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Bebop Spoken There

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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

CD Review: Alex Levine Quartet - Towards the Center

Alex Levine (guitar); Marcus Elliot (tenor); Ben Rolston (bass); Stephen Boeegehold (drums).
(Review by Lance).
This one hit the street in October last year (yes 2016 is now in the past!) but, just as it was nearing the top of the pile, a blockbuster would drop onto the player pushing the Alex Levine Quartet back down the queue.
Towards the Center isn't a blockbuster - it's too subtle for that - and certainly doesn't deserve to be overlooked so, belatedly, here it is.
It's dedicated to the visionary musician, poet, and artist, Henry Grimes who provided Levine with immeasurable creative wisdom and guidance during many hours of private lessons both playing and in conversation. 
One of Levine's all-original compositions on the album, Adama, is inspired by Grimes' poem Adama and Porquory. The poem and the composition is a spiritual history of human beings beginning with total harmony, unity of purpose and understanding, to disorder and conflict, and disparate human mythologies created to define the inexplicable forces that have shaped our universe.
Phew!
This takes 2:43. which sure puts the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works (90:00) into perspective. Having said that, beautiful as the piece is I don't think there is enough mood change to convey the poem's intention. Nevertheless, outstanding bass playing from Rolston both as a soloist and intertwining with Levine, combine to make for an introspective and compelling track.
Putting the spiritual history to one side and listening to all  13 tracks without the distraction of human mythologies and inexplicable forces it is an excellent session by four superb musicians. Elliot can mix it with the best. Like Levine, he plays with a knowledge of the past and an eye to the future. Levine's compositions are a credit, not just to his mentor Grimes, but to his own creativity. The interplay between guitar and tenor is mutually complemental and I'm sure there will be more from them.
Boeegehold's drums fit the mood and hold it all together.
But perhaps Michael Malis, in his notes, made the moist relevant comment re the album's title.
"When we seek recognition we look outward. But when we seek wisdom we look Toward the Center."
Lance.

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