It's been a while since we heard from Pete Levin—too long, in fact—so the release of Jump! puts us back into that slinky, funky, moody, midnight organ sound once again, this time with a number of estimables: Lenny White, Manolo Badrena, the late Joe Beck, Danny Gottlieb (the latter two going mysteriously uncredited on the front cover, perhaps because they appear on only one cut rescued from earlier sessions) and the nimble Dave Stryker taking up guitar duties otherwise.
As per usual, Levin composes about half the songs and then trots out gems by Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Mingus, Leslie Bricusse, and so on. The opener, Jump!, is a bracing tune, but I more dug its follow-on, Exclamation!, sounding like an amalgam of Brian Auger and Jimmy McGriff, mellow but energetic, a straight-line narrative laying out its own borders and corners. The funk factor spikes up in The Big Dog is always Right, a bouncy cut with descending chords taking it into melancholy while remaining effervescent. Stryker becomes Martino-esque here, with a bit of Grant Geissman, bopping out a great long lead. And don't miss Levin's unusual damped power chords while White solos. On a jazz CD? Sure! Hey, Jon Lord and Keith Emerson aren't the only clever cats when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Ya can't help but drift back to the old Blue Note days in listening to this kind of music-making. McCann, McDuff, McGriff, sure, but McWhothehellelse makes good organ-dominant music now? John Abercrombie's one of the few enamored of the ivory instrument, features it strongly often, especially with Dan Wall, but the old 50s baddest axe is nowadays mostly for coloration, neglecting its wine-smooth tone and flowing moods as a front axe. We ain't talking Ben Hunter's Movie Matinee or the evening service down at the little church on the corner, this is meaty material and organ music deserves much better presence than it gets. Pete Levin's a plugger and refuses to opt out to modernity for its own sake, sinking into updated tradition like hand in glove. His take on Hubbard's Little Sunflower is gorgeous, something Freddie woulda dug the hell out of and a lesson Lonnie Liston Smith might want to think about digging into as well.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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