Pete Levin’s 2010
CD release JUMP! documents his continuing efforts to push
the envelope of the traditional organ trio. The set is a
collaboration with the remarkable guitarist Dave Stryker
and legendary drummer Lenny White. They are joined on 5
of the 10 tracks by the dazzling percussionist Manolo Badrena.
Pete knows how to feature his sidemen, but when it’s time for
the Hammond to take charge, he does just that. In addition, the
organ’s bass is mixed up front as an equal element. This is not
your father’s organ trio! The set rocks and grooves hard - not a
hint of smooth jazz within earshot.
In a diverse music career spanning three decades, the New York
based keyboardist/arranger has performed and recorded with
hundreds of jazz and pop artists - including Paul Simon,
Annie Lennox, Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Wayne
Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Robbie Robertson and John
Scofield - receiving critical accolades for his work during
a 15 year association with the legendary Gil Evans, and
his 8 year stint with the late Jimmy Giuffre.
While filling the French Horn chair with the Gil Evans Orchestra
in the 70s, Levin brought a Moog Synthesizer to a gig at New
York's Village Vanguard. Already known as a synthesizer
specialist, Pete was at the vanguard of that technology. Levin's
role was permanently changed as the band transformed itself into
the electric/acoustic hybrid ensemble that captivated audiences
worldwide for years, winning two Grammy awards along the way.
A veteran session and live keyboardist, Levin has also created
electronic realizations for hundreds of TV commercials, dramatic
series and feature films, including MISSING IN ACTION, LEAN
ON ME, SILVER BULLET, RED SCORPION, THE COLOR OF MONEY, MANIAC,
SPIN CITY, AMERICA'S MOST WANTED and STAR TREK. In a
dizzying array of unrelated commissions, Levin composed
orchestral scores for the feature film ZELIMO and for a
stage production of THE DYBBUK, composed the anthem for
the 1992 United Nations Earth summit, THE FUTURE IS IN OUR
HANDS, performing it twice for the General Assembly, and
created the official military band arrangement of the U.S.
But Levin, whose wry sense of humor is never far
from the surface, reveals that his all time favorite recording
session produced the top-40 hit single CLOSE TO YOU
by THE CLAMS, a Spike Jones
tribute band formed with his brother, bassist Tony
Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), drummer
Steve Gadd (Eric Clapton, Paul Simon) and
Grammy-awarded recording engineer Dixon Van Winkle
(Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra). Thirty years later the
recording is still a cult classic.
In 1990, Levin signed with Gramavision to release his first solo
jazz album, PARTY IN THE BASEMENT,
followed by SOLITARY MAN in 1991.
Collaborating with drummer Danny Gottlieb,
Pete released THE NEW AGE OF CHRISTMAS
on Atlantic and MASTERS IN THIS HALL
for Gramavision. In the years following, he released six solo
and collaboration albums for Alternate Mode Productions.
In 2007, Pete decided to revisit his roots and his favorite
keyboard instrument, the Hammond B-3 Organ, releasing
DEACON BLUES on the Motéma label. He’d been
playing a Hammond B-3 for years, but had never recorded as a
leader in the organ trio format.
In 2008, Levin released another trio album, CERTIFIED
ORGANIC, in which Pete’s original
compositions explored the bonds between jazz and funk: dark
music with hard-driving grooves. The set also included two of
his straight-ahead pieces, with guitarist Mike DeMicco
joining him for “When I Was Young”, a tune they played together
with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, and Joe Beck
sitting in for “The Face in the Mirror”, which Pete wrote for
(and recorded with) trumpeter Lew Soloff.
Which brings us to Levin’s new album, JUMP!. In addition to
Pete’s great originals, the set includes some jazz classics,
such as Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia In Times Square" and Freddie
Hubbard’s "Little Sunflower" (done in 7/4).
The final track on JUMP! is a
tribute to the late Joe Beck. Pete and Joe recorded "Honeysuckle
Rose" as a duet years ago, but it was never used on an album.
Pete retrieved the original tracks and added Danny Gottlieb on
drums. The three had played many trio gigs in the past, so this
is a poignant reunion.
Pete currently tours with a high-energy organ trio with
guitarist Dave Stryker and drummer