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certified organic
quotes from reviews

(when you don't want to read the tedious long versions)



February, 2009
Certified Organic
by Ross Boissoneau

Levin's synthesizers helped move the Gil Evans Orchestra into the electronic/acoustic outfit that embraced Jimi Hendrix as well as King Oliver.  But no synthesizers appear on Certified Organic, which is dedicated exclusively to Levin's organ playing.  While he can get lowdown and greasy, he can also play delicately and effectively support his bandmates.  Here Levin is joined four guitarists, including the late Joe Beck.  Beck's sensitive shadings give depth to "Where Flamingos Fly." John Cariddi's best outing is on the opening Levin original "I'm Falling."  But Levin's playing remains the focus of the recording throughout, and he's more than up to the task.  Whether soulful or playful - sometimes both at once, as on "Teen Town" - Levin proves he's a master of the organ.  You never even miss his synth wizardry, and that's quite an accomplishment.

Daily Freeman
Kingston, NY
June, 2008

ARTIST: Pete Levin
ALBUM: "Certified Organic"
Review by David Malachowski

Levin leaves boundaries behind and pushes expectations aside.  His thick juicy tone on organ is to die for, as are his undeniable chops. But it's his own tunes that offer real insight: "The Face In the Mirror," "When I Was Young" and "I'm Falling" are weighty and confident compositions. Real musicians playing real music, what could be better?

Roll Magazine
Hudson Valley, NY
June 2008

Pete Levin
Certified Organic (independent)

People who can play the Hammond B3 organ, while doubling on bass, are hard to come by.  People who can make music doing it are rarer still.  Pete Levin, A-list keyboardist and local legend is one of the best at this, and here he gives us the second installment of his love affair with the Hammond in a trio setting.  Levin's B3 organ is like butter and, let's be honest, everything goes better with butter.  Organic butter, of course.

All Music Guide
June 2008

Certified Organic
Pete Levin

by Michael G. Nastos

Organist Pete Levin has played commercial music for many years, but returned to his soul-jazz roots with the 2007 Motema CD release Deacon Blues. He continues on that path here with the independently produced Certified Organic. Though not straight bop or swing, Levin plays accessible funky contemporary jazz on the one hand, and also a deeper introspective style that harkens back to his time with the legendary Gil Evans Orchestra. A very talented player, Levin has chops to burn, but never bumps them up to boil. His simmering tone for some may be cerebral, but he is mindful of having a good time feeling. Levin can play dirty, gritty and toe tapping music as easily as intellectual, thought provoking and ethereal sound texts. Remember - Levin played primarily Moog synthesizers (and French horn) with Evans' contemporary big band when it was more electric oriented, and performing the music of Jimi Hendrix. Open mindedness and appreciation for the many gifts he possesses is the key to appreciating this intriguing follow-up to the very good CD Deacon Blues, which also deserves much praise.

Albany Times Union
June 2008

Certified Organic
by Greg Haymes

Following the success of his 2007 CD "Deacon Blues," Woodstock keyboardist Pete Levin is back with his follow-up, "Certified Organic," a scorching slab of Hammond organ trio jazz. Levin has long been considered a synthesizer specialist, but the new album features him exclusively playing Hammond organ, backed by an all-star batch of musicians.  Levin simply smokes on this disc, and in addition to penning half of the tunes himself, Levin has the stylistic stretch to dig deep into the song bags of such diverse composers as Jaco Pastorius, Cole Porter and Prince.

Blogcritics Magazine
Quickies: Pete Levin, CERTIFIED ORGANIC
Written by Pico
Published July 24, 2008

An aptly titled album, this organ trio-based effort is a hard-driving blend of jazz, funk and rock that isn't loaded down with unnecessary filler, just lean, vintage grooves. Even within the fairly narrow realm of organ trio jazz, Levin mixes things up enough to hold your interest.

