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deacon blues
quotes from reviews


Downbeat Magazine
May 2007
by Ken Micallef

Synth specialist Pete Levin has veered into organ territory.  The New York artist has a serious keyboard resume (playing with the likes of John Scofield, Miles Davis and Gil Evans), so you'd expect him to lay down some real grease and gravy on Deacon Blues, his first album to embrace the Hammond B-3.   Levin and company play it cool for much of the album, but when the group catches fire, as on "Dragonfly" and "Uptown," Deacon Blues glows with purpose.  Drummer Danny Gottlieb floats like a bee on the circuitously flammable "Dragonfly," which also features some of Levin's best B-3 work, and everyone smokes on "Uptown," a classic organ trio cooker.  The date's a mixed bag, but one that offers some moments of white-knuckled heat.

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Jazz Times
May 2007

Deacon Blues
Pete Levin
by Bill Meredith

Keyboardist Pete Levin has remained under the radar, especially when compared to bass-playing brother Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), by playing as a sideman and working in TV and film over the past 40 years. Deacon Blues is a rare solo release, and features the synthesizer specialist playing Hammond organ exclusively.

Early cuts, like covers of Steely Dan (the title track) and the Beach Boys (“Sail On Sailor”) succeed through Levin’s interplay with drummer Danny Gottlieb and guitarists Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco. Brother Tony contributes bass on a few tracks, freeing up the keyboardist from his simultaneous bass pedals and resulting in the disc’s best performance, a creative Levin arrangement of classical composer Erik Satie’s “First Gymnopedie.”

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Blue Railroad Magazine
May 2007

Pete Levin: Deacon Blues
by Paul Zollo

He's one of the greatest studio cats around - he's played synth and organ for a multitude of legends. Now here comes another turn for Pete Levin to shine, this being his fourth solo album, and it's a magical and soulfully swinging song cycle that all fans of virtuosic jazz will seriously dig. Great chops, great vibes, great time spent deep in the pocket of the music. The man knows how to make a Hammond B-3 sing. With about as solid of a crew of supporting players as any musician could dream. This record cooks and sizzles with high-life jazz intensity.

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April, 2007

Levin is a keyboard specialist who for the past few decades has played with the best in the business.  On this set for "Deacon Blues", he concentrates on Hammond organ and lines up two of his favorite guitarists - Joe Beck, one of the real giants of fusion, and Mike DeMicco, whose original "Eclipse" is a hard bopper that finds him playing around the changes about as well as anyone.  Overall, this is a hard-driving set that also features his brother Tony on bass and drummer Danny Gottlieb in a relaxed session that lets everyone show their skills. - JH

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Guitar World's BASS GUITAR
March 2007
by Bill Murphy

Hammond organist Pete Levin's slightly more famous brother Tony joins him here on five-string fretless, and it's clear from the opening strains of the Steely Dan title cover that the two had a blast. An airy version of avant-garde composer Erik Satie's "First Gymnopedie" is the arguable centerpiece, with both Levins logging seamlessly sympatico performances.

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Audiophile Audition
Pete Levin, B-3 - Deacon Blues - Motéma
A B-3-based album with a difference
May 2007
by John Henry

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

Since Levin has been doing all sorts of other musical gigs in recent years and hasn't been 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.  The tunes here are not at all the typical ones you might hear on a B-3 trio album. The 60s Blue Note sound is prominent in Uptown.  An 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 whole CD has so much more depth and density than the typical B-3 trio album that most of the competition pales in comparison.

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Progression Magazine
March 2007
by Eric Harabadian

Pete Levin should certainly be counted among the Hammond Organ’s modern masters as he has served as a session artist and touring sideman for decades.  On “Deacon Blues” he comes center stage with a post-bop oriented agenda that highlights swinging original compositions, empathic players and a great overall vibe.

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Daily Freeman
Kingston, NY
March, 2007
by David Malachowski

Venerable musician Pete Levin has played with a dizzying array of superstars, but with Deacon Blues, he has a lot to say himself, and we should all stop and listen.  Bringing in the heavy­hitter soloists certainly makes this outing a real treat, but make no mistake, Levin is never overshadowed here, he in fact is the reason why the others are able to soar, and he does himself time and again.  A true master musician, Levin is never shackled by genre or form, if he thinks it, he can play it. But Deacon Blues is a real jazz record and all you have to do is listen, and smile.

