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The Jazz Word


Jazzword Review by Ferell Aubre

A multi-instrumentalist, Max Highstein brings forth much more than musical ideas; A deep acumen of complexity and joy is entwined in each note. His latest release, Tiptoes, might be a lighthearted listen, but it is in its melodies we find the genius. 

The Highstein original “Tiptoes” opens the album. The ensemble creates an imagery that the title implies as the various instruments layer in against a steady percussion and drum anchor. Highstein’s choice in ensemble players is excellent, and his writing is sensible and personal to each color in the ensemble. The melody has a familiar flow and an instant charm that pulls you into the music’s many textures. The slinky melody is supported by running sub-motifs amid the many climaxes through the song’s form. The musicians create each section refresh and renew, held up by Clark’s dexterous drums and shifting cymbal swashes.

“All Bounced Up” is a Highstein original with a happy shuffle feel that is a fine vehicle for his creative writing style. His music lives in a musical space between pop, jazz, and rock. His writing lets each perform let their artistic voice ring clear, and together they form a very cohesive unit. Highstein is all about striving for something unique and personal in a way that is indeed prescient and highly musical.

In a world filled with serious thoughts and uncertainty, Tiptoes softly walks into your psyche and lifts the weight of the world with its grooving melodies, jaunting explorations, and continental exquisiteness.

Tiptoes Album Review

Max Highstein Is On His Tiptoes

The Sentinel Review by Travis Rogers, Jr. “The Jazz Owl”

Max Highstein gets around. A multi-instrumentalist, composer, and recording artist who takes us into jazz, rock, and classical music forms. He has the remarkable pairing of great melodies and fabulous arrangements.

Highstein has just released his latest album, Tiptoes, in which he displays his agility between soprano, Alto, and tenor saxophones along with the clarinet, piano, organ, and fretless bass. He easily maneuvers between power and warm expression.

All 11 songs on the album are written by Highstein himself and those songs are impressive.The album opens with the title track, Tiptoes. Immediately, the fretless bass is heard along with the flute and organ and percussion. The clarinet is catchy and the whole tune is lively and intriguing. A fine start to all that is to follow.

The Listener picks up the tempo and Highstein’s saxes are in high gear and, again, the melody is spot-on. The organ gets centerstage for Meanwhile, In the Back Seat and Pevar’s guitar is straight-up smoking. But you’ve got to love the way Highstein works the sax. I’ll say it again, the melodies are just so cool.

That’s the Spot and All Bounced Up make for interesting rhythms and gliding sax work. But whatever instrument Highstein touches turns to gold. Ed Willett adds a great cello on That’s the Spot but oh, that soprano sax.

Skycap Bevnap and The Reason to Be Happy are both infectious tunes that stick in your head. I went to get something to drink and the latter song was stuck in my head. The rhythm section on Brother’s Keeper is wonderful and the cello adds a mood that is splendid. Highstein’s piano is Vince Guaraldi cool.The Weaver’s Tale is a beauty that moves along terrific lines between soprano sax, piano, and cello. This was maybe the song that stayed with me the longest. Toe Trucker is a bluesy tune with fine organ work and the hot tenor sax. The cello carries the melody for a bit before the Jeff Pevar guitar works it over. Then back to cello. The trades are absolutely righteous.

Path of the Heart wraps up the album and Rusty Crutcher adds his own alto and tenor saxes. The paired horns between Highstein and Crutcher are fantastic with an almost Spyro Gyra feel. And, for me, that’s a good thing. The piano is wonderful and Clark’s rhythm work is flawless. Pay attention to Pevar’s guitar.

Tiptoes is a brilliant display of Max Highstein’s dexterity on such various instruments and a tribute to his profound but accessible compositional skills and talents. The melodies never miss—not once. There isn’t a weak spot or a weak performance on the whole album. The players are well-suited to the tunes and the results are warm and satisfying.

This is an album to be heard and cherished over and over.


Jazz2Love Review

Max Highstein’s original compositions are classic pop standards on their own. His blend of musical influences are coalesced into warm and blissful arrangements. His music is familiar without being mundane, a quality that only well-versed crossover artists achieve. Highstein’s music is one of a kind.  — Jazz2love Review


Jazz Weekly Review

Max Highstein creates a velvety mix of tapestries as he plays the gamut of reeds. The emphasis here is on rich textures of harmonic reeds juxtaposed with various moods. Portraits painted with a wide brush. — George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly


Lemon Wire Review

Max Highstein’s “Tiptoes” Offers something Different For Listeners

Multi-instrumentalist Max Highstein not only creates original music, but develops original classifications for it.

“Tiptoes” was released June 2021. It is comprised of 11 original tracks, and each holds its own set of surprises for listeners. Just when audiences are sure they know how each song will go, there will be a key change, a set of nuances, something in the soundscape that turns the expectation on its head. To start, the title track and the song “All Bounced Up,” are excellent examples of what Highstein can do.

Seeing pictures of Highstein with his saxophones and clarinets makes those unfamiliar with his work expect jazz in the most traditional, if contemporary, sense. However, those expectations are immediately challenged with the first notes of the title track.

A mischievous motif is played by all instruments, but the arrangement might call to mind for some listeners Sting’s jazz-esque era in the late 1980s. There is a buoyancy and sophistication as part of the woodwinds keep a consistent line going, but other woodwinds take danceable twists and turns. Then, there is the tremendous beauty of the fretless bass and percussion that grounds the entire song in a groovy rhythm. The song ends with a searing woodwind note, unexpected, but still perfect.