Covers include a nicely remade version of "Love For Sale" and Moacir Santos' "Nana." Jaco Pastorious' "Teen Town" is tackled, too, in one of the few versions not centered around a bass player.  All told, this is a consistently good effort, providing solid grooves that are edgy enough to avoid the "smooth jazz" tag, but contemporary enough to pull in listeners outside of the straight jazz crowd.

Soundstage Magazine
August 2008
Pete Levin - Certified Organic
P-Lev Inc. PLM008
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance     ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment   ****

One of my favorite CDs from last year was Pete Levin's Deacon Blues, an unpretentious, wholly enjoyable disc of swinging soul jazz featuring Levin on Hammond organ. On his new disc, Certified Organic, Levin generously shares solo space with the other players, including four guitarists (John Cariddi, Mike DeMicco, Joe Beck, and Jesse Gress) and saxophonist Erik Lawrence.

Levin played synthesizer with Gil Evans for 15 years, where he seems to have learned how to use space and texture, even when arranging for a smaller group. His take on "Where Flamingos Fly," an Evans perennial, is spare and heartfelt.  He brings a fresh ear to Jaco Pastorius's "Teen Town," an oft-recorded tune that he rejuvenates, and he turns in a hard-swinging version of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale."

Certified Organic is a good description of the recording quality of the disc, which is clean and unfussy. Levin contributes five compositions, all of them memorable. Certified Organic is brainy, soulful, and great fun.

More Sugar
Pete Levin
"Certified Organic"
CD Review by Roger Z.  7/19/08

It seems just yesterday I reviewed "Deacon Blues" by Pete Levin. In that six months time, Levin has recorded part II in his "back to the roots" series of organ trios (and quartets, and quintets).  Pete Levin made his reputation as a synth specialist playing with pop and jazz artists such as Paul Simon, Annie Lenox, Gill Evans, and John Scofield.  In 2007, Levin got the urge to revisit his roots and first love, the Hammond organ. He put out an album of organ trio treatments of more contemporary tunes like The Beach Boy's "Sail on Sailor" and Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues." With "Certified Organic," Levin and gang further expand the form.

When I think of organ trios, Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff most often come to mind. However, you won't find a shuffle on this record. A lot of funk, some swing, but no shuffles. More than anything else, tone separates the guitarists from each other.  The CD features a mix of some surprising covers and Levin originals. Prince's "The Question of You" features a snippet of Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Standouts include Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," "Nana," and an explosive rendition of Jaco Pastorius' classic "Teen Town."

This music swings, cooks, grooves, paints, and even oozes. The packaging by Emily Saaen absolutely delights, harkening back to vintage Blue Note album covers. But only in America, marketing paradise, could an electric band proudly wear the label "organic!"

The Skanner
Portland, OR
By Dick Bogle
August, 2008

I fell in love with one song on this release by organist Pete Levin.  “Where Flamingos Fly” is a mood piece on which Levin states and restates its plaintive theme. It is truly gorgeous and when guitarist Joe Beck enters, it takes on an added luster.

All About Jazz
Certified Organic
Pete Levin / Pete Levin Music  2008
By John Kelman
August 2008

Keyboardist Pete Levin has built a fine discography, closely linked to the jazz world, but it's his recent solo work that's most worth visiting. Drawing from the same organ jazz roots that defined Deacon Blues (Motema, 2007), on Certified Organic Levin recruits a larger cast of characters for an album high on groove but broad in reach, with elements of swing, soul-jazz, funk, fusion and more.

Levin's own multifaceted nature drives the record, starting from the get-go with his funkified “I'm Falling,” where guitarist John Carridi's chunky rhythm playing locks hand-in-glove with drummer Harvey Sorgen's in-the-pocket groove. Levin solos with the organ-equivalent of Scofield's uncanny ability to take things out just enough to create a palpable release when he brings it back in, while Carridi's overdriven solo is bop-inflected but blues-centric.

