Rant’n’Roll: JanTuran, Syjo, Fifth, Pink Floyd & Arkansas Reggae

Jan-Turan, Photographs Copyright John Rocklin all rights reserved.
Jan-Turan, Photographs Copyright John Rocklin all rights reserved.

JanTuran is a duo made up of a former teenaged 1970s New York City recording engineer apprentice (Ramona Jan) and her multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter man Andre Turan. Legendary is their self-released, self-produced CD in tribute to all the artists Jan worked with including Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra and many others. It has been said that “Ramona,” by The Ramones, was written for her.

In the ‘80s, she then founded Comateens as well as Dizzy and the Romilars besides singing with Soozie Tyrell. Legendary is a good title for this, their second CD. With Jan on synth and vibes plus Turan on bass, harmonica and guitar, their voices blend so well together, you’d think they were siblings.

Imagine Cole Porter’s 1932 “Night and Day” as an edgy folksy rock vehicle. David Byrne’s “Don’t Worry About The Government” is more timely now than when he first recorded it with Talking Heads in 1977. I like their cool cover of Barry Manilow’s “All The Time” better than his 1976 original.

Great concept. Great music. Alternative interpretations. It all adds up to a pretty nifty 12-track listen highlighted by some of the most informative, entertaining liner notes you’re ever going to read that detail the stories behind each song’s original recording. She was there.


Heaven Help Us All: Live At Jazzaar Festival 2016 (Shanti Records) by The Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra (SYJO) has some damn fine young musicians from age 16 to 26 in soul-jazz mode and buoyed by the presence of the legendary drummer Billy Cobham (who relocated to Switzerland in the late ‘70s—after practically inventing American jazz-rock fusion—and is still there).

This third SYJO CD has six Swiss, four Russians, one Hungarian and one Singaporean singing and playing their hearts out and scored by seven Major League arrangers including the great Robert Glaspar. The premise is one America would do well to emulate. This festival houses a unique educational platform called “Bandstand Learning with Role Models” wherein students work for a week with the stars on one annual performance. It’s an idea that’s been going strong for the last 24 years.

Starting with George Duke’s “Overture” and ending with the Stevie Wonder title hit, there’s plenty of in-between here, including The Crusaders’ funky 1979 “Street Life,” Cobham’s 1973 “Red Baron” and 1974 “Crosswind,” Mongo Santamaria’s 1959 “Afro Blue,” Herbie Hancock’s 1964 “Canteloupe Island,” Joe Zawinal’s 1966 “Mercy Mercy Mercy” and Otis Redding’s 1968 “Dock Of The Bay.” Kudos to these discreet picks and their execution. Kudos to the few originals herein as well. Don’t let their age fool you. Kids now seem to play better than the geniuses of yesteryear.


Half of the music by Fifth on its self-titled debut (Jinsy Records) are free improvisations, constructed in the studio at the moment of creation, in the spirit of teamwork, personal intuitive chemistry and spontaneous composition. It’s a quintet that acts like a quartet because its two saxophonists—Stacy Dillard and Tivon Pennicott—are like one voice, oftentimes playing unison or a sprightly game of peek-a-boo with each other. You could also say that the rhythm section of bassist Spencer Murphy and drummer Lawrence Leathers are one too. Keyboardist John Chin founded this collective in 2014 from a series of jam sessions at Manhattan’s Small’s club. With Wayne Shorter as their muse, they’ve taken a democratic approach wherein, as Chin says, “it’s a band of bandleaders. I feel like I’ve been a sideman for every single guy in the band.” Chin’s cool. He wrote six of 12. Born in Seoul, South Korea, he’s been a Brooklyn presence since ’98 with three CDs under his belt. He’s a Master of Music (Rutgers), works with the homeless, works with prisoners, and has started his Beehive Music Academy in Harlem. Fifth is weird, likeable, entertaining, surprising, syncopated, complex and highly recommended.


Those who cannot afford to plunk down the big bucks for Pink Floyd’s massive 27-disc box (The Early Years: 1965-1972) would do themselves well to latch on to the two-CD set called The Early Years: Cre/ation (Legacy Recordings). Talk about highlights! Disc #1 contains an early hit single “See Emily Play” (beautifully covered by Martha Wainwright decades later) which came out in 1967 when I was 16 and I rode my bike to The Belmont Record Shop on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair to ask the family friend who owned the store to order me a copy. (He tried to sell me that store but that’s another story.) I thought Pink Floyd, at the time, was a Beatlesque type band after only hearing this gem of a single. Also included is the single version of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” off their 1969 Ummagumma album. The scream, that made me running out of the Fillmore East tripping and freaking out at 18, is still here. “Interstellar Overdrive,” in all its instrumental grandiosity, is here too in a concert version from Holland. There’s even a radio ad.

Disc #2 is also filled with delights like a live version of “Atom Heart Mother” from the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, a BBC Radio Session of “Embryo,” 2016 remixes of “Childhood’s End,” “Free Four” and “Stay.” Best thing about it all is that the beloved tragic doomed Syd Barrett is still alive and performing on the ’67 and ’68 stuff.


Joseph Israel ends his sixth album with “Shalom Shalom,” a peace plea for troubled times on his self-released self-produced Paradise. His 14 originals reek of ganja and good vibes. With guest Tarrus Riley singing on “People Need Hope,” and a world-beat aesthetic creeping through the cracks like grass through cement sidewalks, Paradise is, indeed, paradise, when it comes to state-of-the-art reggae.

Born Joseph Montgomery Fennel in 1977 Tulsa, Oklahoma, he’s collaborated with Ziggy Marley and Matisyahu. The Arkansas native enjoyed a 2007 hit album with Gone Are The Days (New Door Records/Universal Music Group) and followed it up six years later with Kingdom Road on his own label, Lions Of Israel. “What I share with my audience is to draw everyone closer to the source of truth—that we are all brothers and sisters and that division and lies cannot stand.”