Pete Levin

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Organist Pete Levin has played commercial music for many years, but returned to his soul-jazz roots with the 2007 Motema CD release Deacon Blues. He continues on that path here with this independently produced recording. Though not straight bop or swing, Levin plays accessible funky contemporary jazz on the one hand, and also a deeper introspective style that harkens back to his time with the legendary Gil Evans Orchestra. A very talented player, Levin has chops to burn on his Nord Clavia keyboards, but never bumps them up to boil. His simmering tone for some may be cerebral, but he is mindful of having a good-time feeling and danceable quality with the organ combo music he grew up with. This recording has Levin teamed with some very interesting players. Drummer Harvey Sorgen is known for being both a creative improvising drummer, and at one time playing with Hot Tuna. Four different electric guitarists are utilized at one time or another, and saxophonist Erik Lawrence (son of veteran jazz saxophonist Arnie Lawrence) is on two cuts, with percussionists Ernie Colon or Ken Lovelett on another six. Naturally there is no bassist, but no brass instruments either. This lends to a more youth-oriented sound instead of traditional mainstream jazz instrumentation. Of the upbeat numbers is the famous Moacir Santos soul-jazz light funk hit from 1962 "Nana," the more R&B flavored Levin original "I'm Falling" with the steely guitar of John Cariddi, and rock 'n' funk oriented take on the standard "Love for Sale." Veteran Mike DeMicco plays a spacious guitar for the beautiful original of Levin's "Patience" and hits an easy swing on "When I Was Young." It's the legendary Joe Beck's turn on his Martin guitar for the always lovely piece "Where Flamingos Fly," which Levin performed mightily with Gil Evans, and the probing "In the Face of the Mirror." There's a version of the complex and counterpointed Jaco Pastorius evergreen "Teen Town" with Levin's organ playing the lead line instead of electric bass guitar alongside the rock guitarist Jesse Gress and the saxophone of Lawrence. Well into the mystery spectrum, "Out of Darkness" has Lawrence on soprano sax, and again showcases another facet of Levin's concept. A version of the Prince penned pop tune "The Question of U" is a light blue funk with Gress changing gears in a more reflective, atmospheric tone. Levin can play dirty, gritty, and toe-tapping music as easily as intellectual, thought-provoking, and ethereal sounding texts. Remember -- Levin played primarily Moog synthesizers (and French horn) with the contemporary big band of Evans when it was more electric oriented, and performing the music of Jimi Hendrix. The duality of Levin's compositional concept should not detract listeners unless they want to just hear one thing. Open mindedness and appreciation for the many gifts he possesses is the key to appreciating this intriguing follow-up to the very good CD Deacon Blues, which also deserves much praise.

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