Monday, July 05, 2010

Alex Levin Trio: new release - New York Portraits

Alex Levin Trio: new release - New York Portraits ( English) Alex Levin Trio: een nieuw album - New York Portraits (Nederlands)

His first jazz experiences: As vertiginous as balancing on the pinnacle of the Empire State Building

Hans Koert

Within a few months Alex Levin and his trio will release its new album entitled New York Portraits. I was favored more than his regular fans to have a listen and I love to share you my preview. The album will be released late September 2010.
Alex Levin, raised in Philadelphia, is a professional jazz pianist for almost 15 years and performs in the Philadelphia and New York City regions. From 1998 up to 2001 he lived in Berlin (Germany) where he founded his own group, a quartet, entitled The Living Room. In 2001 he returned to New York City and accompanied dozens of vocalists like Ayana del Valle and Heather Moran. The former, her ancestors came from Puerto Rico, started to sing when she first heard Ella Fitgerald and is now a sought after vocalist in all kinds of genres, like jazz improvisation with R&B, soul, pop, hip-hop and Latin; the latter Heater Moran is inspired by Rosemary Clooney's music.
Alex Levin ( photo courtesy: Chad Coe and Peter Moser)

Alex Levin released his first album, Night and Distance, in 2005 which became an unexpected success in both Japan as the States and had to be reprinted. His second album, A Reason for Being Alone, was with a larger group, including two reed players and a cellist. This New York Portraits, recorded at the Systems Two Studios in Brooklyn (NY) the 5th of January, 2009, is a trio record again. The title New York Portaits refers to the musicians that influenced him, like Bill Evans, Tom Waits, Ahmad Jamal, Blossom Dearie, Shirley Horn, Barry Harris and Red Garland. Most of the tracks are standards, like Irving Berlin's Cheek To Cheek, I Loves You Porgy, Isn't a Pity ( both Gershwin-compositions) and Body and Soul. It contains two original Alex Levin compositions, like Last Train to Brooklyn and Blues for Charley; the latter dedicated to his daughter. The rhythm section is a solid one, featuring Michael Bates on bass and Brian Floody on drums. It makes this piano trio recordings a swinging feast for the ears.

Michael Bates ( photo courtesy: Chad Coe and Peter Moser)

I love to share with you a fragment by the Alex Levin Trio, recorded at a private party in Manhattan, where you can enjoy the relaxed and swinging music by his trio.

In the liner notes Alex shares his earliest remembrances to jazz music - his first experiences with the jazz scene as a poverty-stricken young student.
Brian Floody ( photo courtesy: Chad Coe and Peter Moser)

As a student, he lived in a small apartment in East Village in Saint Mark's Place (NY). He lived there with an acting student and his girlfriend. My bed was a mattress on the floor next to the kitchen. Like most students he didn't had enough money to visit shows. He earned some extra money - minimum-wage hours - and used it to visit clubs, like Deanna's Jazz Club at Rivington Str. East Village. There he listened to musicians like Herman Foster, who performed there with musicians like Arnie Lawrence. Piano player Herman Foster, he passed away April 1999, became known for his recordings with Lou Donaldson, like in Gravy Train. A photo shows Herman Foster with Jeff Fuller and Lou Donaldson (1981). Alex became fascinated by the way he played. His playing, to quote the New Groove Dictionary of Jazz, characterized by a formidable attack and fluid and melodic passages of locked-hand work. Arnie Lawrence, born as Arnold Lawrence Finkelstein, was an alto saxophone player who had worked with Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Maynard Ferguson and Chico Hamilton, but also toured with Elvin Jones, Louie Bellson and Liza Minnelli. When Alex heard him playing Arnie had already founded the International Center for Creative Music where dozens of now well known jazz musicians have studied, like Roy Hargrove and Brad Mehldau, to list two I recently heard in concert. Alex remembers that Arnie blew the best solos - he took the audience far, far away, and his lines smoldered with a potent combination of love and sorrow. Arnie passed away 67 years old, in Jeruzalem (Israel) April 2005. Alex remembers the atmosphere - how he felt at the age of eighteen, sitting at a small table in Deanna's felt as vertiginous as balancing on the pinnacle of the Empire State Building. Now, as he writes, life has become more regular - he's married, has a daughter, and a job as a tacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, but he still remembers those first experiences from those early jams at Deanna's.

Alex Levin, can be heard, each Friday Night, at Manhattan Youth Community Center. These concerts are free and everyone is welcome: babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and adults. Children under 16 are welcome to bring an instrument and jam with the band. I love to share with you a small fragment I found made at one of those pro-children concerts - you can see that the kids have fun and enjoy the music.

I'm convinced that a new Jazz generation is born here !!
Hans Koert

Alex Levin, a New York based piano player, will release a new album later this year with his trio. The album will be entitled New York Portraits. The name refers to the jazz men that influenced him. In the liner notes Alex remembers his first experiences with Jazz, visiting, as a young adult, the New York jazz scene. New York Portraits: A great album to look forward to. If you love to stay informed about new releases or blogs about jazz and jazz-related contributions, ask for the Keep Swinging newsletter.

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