstein, Sabina Sciubba, vocals. - Audiophile Imports

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5) Truly -Jim Beard
Probably one of the most creative keyboard players around at the moment. He's been playing mostly Rhodes and piano lately (and producing), but I love his synth stuff. CDs: "Truly" "Song Of The Sun" (still my favorite)
>preview "Big Pants" (real player)

The music on this album is almost impossible to categorize, but one possible label might be "post-modernist" fusion; "post-modernist" in the sense that Jim Beard manages to incorporate a dizzying variety of musical styles, eras, devices, timbres, riffs, cliches, devices into a suprisingly coherent, masterfully wrought and totally LISTENABLE end product. On the surface the CD is a hodge-podge of styles, but repeated listenings reveal it to be a meticulously crafted and even occasionally brilliant musical statement. His mastery of studio technique combined with an uncanny instinct for taking simple ideas and imbuing them with deeper harmonic and rhythmic beauty (a la Bach's treatment of chorale tunes)is one of the most delightful aspects of this album. I nearly fell off my chair when I heard the blatantly corny "Dooly-wop" chorus of the opening track. But to my amazement, the track works amazingly well, thanks to the subtle harmonic nudges he includes throughout. Beard manages to infuse jazz-fusion with something it seriously lacks: a sense of humor. This aspect of Beard's latest work is somewhat of a surprise. I knew Jim Beard slightly when I was in graduate school many years ago, and back then he struck me as a very serious jazz pianist with a love for synthesizers and diverse styles of music. His evident love of synthesizers (including the "old-fashioned" timbres of the earlier models, the Moog, etc.) is evident in this album. The goofy, post-modernist sense of humor came as a pleasant surprise to me. (Check out the CD cover and titles, for instance.) One final note: Jim Beard is probably one of the most under-rated pianists of his generation, partly because he subsumes his wonderful touch, his harmonic mastery, and his technique into the music itself. He obviously works more as a composer and a craftsman of sounds---much like Zawinul in this way---but his piano playing is truly wonderful and stands on its own (like Zawinul's).


6) The Way I See It -Mike Ricchiuti
Excellent keybaordist currently playing with Chuck Loeb.

There is a lot of a Yellowjackets feel to this project, but there is some Culbertson in there too. Loeb is all over it as guitarist, writer and producer on several songs but his work enhances and never overwhelms. RicchiutiÕs skill and individuality is upfront throughout. Only one song clocks in at less than 5 minutes and although there is considerably more improvisation than a new smooth jazz fan may be used to it is anchored by strong melodies. The songwriting is excellent and the songs are tight, making it more accessible than most releases that lean toward progressive. The piano intro to the opening song "Forward Motion" is bright and spacious and grabs you immediately, "Up All Night"s grindy B-3 sounding intro leads into a catchy midtempo groove, both featuring David Mann on sax. "Embrace" reminds me of late 80s Yellowjackets but features Mintzer, who was not in that band at the time. Jeff Kashiwa guests on the Culbertson-ish "The Way I See It". "Still Standing", co-written with Chuck Loeb, has a touch of Metro flavor to it. "Just So You Know" is darker and more subdued. "Dogs in the Neighborhood" is a midtempo shuffle featuring Kim Waters pushing his boundaries a bit; "Changes" is a deceptively low-key head-bobber. "Slow Roller" is late night closing time bluesy with Andy Snitzer upfront. The CD ends with "And Then Peace" a beautiful acoustic trio setting that borders on straightahead jazz. There is a lot going on on this CD, and a lot of stellar performances. Without corporate A&R constraints some familiar artists get to stretch out a bit. . -- Shannon West

Check out Mike's website


7) Footloose & Fancy Free -Bill Bruford
Bill is always pushing his music with inventive composition and tasty drumming. Read Downbeat's 5 star review below.
>preview "Footloose & Fancy Free" (real player)

This live double-CD represents everything that fusion should have been: A nexus of odd/even meter rock, straight-ahead swing and tasteful jazz balladry, performed with extreme chops on acoustic instruments. Leave it to Bill Bruford , a Brit who was warping time with King Crimson and Yes during fusion's formative years, to make it right some three decades later. Recorded at the very hip Pizza Express Jazz club in London, Footloose & Fancy Free presents the famed drummer and his skilled bandmates as they devour a dance-inspired program of complex-yet-organic original compositions. Most of the tunes here first appeared on two studio albums by this current incarnation of Earthworks. 1999's A Part, And Yet Apart and 2001's The Sound Of Surprise. Hearing this well-rehearsed material played live (and flawlessly mixed), however, will take you beyond the realm of mere surprise: It could change your expectations entirely. If you thought Bruford's signature time-shifts and precision polyrhythms were cool, just wait till you hear Earthworks finesse the numerous rock- swing-rock transitions on Footloose & Fancy Free. The lead instruments cleverly anticipate each potentially jarring change and execute effortless segues, often introducing new feels in totally unexpected places (e.g., mid measure) before running off with them. The compositional makeup of Footloose & Fancy Free is a perfect fit for this relatively young band, whose members hail from the London jazz scene...Footloose & Fancy Free is a true triumph. Finally, fusion can swing, for real. --Ed Enright, Downbeat

