Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pete Levin: Jump

Pete Levin Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Jump

Keyboardist, composer and arranger Pete Levin has been around for decades. As an instrumentalist, he’s best known for his work with the organ, but he also has been involved with the creation of literally hundreds of commercials and movies. In his early career, he played French horn in the Gil Evans Orchestra, and did an eight-year stint with the late Jimmy Giuffre.

Jump features his expanded organ trio with guitarists Dave Stryker and Joe Beck, percussionist Manolo Dadrena, and drummers Lenny White and Danny Gottlieb, who split duties.

Half the tunes here are Levin originals; the rest are covers of standards by Charlie Mingus (“Nostalgia In Times Square”), Freddie Hubbard (“Little Sunflower”), Fats Waller (“Honeysuckle Rose”) and some melodies that aren’t usually given a jazz treatment (“Talk To The Animals” and “Alone Together”). The latter was a Jimmy Giuffre favorite.

Not too many really swinging organists perform today -- Joey DeFransesco comes to mind -- although past years saw quite a few. Levin is as good as they get. The nature of the instrument doesn’t lend itself jazz; an organ can overwhelm other instruments and is difficult to use for up-tempo tunes. The organist controls that, of course, but the accompanying rhythm section also is a key factor. Levin’s drummers and guitarists are exceptional.

I have one caveat: An hour’s worth of organ, no matter how good, can be a bit overwhelming. One might want to play this disc in conjunction with other albums, in a shuffle mode.

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