Daily Freeman By David Malachowski - Review
Bringing in the heavy hitter soloists certainly makes this outing a real treat, but make no mistake, Levin is never overshadowed here
by David Malachowski
Venerable musician Pete Levin has played with a dizzying array of superstars, from pop giants Paul Simon and Annie Lennox, to jazz icons Miles Davis and Gil Evans, but with Deacon Blues, he has a lot to say himself, and we should all stop and listen.
Though Levin has made his mark as the go to guy for synth, this release is a B3 organ extravaganza, and with the recent passing of icon Jimmy Smith, Levin now steps into that void.
Recorded in Mt. Tremper at Sonart Studios, Levin not surprisingly brings in an impressive crew; famed bassist (and brother) Tony Levin, brilliant guitarist Mike DeMicco, ace percussionists Ken Lovelett and Carlos Valdez as well as jazz legends guitarist Joe Beck and drummer Danny Gottlieb.
His tenure with Evans had to be a school unto itself, and it's evident in his approach and touch.
The Donald Fagen penned title track has a deadly groove that Levin takes full advantage of. Hearing the Hammond B3 take the melody is simply something that has to make you smile. Levin then pushes it with a juicy solo, but it's not over yet; Beck chimes in with a complex and compelling solo with a pure tone and intense drive.
Levin's own "Uptown" is full of space and Beck again is just jaw dropping in his skyward solo. "Sail On Sailor" surely an under appreciated Beach Boys gem, is given some respect here. DeMicco finally joins the fray, and though one foot is in the jazz pond, the other is deep in the blues muddy river. He offers a stinging, emotional solo, Levin follows with a powerhouse ride that you can just picture him pushing and shaking the organ.
Levin's own "Once Lost" (with another blazing DeMicco solo) and "Might Have Been" reveal he can write as well as he plays.
Ralph Toner's "Icarus" is a sure highlight; with it's myriad of changes and gorgeous melody. Levin shows off his harmonic range here, while Beck double-stops like there's no tomorrow.
Tony Levin shines in "Sad Truth," a slippery fretless intro here is just stunningly beautiful, and sets the tone for Pete as he picks up the ball midway with some meaty notes and clever phrases that serpentine around his brother's bass.
Bringing in the heavyhitter soloists certainly makes this outing a real treat, but make no mistake, Levin is never overshadowed here, he in fact is the reason why the others are able to soar, and he does himself time
A true master musician, Levin is never shackled by genre or form, if he thinks it, he can play it. But Deacon Blues is a real jazz record and all you have to do is listen, and smile.
David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance journalist living in Woodstock.
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