Rocking Hot Jazz With Susan Aquila And Planet Z

Bruce Von Stiers

I got this instrumental album a while back. It came from Kari Gaffney, whose company Kari-On Productions promotes jazz artists. So I was expecting a jazz instrumental album. What I found was something quite a bit different. And I mean that in a good way.

The album is called Planet Z Featuring Susan Aquila. It was produced by Joseph Church. The album has seven songs and a play time of thirty-two minutes.

Like I mentioned, I was expecting a jazz instrumental album. What the album actually was, in my opinion anyway, was a rock album with jazz and classical music overtones. That might sound a bit strange but believe me it works well.

At the forefront of the musicians on the album is Susan Aquila. She is a violinist who plays both the traditional and electric violins. Susan has performed with the likes of Billy Joel, Susan Boyle, Paul McCartney and Josh Groban. She's had appearances on the Today Show and Late Night With David Letterman along with performing for both presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Susan also has extensive Broadway credits under her belt.

Ted Baker provided keyboard music for one song. His credits include stints on Broadway with The Lion King and The Who's Tommy. He also toured with Steely Dan among other top names. Playing the keyboards for most of the album was Joseph Church. He was the musical director for Broadway runs of The Lion King and Tommy along with conducting various orchestras and ensembles around the country.

Ray Marchica and Paul Pizzuti were the drummers for the album. Ray has worked on the film version of MamaMia! along with playing with the Ed Palermo Big Band. And Paul is another Broadway veteran who has worked on such productions as Bye Bye Birdie and On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.

One more Broadway veteran on the album is Irio O'Farrill. His bass playing could be heard in productions of Cats, Hairspray and the JCS Allstar Band for the Hollywood Bowl performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Robert Tomaro is the guitarist for the album. His extensive credits include stints with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducting orchestras including several leading Eastern European cities and various productions on Broadway.

Tough drums kick out the start of the first song Bombay Express. The song has ultra cool violin and guitar that mixes funk rock and jazz with a East Indian styling that is very enticing.

Cajun Queen is nothing if not a hip shaking head bopping groove with slick hard rock styling slid in at times. Susan and Robert are featured prominently in the song and also in a very cool music video that was made for it. The closing of the song is pure rock violin.

Sound that bounces all the way back to the 70's rock era of Kansas can be heard in the ultra tough song The Fire of the Planes. The violin really did remind me of Robbie Steinhardt of Kansas fame.

Sliding back once again into subtle rein, Appellation Sproing gives off a slight Mediterranean tone melded with ethereal styling.

But just when I thought that the hard rock feel of the album was over, it kicks it out again with a fast and smoking song called Dance of Ecstasy. The strings must have been almost on fire from the intensity of the music on the song.

The group ends the album with a piece called Horizon's Edge. It kind of has a rock anthem tone with terrific violin and a decent backbeat that once again brings forth a comparison to Kansas .

I was more than pleasantly surprised at the music on this album. The members of Planet Z are some of the best that Broadway and the music world have to offer. They put forth an album that not only showcases Susan's violin expertise but blends rock and jazz in a way that is totally extraordinary.

The album is available at selected online and traditional music retailers. You can also order from the band's official site at The site also has additional information about the band, clips from the album and even the video of Cajun Queen that I mentioned earlier.

And for those of you who might be specifically interested in Susan, her official site is .


© 2012 Bruce E Von Stiers