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Levin, Pete: Jump!

Pete Levin's musical career has spanned three decades but it is only recently that he took the step of raising the stakes in the jazz arena of the "traditional" organ trio by bringing his Hammond B-3 to the fore in a series of challenging recordings. This current - highly enjoyable album called Jump! is the third in the series that started with 2007's Deacon Blues and was followed up a year later with Certified Organic.

Although I love the Hammond's warm and classic sound, I must however admit to being a bit sceptical about using it as a lead instrument within a jazz context or any context really over the duration of an album. Will the instrument have enough colours, enough flexibility in its playing? Jump! has gone some way towards rectifying that scepticism, in particular virtue of the fact of the adventurous nature of some of the compositions. Levin certainly pushes the Hammond to its limits!

The all-instrumental album is equally divided between Levin's compositions and those of others, with some jazz "standards" being included amongst the latter. It is also equally divided in terms of stylistic approach, with half being what I will call "straight" jazz and the other half being explorations of different genres/types of world music within a jazzy context.

All these pieces are really well performed. Joining Levin in the standard trio format are Dave Stryker on guitar and Lenny White on drums. On five of the tracks the trio is augmented by Manolo Badrena on percussion. The final track, a cover of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose", is slightly different in respect of band membership, in that it is intended as a tribute to Levin's guitarist friend Joe Beck, who died in 2008. Levin and Beck had recorded the track some years ago as a duet, but the composition was never released. Levin has now retrieved the original tapes and added Danny Gotlieb, who had joined the pair as a trio on many occasions, on drums. This "straight" jazz composition serves as a fitting tribute to a great guitarist.

On the "straight" jazz, Levin and Stryker (or Beck on the final track) take turns at soloing whilst White puts in a great performance on drums. Stryker's guitar playing is gorgeous and keeps the interest going through these pieces.

Like most other fans on this site, however, I'm not a jazz purist, and for me the music is really lifted when Levin adventures beyond the confines of the "straight" jazz. Interestingly, most of this innovation comes in his own compositions. The opener Jump!, for instance, lives up to the promise of its song-title, courtesy of a strong funky groove. That Was Then goes Brazilian, you can picture yourself walking down Copacabana beach listening to this. Then, on The Big Dog is Always Right the main emphasis is on soul, with a slight hint of funk; it reminded me of bands like Maze. The last of his visits to "foreign" parts comes in Candido, which has a central-American, Mexican flavour think Santana. The last of the compositions that deviates from "straight" jazz is Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower", which is wonderfully evocative of sundown, one can even hear animals making their evening calls from the trees.

For me, these pieces are the highlight, but the straight jazz is also very good; your own favourites will depend on your own particular preferences in music, but if you're a fan of the Hammond organ, you may well enjoy this album very much!

Track Listing:-
1) Jump! (6:49)
2) Exclamation! (6:50)
3) That Was Then (6:38)
4) The Big Dog is Always Right (6:48)
5) Talk to the Animals (6:32)
6) Nostalgia in Times Square (5:58)
7) Little Sunflower (6:04)
8) Candido (5:45)
9) Alone Together (7:10)
10) Honeysuckle Rose (5:00)

Added: November 24th 2010
Reviewer: Alex Torres
Related Link: Pete Levin's Website
Hits: 2063
Language: english

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