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Release Date:
June 29, 2010

Reviewed by:
Shannon West

"I think people need to give their audiences more credit. The band is energetic, the songs are memorable and cool and not so far outside the box that people can't connect with them. It's kind of like our set takes you on a ride"
Lao Tizer in a Smoothviews.com interview, September 2010

And what a wonderful ride it is! If I was stranded on the proverbial Desert Island with only a handful of Desert Island CD’s the two that would keep me sane in that state of isolation are Tizer Live and Ken Navarro's Dreaming of Trains. Why these two? Because there is so much going on within these songs that even after repeated listenings the music keeps opening up and revealing new layers of sound, texture, melody, nuance and emotion. They both explore a lot of territory that is beyond the boundaries of smooth, yet they do it in a way that is so natural and flows so beautifully that a listener who is just beginning to get beyond the safe and sterile radio version of the music is going to feel comfortable and welcomed. There was a time when we used to listen to music for the sake of listening to the music and immersing ourselves in it. This usually happens when you are younger and have less of the weight of the world on your shoulders and haven't reeled your imagination into adulthood yet. Then music increasingly becomes something that plays in the background. You don't really immerse yourself in it anymore and find that most of the music you are hearing doesn't merit, much less demand, that immersion. Finding music that does and allowing yourself to experience it is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give yourself and your friends during the holiday season as we take another step into the second decade of this crazy century.

Lao Tizer is the brilliant, groundbreaking keyboardist who has released six albums under his own name. Tizer is the band. Technically he fronts it but the nature of the group is so collaborative that you don't hear any one player stepping into the spotlight and holding it. It is an amazing assembly of gifted musicians that have come into this realm over the years. Some of them are names you know and others you will want to know more about after you hear them play. The most recognizable are Chieli Minucci, of Special EFX and hit-heavy solo releases, and violinist Karen Briggs, whose appearance on Yanni's Live At The Acropolis video kept people who didn't even like Yanni glued to their couches during its run as a PBS fund raising staple. Steve Nieves is a highly respected session musician and part of the band Jango, which had several format hits but remained highly underrated. Jeff Kollman is a rock guitarist with jazz sensibilities and genre jumping chops. Bassist Andre Manga, a Cameroon native, and Havana-born drummer Raul Pineda bring years of experience in award winning world music projects.

The music is indescribable. It's a live recording that captures the essence of what this band does.

It's not technologically enhanced or overdubbed. It puts you right in front of the stage and surrounds you with the music and the energy and connection these musicians have with each other. The songs take a lot of twists and turns. Melodies shift and change as soloists step upfront and play, trade licks with each other, then rejoin the band. “What It Is,” the opener, starts out with sax and keyboard playing a bluesy hook while a sneaky speedy guitar line sizzles in the shadows, then Magna gets into a funky bass solo that gets faster and faster, Briggs comes in driving it up a notch and Kollman and Minucci play dueling guitars and push the song to the rock edge, the band kicks in and brings back the original melody and you have been around the musical world in nine glorious minutes. Briggs is showcased in “Diversify” with a goosebump raising solo that starts softly and ends up on fire before the song shifts into a gentle chant over lyrical acoustic piano. “West Side Highway” starts as an uplifting ensemble piece with a touch of world flavor, shifts into a meditative keyboard passage then rips into bright open spaces with everyone taking solos. “A Hui Hou” is gentle, mystical, and Metheny-ish. It is rare to feel the intuitive connections that musicians have with each other when you are listening to a CD, even a live one, but this one has come through the production and mixing process intact.

The music resides in some newly discovered never-done-before-land that exists somewhere between contemporary jazz, jam bands, “new age” (hate the term but we haven't come up with a better one yet), world music, fusion, and basically whatever these musicians feel like playing in the moment. It comes in a very unassuming package - a simple cardboard CD sleeve with a picture of the band on the front and the song titles and a minimal amount of credits on the back. It's an indie project that doesn't have major distribution but who needs that in the digital world.  They did the live recording because people who had seen the band wanted to take something home with them so they could relive the experience. When you see them you leave with this glowing kind of feeling and you could go home and dig around through a really vast collection and nothing else would come close. They also wanted people who have not been able to get to a concert to be able to hear the band do what it does best – create magic onstage and spread it through the crowd. It will leave you breathless and shift your space for a while. This is the hopeful future of contemporary instrumental music. Buy it and be amazed.

Tizer Live is available as a CD or download on Lao Tizer's website: www.laotizer.com.