While grabbing a larger chunk of compositional credit this time around, Levin also finds new approaches to popular tunes. But it's Levin's arrangement of Jaco Pastorius' often-covered “Teen Town” that's Certified Organic's biggest surprise. Usually a bass workout, this time the knotty but singable theme isn't its primary focus; it's a steadily-building trade-off between Levin and saxophonist Erik Lawrence. Demonstrating undeniably fine skills as composer, arranger and performer whose reach goes well beyond Certified Organic's groove-happy veneer, it's an album that easily places Levin in the same company as Larry Goldings, Gary Versace and Dan Wall.

All About Jazz
Certified Organic
Pete Levin / Pete Levin Music  2008
By Woodrow Wilkins
November 2008

Pete Levin deviates from the standard trio formula on Certified Organic, employing one of four guitarists on each of the 10 tracks.

"Love for Sale" is a bouncy spin on the Cole Porter classic. The pace changes during the transitional phrases, but the song remains upbeat throughout. Using the organ to cover the bass line in addition to the regular organ notes is excellent throughout the set, but it stands out a little more on this track.

The ensemble pays tribute to Pastorius with an interesting take on "Teen Town." The rendition is just close enough to the original to be appreciated by Weather Report fans, but is a very different song in the hands of Levin and company.

Five of the 10 tracks on Certified Organic are Levin originals. While the lead musician is often the focal point of trio projects, Levin gives his sidemen plenty of opportunity for expression. It makes for a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt.

Pete Levin
Certified Organic
by DJ Wavy Davy, August 25, 2008

The simple title pun of Pete Levin’s latest CD betrays the rich layers of music within. Ulster County resident Levin, long a synthesizer specialist for artists from jazz arranger Gil Evans to Paul Simon, returns to what he calls his first love - organ jazz - for the second time since last year’s Deacon Blues (Motema). In addition to four Levin originals (the opener “I’m Falling” stands out with its ripping Cariddi solo), the disc offers some deftly picked covers: the Jaco Pastorius burner “Teen Town”; Cole Porter’s classic “Love for Sale,” which gets a nice funk treatment; and Prince’s “The Question of U,” which gets flipped on its well-crafted ear.  On a sad note, Levin’s longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Joe Beck, makes one of his final appearances here before he passed away in July. Listen to the deeply soulful version of “Where Flamingos Fly” to hear Beck’s magic while Levin lays back.

Vintage Guitar Magazine
Pete Levin
Certified Organic
November 2008

As with his last record, keyboard whiz Levin concentrates on the organ and invites outstanding guitarists to join him.  Among those taking part here are John Cariddi, Mike DeMicco, Jesse Gress, and the late Joe Beck, one of the unsung heroes of jazz guitar of the past 30 years.

Beck's airy solo on "Where Flamingos Fly" highlights the bluesy ballad, and is the perfect complement to Levin's playing.  And while all players here shine, DeMicco is a true highlight.  His rock vibe on "Patience" shows great tone and wonderful chops.  Gress gets in slinky, funky playing in a couple of tunes - most notably Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town."  Cariddi acquits himself wonderfully also, especially on the Cole Porter chestnut, "Love For Sale," which swings heavily behind his fine comping and great solo.

Levin has played keyboards for many artists, typically on synthesizer.  But his organ playing is a pure delight.  -  JH

Elmore Magazine
Pete Levin
Certified Organic
by Ira Kantor
September, 2008

On his ninth studio album, Levin mans a mean Hammond organ and, with a bevy of other fine jazzbos in tow, crafts a work that, although full of originality, also successfully revitalizes some of music's most revered compositions.  Certified Organic is very intimate, as Levin finds his creativity in a Woodstock, NY studio alongside such guitar virtuosos as John Cariddi and Joe Beck.  Pete makes his instrument come alive.  Wonderful melodies spew from his Hammond organ, recalling Steve Winwood back in the '60s.  Levin revels in his instrument and clearly enjoys tinkering with sounds and styles.  Jazz may be at the root of his musical explorations but his talents are such that no genre seems foreign to him.  Like a chameleon, he blends in with whatever idea sifts through his brain and fingers.

