MiWaPa Trio - "Cross Country"
(Zzaj Productions 2002, ZP-61)
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
I was pleased as punch to receive this little gem in the mail featuring a trio of the indie improv underground's stalwarts. We've got Rotcod Zzaj on keyboards, Mark Kissinger on guitars, and Jim Konen on guitars (kinda makes the trip to MI worth it huh Dick?!!). One look at the CD cover and the song titles and it's clear we have a theme. From "Wheels On The Track" and "Leaving The Yard" we embark on our Cross Country journey, experiencing "Flamenco Mystery In Car 13" and "Silver Streak Serenade" along the way, culminating in "Total Loco Motive" for a finale.
Zzaj has a distinct keyboard sound that I'm sure I'd recognize anywhere. He's usually handling the main themes, but Konen and Kissinger's guitars are often elusive, the artists producing all kinds of interesting sounds that shape the music and keep things interesting throughout. The Zzaj brand of jazz is ever-present, but there are some seriously cosmic moments as well. For "Lightning On The Rails", the "lightning" guitars take the song title to heart, doing their freakout thing while Zzaj maintains a steady jazz groove, including a cool flute melody (which I suspect is more Zzaj keys). "Morse Code Nitemares" features swirling space guitars against the Zzaj groove. Honestly, this is like Space Ritual era Hawkwind gone jazz fusion. Similar guitars are heard on "Watching The Cactus Rushes". The ride gets even more trippy on "Building The Steam". You can hear the steam pouring from the engine as drugged cosmic guitars create hazy atmospherics. I'm really diggin the combination of the spacey guitars and the Zzaj keys. "Silver Streak Serenade" and "Wining In The Dining Car" are among the more ethereal tunes of the set, though the jamming keys are still there as well as a steady percussion pattern on the former. But the atmospherics shift continually from howls to drones, making for a ride that is both toe-tapping and meditational.
In summary, these improv folks that construct albums through the mail do tend to produce interesting, and often exciting, results. LOTS happening here. Another fine release from the folks at Zzaj Productions.
For more information you can visit the Zzaj Productions web site at:
CLICK HERE to order Cross Country online (credit cards accepted).
CLICK HERE to check out the entire Zzaj Productions catalog.
Contact via snail mail c/o Zzaj Productions; 5806 B Armour Drive; Lacey, WA 98513.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz