Pollo del Mar – “Speed of Dark” – [Musick Recordings]

Cousin Mary   3/29/2023   12-inch, A Library

Great Bay Area’s instrumental band’s first album in many years features excellent arrangements and playing. Plenty of influences make us stop and ask “is this surf music?”. All originals except for a splendid rendition of the Pyronaut’s Sifaka. Pretty pink vinyl.

Jim Witzel Trio & Quartet – “Feelin’ It” – [Joplin & Sweeney Music]

Cousin Mary   10/17/2022   CD, Jazz

Very cool guitar/organ/percussion (and on some tracks sax) sounds from Bay Area artists. Jim Witzel plays and teaches jazz guitar and there are three examples of his compositions on this album. Jason Lewis on percussion is also a local jazz educator and player. Bay Area native Brian Ho’s very fine jazz organ swings on solos and in the background. Dann Zinn’s sax on Witzel’s compositions takes it all to another level. The tracks that are covers give us a whole new perspective on these pieces. Recommended!

Amendola, Scott and Blades, Wil – “Everybody Wins” – [Royal Potato Family]

Cousin Mary   10/13/2022   12-inch, Jazz

Amendola vs. Blades provides a fun improvisational meeting between percussion (Scott Amendola) and organ (Wil Blades). However, that only accounts for 3 of these 8 tracks. Other musicians include guitarist Jeff Parker, saxophonist Skerik, percussionist Cyro Baptista, and keyboardist Rob Burger. Listen for electronics, funk, boogaloo, psychedelic and experimental influences. Very cool, a departure from the usual jazz organ sound.

The Manakooras – “The Manakooras” – [Hi-Tide]

Cousin Mary   8/15/2022   7-inch, A Library

Exotica with a capital E from this North Carolina band. Three instrumental pieces that are gorgeous and tropical. Love, love, love the steel guitar. (Manakoora in Polynesian language loosely translates to witchcraft. Manakoora is a reef in Western Australia)

Sheverb – “Once upon a time in Bombay Beach” – [Self Released]

Cousin Mary   8/7/2022   A Library, CD

Is it surf? Psych? Spaghetti Western? Country (especially track 5)? In the liner notes, they call it “surf-infused, desert-fueled rock & roll”. Whatever it is, this mostly female 5-piece band from Austin, Texas delivers a powerful, rich sound and irresistible momentum in these instrumental tracks. This album was made during a month spent at Bombay Beach near the Salton Sea in California. Really unique, absolutely wonderful!

Brazilian Tsunami [coll] – [Orleone]

Cousin Mary   6/21/2022   A Library, CD

This is an amazing 3-CD set that includes 63 (!) Brazilian Surf Bands. All liner notes are in Portuguese, but seem to document the history and many bands in all parts of Brazil. Nothing particularly sounded Brazilian to me, it is just very well played and authentic surf music. Of the 63 bands, only one (Mullet Monster Mafia) is already represented in the KFJC music library. Surf’s up!

Chillingsworth Surfingham – “Chillingsworth Surfingham” – [ATOM Records]

Cousin Mary   6/13/2022   A Library, CD

Chillingsworth Surfingham is actually John Ashfield, also know for his San Francisco indie pop band The
Bobbleheads. This 2021 instrumental collection gives a pop spin to surf music. Chillingsworth Surfingham is a bear – Ashfield performs in a bear costume – but don’t think the shtick is all there is. Very well played energetic and positive tracks.


Sumrra – “7 Visions” – [Clermont Music]

Cousin Mary   5/15/2022   12-inch, Jazz

This fine piano trio from Santiago de Campostela in Spain looks at stellar time from different viewpoints in this album. Very accessible but unusual. The piano lead sometimes seems more in line with classical etudes than jazz riffs. I was curious about the language on the cover, it appears to be Galician rather than Spanish or Portuguese. Manuel Gutierrez on piano, Xacobe Martinez Antelo on double bass, Lar Legido on drums.

Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra – “Night of The Purple Moon, The” – [Saturn Research]

Cousin Mary   5/15/2022   12-inch, Jazz

1970 recording where the Arkestra is down to no more than 4 members, with some solo keyboard pieces. The first track on each side is a bit more accessible than most Sun Ra, while the remaining tracks soon launch into outer space. Sun Ra plays the Moog synth and also the Rocksichord electric harpsichord. Just when I thought the KFJC library did not need another Sun Ra album, this comes along to prove me wrong. With John Gilmore, Danny Davis and Stafford James.

Van-anh Vanessa Vo – “Three-Mountain Pass” – [Innova Recordings]

Cousin Mary   5/9/2022   A Library, CD

Vo is a Vietnamese-American from the Bay Area who is a composer and multi-instrumentalist, specializing in instruments related to traditional Vietnamese music. This album is a treat, giving us a chance to hear such things as the đàn tranh (16-string zither) and the bamboo xylophone T’rung. Selections include Vo’s compositions, a familiar piece by Erik Satie played in an unfamiliar way, and track 4 where she plays with the ever inventive Kronos Quartet. Really lovely and listenable, highly recommended.

Schwob, Danielle Eva – “Out of The Tunnel” – [Innova/American Composers]

Cousin Mary   5/2/2022   A Library, CD

Danielle Schwob is the composer, arranger and recording producer for this wonderful set of music. The ensembles vary – a string quartet, trios, duo, and solos. Very lovely sounds, good energy. I think some pieces were used for dance. Remarkable compositions played by virtuoso musicians. A new (to me) modern classical composer to watch.

PGM – Instrumentation noted on back of CD

Parker, William – “Painter’s Winter” – [Aum Fidelity]

Cousin Mary   4/25/2022   CD, Jazz

William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on percussion give a whole new definition to the term rhythm section, sometimes swinging, sometimes not. Parker’s turns on trombonium and shakuhashi (especially on track 4) are splendid. Daniel Carter’s trumpet, sax, clarinet and flute carry and set the themes. Elegant and original!

Dean, Dan – “Fanfare For The Common Man” – [Origin Classical]

Cousin Mary   2/14/2022   A Library, CD

These are familiar classical pieces, although not really war horses, that Dan Dean performs using only the variations of his voice to represent a variety of instruments. The result is polyphony that must have been an enormous amount of work. The elements of fun and feeling do not replace the originals that vary from piano solos to large orchestral symphonies. This is a novel musical experience.

Faust, Maria – “Machina” – [Stunt Records]

Cousin Mary   2/6/2022   A Library, CD

Composer and alto sax player Maria Faust is a native of Estonia. This album suggests mechanical sounds and is said to be based on elements of water and the sea. Unusual instrumental combination of the alto and tenor saxophone, cello, piano and two basses. Jazz meets experimental meets contemporary classical. Compelling and poignant, highly recommended.

King, Ben E. – “Spanish Harlem” – [Atco Records]

Cousin Mary   2/6/2022   12-inch, Soul

This was Ben E. King’s first solo album after his success as the lead singer of the Drifters. A big production with orchestra accompaniment, it features his huge hit Spanish Harlem. The other tracks are well known Latin American standards, sort of a unique choice for a soul album. The lyrics in Sweet and Gentle concern his cha-cha compulsion. King’s gorgeous voice carries it all.

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