FAME Review: The Alex Levin Trio - Refraction
The Alex Levin Trio - Refraction


The Alex Levin Trio

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Alex Levin's home base seems to be Bill Evans, but he also drops into Herbie mode very easily, especially when transitioning from trad quotations to improv interludes…and it's within improv that his real voice emerges, so the hierarchy formula is interesting. However, some Oscar Peterson emerges in Levin's take on Cole Porter's All of You, along with a little Duke Ellington; thus, don't get too comfortable with too narrow a stable of influences as you listen. Everything bops around nicely but never gets in your face about it, the rhythms and tempos more in the way of what one might hear in a lounge at a Hyatt Regency convention for brainiacs wanting neither too much nor too little swing in their thing.

Drummer Ben Cliness lays all the groundwork but drops in a number of surprises—for instance: a very simple heavy-handed repeating riff in Night and Day that just knocks me for a loop. Completely unexpected, almost too abrupt, it's nonethelss absolutely perfect, the sort of device John Bonham would've riffed up had he been a jazzbo instead of a rocker. Later in the song, Levin evidences some early Keith Jarrett (the Dewey Redman years), revealing why Cliness chose that punctuation/ornamentation, anticipating what was to come. Bassist Diallo House takes up the midground and peripheries, but steps to the front in cuts like Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise to elasticize thematics and time signatures.

This is the Trio's fourth CD. The previous three garnered impressive accolades from major venues (Jazz Times, All About Jazz, etc.), all and sundry hungry for, and very much appreciating, the giant steps back to basics married in modernistic chapels. What's very evident in Refraction is that each cut was taken as-is, an in-studio ensemble gig, every element exactly as would be the case in an intimate candle-lit evening concert over cognac and truffles. The result is precisely what you got with all those treasured old audiophile slabs: creatives dropping straight into the pocket with tons of sober ideas and adventurous spirits amid an urban cognition of formal structures and their so crucial pervasiveness.

Track List:

  • My Romance (Hart / Rodgers)
  • Night and Day (Cole Porter)
  • All of You (Cole Porter)
  • Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise (Romberg / Hammerstein)
  • If I Were a Bell (Frank Loesser)
  • On Green Dolphin Street (Bronisalu Kaper)
  • San Francisco Holiday (Worry Later) (Thelonius Monk)
  • Everything Happens to Me (Dennis / Adair)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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