Jazz Weekly
Certified Organic
August, 2008
by George W. Harris

Like his last disc, Deacon Blues, Levin takes some overlooked tunes, combines them with his own compositions, and mixes and matches various personnel, like guitarists Joe Beck and John Cariddi, to create a disc with a steady groove, but with lots of intriguing rabbit trails to stroll along.  The entire disc has a pre-classic era Weather Report feel to it: long and deep relentless grooves with exotic organic flavorings.  Fun stuff.

Jazz Times Magazine
Pete Levin
Certified Organic
November, 2008
by Owen Cordle

Pete Levin is best known to jazz fans as the synthesizer player in Gil Evans’ band for 15 years beginning in the early ’70s. He also played keyboards for eight years in the Jimmy Giuffre 4. In addition, his career includes live and studio performances with Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Paul Simon, Jaco Pastorius and many others. In 2007 he revisited his roots in the Hammond organ with Deacon Blues, a trip he continues with this year’s Certified Organic.

One way to describe Levin’s style is to say what it isn’t—namely Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco or Dr. Lonnie Smith. It’s darker, with fewer over-the-top climaxes. And it’s still full of good linear development and hip grooves. The blend of guitar and organ offers colors that differ from other organ trios. All the guitarists are appealing throughout the album, with fine command of jazz-rock and obvious respect for Levin.

O's Place Jazz Newsletter
Pete Levin - Certified Organic
by D. Oscar Groomes
Performance ****
Recording Quality ****

Pete mans the B3 with a solid cast.  They strike a cool, funky groove through ten tracks, reconfiguring "Love For Sale" and serving up a juicy version of Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town". Pete also adds several originals notably "I'm Falling".  This is feel good music.

Something Else
Pete Levin Certified Organic
by Pico
July 2008

An aptly titled album, this organ trio-based effort is a hard-driving blend of jazz, funk and rock that isn't loaded down with unnecessary filler, just lean, vintage grooves.

Levin has mainly made his mark over the course of thirty-plus years scoring for TV commercials, drama series and feature films, as well as extended stints in the Gil Evans Orchestra and Jimmy Giuffre's band.

Even within the fairly narrow realm of organ trio jazz, Levin mixes things up enough to hold your interest.
Covers include a nicely remade version of "Love For Sale" and Moacir Santos' "Nana." Jaco Pastorious' "Teen Town" is tackled, too, in one of the few versions not centered around a bass player.  Using a revolving cast of guitarists, most notably Joe Beck, each brings the right style to suit the song.

All told, this is a consistently good effort, providing solid grooves that are edgy enough to avoid the "smooth jazz" tag but contemporary enough to pull in listeners outside of the straight jazz crowd.

top of the page

Jazz Society of Oregon
Certified Organic, Pete Levin, Hammond B-3
Review by Don Campbell
August, 2008

Hammond B3 monster Pete Levin – a session dude for the likes of Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Lenny White, John Scofield and Gil Evans, serves up a funky 10-song CD, “Certified Organic” (wink, wink) that’s powered by Levin originals.

Levin spreads the guitar love around, using John Cariddi, Mike DeMicco, Joe Beck and Jesse Gress throughout. He slows the funk down on his own “Patience,” a scorching piece that offers ample room for his own keyboard insight and DeMicco’s guitar. He shares the inventive Jaco Pastorius melody of “Teen Town” with Gress, with an inspired Erik Lawrence sax solo over the top. It’s delicious romp for all. Beck gets his turn on “Where Flamingos Fly,” a brooding minor-key ballad, and turns in a swirling and complex guitar accompaniment that plays nicely off Levin’s keys.

The whole project shines as basically an organ trio. All in all, if you love organ, this one should find its way into your collection.




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