Check out Bill's website


8) Up All Night -John Scofield
Sco is at his creative best, venturing even more into dreamy, electro jam band style riffs and rhythms.
>preview "Watch Out for Po Po" (real player)

Already a part of two great jazz records in 2003--by Roy Haynes and the group ScoLoHoFo --guitarist John Scofield is back to his genre-bending self with 11 tracks of adventurous grooves that should attract contemporary jazz fans as well as lovers of jam bands, instrumental hip-hop, and dance music. Although the quartet collaborated on nearly half the tunes, Up All Night is more structured than Uberjam , the Scofield band's 2002 effort. It's less a jam session, more a rhythmic showcase for the group and the special dirty effects, memorable riffs, and long darting lines of the leader. The head-bopping, finger-snapping quotient is high on many numbers, especially the first two tracks and "Four on the Floor." "Thikhahali," his tribute to Fela Kuti 's Afrobeat style, is priceless. There are go-go riffs on "Philopiety," industrial beats on "Freakin' Disco" and "Every Night Is Ladies Night" and through it all a musician at the very top of his game. --Mark Ruffin


9) Faces & Places -Joe Zawinul
Joe's signature sound gets even more global and far reaching.
>preview "Search" (real player)

Joe Zawinul, at the age of 70, has brought forth an album that continues to celebrate his endless delight in exploring music from around the world. Born in Vienna, he studied at the conservatory there, moving to the United States in 1958 when he received a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He worked in the '60s with a variety of the era's jazz luminaries ( Maynard Ferguson ,Dinah Washington ,Cannonball Adderley ) before encountering Miles Davis . The trumpet player's In a Silent Way was named for Zawinul's title track. This led to the formation of Weather Report , the band he co-led with Wayne Shorter for 15 years. Faces & Places mixes vocalists and instrumentalists with daring grace. "Rooftops of Vienna" is a wistful ode that's tinged with the sweetly sad backward glances of a man growing older and finding his boyhood home darting through his dreams. It uses singers as part of the musical stew, rather than as a narrative component. With its blend of exotic acoustic instruments and contemporary electronics, this set is very much in keeping with the direction of Weather Report from the time of Black Market and beyond. --David Greenberger


10) Future 2 Future -Herbie Hancock
Future 2 Future captures Herbie's take on the new progressive music from the DJ/Club culture - hip-hop, drum-and-bass, downtempo.
>preview "Kebero" (real player)

For more than four decades, the Grammy award-winning jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock has given us a number of pop hits, including "Watermelon Man," "Chameleon," and "Rockit." On this CD, Hancock welcomes the 21st century by putting his distinctive stamp on drum & bass, hip-hop, and world-music beats. Joined by saxophonist Wayne Shorter , bassists Charnett Moffett and Bill Laswell , and drummer Jack DeJohnette , Hancock and crew deliver some intriguing licks on these popular rhythms. The two top compositions on this project are "The Essence," with R&B diva Chaka Khan , which borrows a bass lines from Miles Davis's "Ife," and "Tony Williams," a searing mainstream tribute to the legendary drummer . Throughout, Herbie Hancock puts a jazzy vibe into everything that he plays. --Eugene Holley Jr.


11) Jane -Jane Getter
Can you think of anyone else who's mixing jazz-rock guitar, African percussion and R&B vocals?
>preview "Storytime" (real player)

Jane Getter is an excellent guitar player from New York City. "Jane", her debut CD is an exciting blend of grooves and intense soloing and high quality song writing. A little jazz, hip-hop, funk, and even African heavy metal make this CD a breath of fresh air. New album, "See Jane Run," is coming soon!

Check out Jane's website


12) Rebellion - Adam Holzman & Brave New World
I don't want to seem like I'm on a shamless plug-fest, but part of the reason I do what I do with Brave New World is because hardly anyone else is really pursuing this direction
>preview "Raw Dog" (real player)

Since leaving Miles Davis, Adam Holzman has had an excellent band in the spirit of the early jazz/rock pioneers. This recording features live and inspiring improv, killer grooves and ethereal keyboard soundscapes.

Check out Adam's website