Blue Railroad Magazine By Paul Zollo - Review
a magical and soulfully swinging song cycle that all fans of virtuosic jazz will seriously dig. Great chops, great vibes, great time spent deep in the pocket of the music.
Blue Railroad Magazine
Pete Levin: Deacon Blues
by Paul Zollo
He's one of the greatest studio cats around - he's played synth and organ for a multitude of legends, including Paul Simon and Annie Lennox, and most famously Gil Evans, with whom he worked for fifteen years. Now here comes another turn for Pete Levin to shine, this being his fourth solo album, and it's a magical and soulfully swinging song cycle that all fans of virtuosic jazz will seriously dig. Great chops, great vibes, great time spent deep in the pocket of the music. The man knows how to make a Hammond B-3 sing. With about as solid of a crew of supporting players as any musician could dream (his brother Tony Levin on bass, two excellent and unique guitarists - Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco, Danny Gottlieb on drums, Ken Lovelett on percussion & drums and Carlos Valdez on percussion), this record cooks and sizzles with high-life jazz intensity. It starts off with Becker & Fagen's Steely Dan classic "Deacon Blues" (which is inexplicably credited only to Fagen) on which Pete shows us what he does best -singing the tune and comping on the cool changes at the same time, his Hammond popping and bouncing along this great slinky tune with a sunny elasticity that is invigorating. Gottlieb's drums are the engine that drives this machine; they are solidly soulful and swinging throughout. And this guy on bass, Tony Levin - he's pretty damn good. Nice of Pete to give his career a little boost. His eloquence far surpasses any bass bluster. The man knows what he's doing. Brian Wilson's "Sail On Sailor" is given a lilting inflection that it doesn't have when performed by the Beach Boys - Pete finds whole new dimensions in songs we didn't even know were there. And he goes from Brian to Satie, bringing us a breezy rendition of "First Gymnopedie" with the guitars playing those famous major-seventh chords as Pete lets the Hammond fly through this haunting melody. It's an unusual, unexpected choice - and it works. His own song, "Once Lost" erupts with a shining kind of streetwise jazz wisdom and burning guitar that dances with Pete's Hammond flourishes. Again, Gottlieb's drums on this are more than rhythm - the man plays melodies on the skins. Ralph Towner's "Icarus" resounds with the mythic grace of the original, and allows brother Tony to do what he does best - his bass lines over these hip, complex changes shows you why he is who he is. He provides everything a great bass-line should provide - he cooks with the changes, he swings and percolates with the rhythm and he provides a stealthy and inspired counterpoint to the melody and solos. He and Pete lock into a lofty jazz journey that only siblings with shared soul sensibility could achieve. And it all ends on a happy note - Ahlert & Turk's 1929 exultant ode to joy, "Mean To Me," on which Pete's playing soars with fervent swagger. It's an ideal cathartic culmination to this triumphant expedition into the heart of authentic jazz.
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