Pete Levin, B-3 – Deacon Blues – Motéma

by | May 16, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Pete Levin, B-3 – Deacon Blues – Motéma MTM 0008, 66 min. *****:

(Peter Levin, B-3; Joe Beck & Mike Demicco, guitars; Danny Gottlieb, drums; Tony Levin, bass; Ken Lovelett & Carlos Valdez, drums & percussion)

Keyboardist/synthesist/arranger Peter Levin was a mainstay of the Gil Evans Orchestra during the 1980s. He has also been an in-demand session player on the NYC scene and this is his ninth album since 1990 as a solo artist. In spite of all the alternate electronics he has worked with over the years, Levin says that his first love is the B-3 Hammond and he wanted to return to his roots for this new album. He feels “There’s really no other sound quite like it. Even the best synth simulations fall short.”

Since Levin has been doing all sorts of other musical gigs in recent years (including commercials and film and TV scores) and hasn’t been stuck performing regularly in a typical B-3 trio format, he brings a fresh new approach to his role as the band leader on this new disc. He has expanded on the usual organ trio by adding a second guitar, more percussion, and his distinctive arrangements are flavored with samba, soul and even hip-hop. His brother Tony is a veteran side man and solo artist, so using him on bass is not nepotism. (30 years ago they fronted a Spike Jones tribute band for a top-40 single which Peter still says was his all-time favorite recording session.) 

The tunes here are not at all the typical ones you might hear on a B-3 trio album. The opener and album title is the Steely Dan hit Deacon Blues. The 60s Blue Note sound is prominent in the next track, Uptown, and the Beach Boy’s hit Sail On Sailor has a nearly smooth jazz arrangement.  One of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies takes on a jazz waltz form, and another unexpectedly welcome tune to my ears is Ralph Towner’s vehicle for the band Oregon, Icarus. Two Jimmy Giuffre compositions grace the CD – another brave foray by Levin into challenging compositional territory, but beautifully handled. The 11th track brings things to a rousing close with a strong B-3 trio treatment of Mean To Me.  The whole CD has so much more depth and density than the typical B-3 trio album that most of the competition pales in comparison.

TrackList: Beacon Blues, Uptown, Sail On Sailor, First Gymnopedie, Once Lost, Icarus, Sad Truth, Eclipse, Might Have Been, Dragonfly, Mean to Me.

 – John Henry

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