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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Bill Ortiz

Highest Wish

Review by Gary Hill

I almost had this under progressive rock. There are a lot of different sounds to this, lending towards that “progressive” heading. Ultimately, though, the mix lands somewhere closer to jazz and R&B with some hip hop added for good measure. Whatever you want to call it, though, this is a strong disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
Ha-Ya (Means Life)

As this enters there’s a real Stevie Wonder vibe. As the vocals join it takes on something a bit like Frank Zappa meets Manhattan Transfer. This has a lot of funk and soul in the mix, but is quite jazz oriented. There’s a killer space jazz jam and some retro keyboard sounds added to this later.

We Are What We Are
This number combines jazz, blues and hip hop (courtesy of the rap).
Highest Wish
The mix of sounds here also includes the jazz and hip hop references, but there are also some bits of reggae in the mix here. I love some of the horn soloing on this piece.
Since You've Been Gone
There’s a killer soulful groove on this thing. It’s very tasty. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best tunes on the whole disc. It certainly gets intense in the mid-track jazz jam.
Winter in America
Imagine taking the influences of the previous tunes and add some progressive rock in there and you’ll have a good idea of where this song sits. There’s a lot going on here and this is one of the highlights of the whole set.
In Every Breath
Proggy sounds open this in mellow ways. A killer soulful groove emerges as it continues. It really is one of the most prog-like numbers and is quite cool.
I Still Believe
Here we are back in the jazz blended with soul and hip hop territories. There is some intense musical interplay on this number, matching the powerful socio-political message of the lyrics.
Word Play
R&B, jazz and soul all merge well on this killer groove. Stevie Wonder is  a valid music reference here, too, but Spyro Gyra hits the other end of the musical spectrum here.
Do Your Thing
Without question, this soulful groove oriented number is my favorite piece here. This one is worth the price of admission by itself. There’s a lot of blues, R&B, soul and jazz all woven into this thing and it just works so well. I’d have to say that there’s some James Brown being channeled on this thing.
Ease My Mind
This is another tasty slab of contemporary jazz with plenty of soul in the mix. There is some awesome horn work on this thing.
Highest Wish
I really love the tasty slow moving groove on this thing. It’s clearly got more jazz than it does anything else. Of course, that said, there are some hints of hip hop on this thing. All in all, though, this one of the cooler bits of music here.
Don't Make Me Wait
R&B is all over this thing. It’s good, but not one of my favorites.
Full Circle
This instrumental is a smooth jazz number that’s quite tasty. It’s also a great way to end things in style.
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