It is difficult to resist a song called “All Bounced Up.” The song begins with a bang and holds it until the end. There are rock piano, guitar, and bass elements pulsing through the fast-paced track. The woodwinds find their way around the mainstays of the soundscape.

As usual, at least for this album, there is power in nuanced and satisfying chords that audiences did not think they needed to hear, but they do. The saxophone and bass are reminiscent of so many classic rock songs of the 1970s and 1980s, but this is no retrospective. This is a pushing forward, a clear new era for contemporary instrumental music. — Dodie Miller-Gould



On “Tiptoes,” Highstein plays multiple saxophones, a clarinet, piano, organ and even a fretless bass. I found this work at times to be somewhat ethereal, which fits nicely with its official classification of New Age [Thanks, but no, this album is not classified as New Age.] But really, it’s more than that. It flows along so effortlessly that I easily became absorbed in what I was hearing. As soon as I became settled into a transformational experience, the tempo changed and Highstein was giving the sax all he could and waking me from my proverbial “mood.” All the while, each track seems perfectly at home, flowing along and weaving an effortless montage of relaxing, yet “kickin” music. — Paul Wilson


Tiptoes Review

A multi-instrumentalist, composer and recording artist who is well versed in jazz, rock and classical sounds, Max Highstein brings a wealth of talent and experience to 11 originals that take some esteemed help across the diverse and colorful arrangements.

Highstein leads with the playful title track, where Mark Clark’s percussion anchors the strategic use of brass and soothing woodwinds, and “The Listener” follows with Highstein’s soulful sax in the highly melodic landscape.

“All Bounced Up,” a particularly lively tune, lands in the middle and recruits frisky keys thanks to Highstein as Jeff Pevar’s skilled guitar work makes an impression, while “Skycap Bevnap” benefits from airy flute and warm piano amid the timeless atmosphere. “The Weaver’s Tale,” one of the album’s best, is then textured beautifully to emit the most amount of impact thanks to Ed Willett’s cello and Highstein’s finger acrobatics on piano.

Near to the end, the upbeat and charming “Toe Trucker” showcases Pevar’s profound guitar skills alongside Willet’s cello talent, and “Path Of The Heart” exits the listen with Rusty Crutcher’s alto and tenor sax front and center as the ensemble birth a very unique brand of jazz.

Highstein and company make the most of every second here, where their collective strength illuminates his vision of jazz, rock and classical working together synergistically to keep the listener engaged from beginning to end. — Take Effect Review

Music by Max Highstein

Following up with his spring 2020 release of Gratitunes, multi-instrumentalist Max Highstein has released another album of grooving contemporary instrumental music. The jazz, rock and pop flavorings found among Highstein’s catchy melodies and careful orchestrations have consistently landed his albums in the Roots Music Report’s Top 50 World Album Chart. Viewing music as a strong therapeutic healing agent, Max blends his saxophones, clarinet, piano and fretless bass with colorings of cello, guitar, flute and percussion. His feel-good music also incorporates some synths, pads, bells, and various mystery sounds.

Highstein’s education shows that he’s received a BA in music, as well as two different Masters degrees in spiritual psychology and counseling. Perhaps those perspectives explain how Tiptoes manages to take us on a jaunty, happy, expressive adventure. How can someone not smile when “The Reason to be Happy,” ‘That’s the Spot” or “All Bounced Up” cue up? Highstein has a positive, uplifting vision for his music, and we listeners benefit from spirited, infectious musical interludes in songs like “Brother’s Keeper” and “Skycap Bevnap.” This album’s dynamic instrumental magic gives us a worthy musical experience that emerges from a wealthy of stylistic genres and a meticulous attention to detail.

Supporting Highstein are some masterful musicians: Jeff Pevar, Ed Willett, John Yoakum, Rusty Crutcher and Mark Clark. Closing with “Toe Trucker” and “Path of the Heart,” this album leaves a very favorable lasting impression, one that emphasizes how a resourceful, passionate musician knows how to present original music that allows listeners to feel something powerful and positive. — Joe Ross, Roots Music Report


TIPTOES includes brilliant performances by the following musicians:

Max Highstein – Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Piano, Organ, Fretless Bass. All composition, arranging, and production by Max H.

Jeff Pevar – Guitar. Super-slippery guitarist with Ray Charles, David Crosby, Little Feat live stand-in.

Ed Willett – Cello. Willett has performed with the Honolulu Symphony and Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, and toured worldwide with pop/rock icon Rickie Lee Jones. Every note Ed plays can break your heart. Hear Ed Willett’s playing and singing with his wonder duo, Chance.

John Yoakum – Flute. Credits include Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, The Simpsons, LA Philharmonic Orchestra. A wind playing genius who can play anything with a hole in it and make it sound alarmingly beautiful.

Rusty Crutcher – Alto and Tenor Saxophone on the song, Path Of The Heart. Outstanding multi-instrumentalist, composer, and recording artist with 9 albums to his credit. Rusty brings the heat, brings the hurt, and then heals the pain.

Mark Clark – Drums and Percussion. Credits include James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, John Popper, and Ottmar Liebert. Rhythm dripping with intelligence and charm.