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Sea of Tranquility
February 12th 2007
by Pete Pardo
Score: * * * *

Normally known for his synthesizer prowess, Levin's Hammond skills are upfront and center here on Deacon Blues. Listen to him add his smoky tone alongside the smooth as silk trappings from ace guitar veteran Joe Beck.  Mike DeMicco also gets room to shine, dueling with Tony Levin's slippery bass lines on the laid back "Sad Truth", and laying down liquid lines on "Eclipse".  Despite all this guitar wizardry, this is really a vehicle for the great Hammond playing of Pete Levin, which is probably no more stunning than on the wonderful "First Gymnopedie", where he really digs in and stretches for some sumptuous lines that would make the late Jimmy Smith proud. B3 lovers get ready-Deacon Blues is a feast for the ears, and a super treat for Hammond fans.

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Poughkeepsie Journal
Indulge in Levin's love of jazz
February 23, 2007
By John Barry

Pete Levin undulges his love of jazz on his new CD, "Deacon Blues."  He really tears it up, rips it apart and sews it all back together on the Hammond organ.  His training ranges from classical to rock and jazz, with short shops at banjo bands and weirder, but his love of jazz keeps bringing him back to that genre, where he's very well known, having played live with many groups, and recorded with even more. So it's good to see Pete choosing the material he digs and 'giving it some' on the Hammond B3. The sound is classic, and his playing is terrific.  But he seems to have always gotten his biggest musical kicks while performing live. And the music he loves to perform live is jazz.

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Blog Critics Magazine (online)
Music Review: Indie Round-Up
March 02, 2007
by Jon Sobel

The new CD by Pete Levin, the venerable New York synthesizer and Hammond organ specialist is a set of pleasant, energetic Adult Contemporary jazz with occasional bursts of fusion energy.  Levin's solid, tasty touch on the Hammond is the constant, while longtime collaborator Danny Gottlieb's pastel-colorful drumming anchors the group.

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March 1, 2007

By Shannon Holliday
Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Keyboardist Pete Levin breaks new ground in this release, highlighting his skills on Hammond B-3 organ. He is abetted by a talented selection of musicians that includes guitarists Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco; Levin’s bassist brother, Tony; percussionists Carlos Valdez and Ken Lovelett; and drummer Danny Gottlieb. The contemporary jazz produced by this group is exploratory and improvisational.  Deacon Blues is one album to turn up loud and listen to in awe -- at a group of jazz masters having fun.

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A new stage
Times Union, Albany, NY
March 29, 2007
By Greg Haymes


Levin is gearing up to promote his new disc "Deacon Blues" on the Motema Music label; it's his first CD as a bandleader in years. Backed by an ace band of musicians – including guitarists Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco, drummer Danny Gottlieb and his bassist brother Tony – Levin has crafted an elegant, eclectic album on the Hammond organ.   Despite the wide range of song sources, the album positively hums along.

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april 2007
by Thomas R. Erdmann

Keyboardist and synthesist Pete Levin is one of the more interesting musicians working today. On Deacon Blues, Levin’s ninth recording as a leader, Levin performs solely on the Hammond B-3, rocking immediately and throughout.  From the opening of the first tune, a workout of Donald Fagan’s “Deacon Blues,” to the last note of the standard “Mean To Me,” Levin and his cohorts not only don’t stop to take prisoners, they run roughshod over the terrain leaving behind burned out husks of life where their path tread.  On each and every tune, all the musicians just as supportive and hard-driving as the leader.  On the guitar chair, Beck is more percussive and punctuating in his guitar style and matches Levin precisely on “Deacon Blues” and Ralph Towner’s “Icarus,” while DeMicco seeks to splash more with extended chordal layering, each to brilliant effect.  With the addition of the drummers and percussionists, who serve to work up an astounding implosive drive on each and every tune, there just isn’t a bad cut on the disc.

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Rochester City Newspaper
Apr. 4th, 2007
By Ron Netsky

Organist Pete Levin has been a vital force in the jazz and pop music worlds since the 1970s.  Deacon Blues features Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco on guitars, soloing beautifully at every turn. But the obvious star is Levin who, aside from providing some original soul-jazz tunes (notably "Uptown"), takes the Hammond B-3 for wild rides on rock classics like Steely Dan's title track, Brian Wilson's "Sail On Sailor," and a classical classic, Erik Satie's "First Gymnopedie."

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Nashville City Newspaper
March 23, 2007
RIFFS, By Ron Wynn

It was Pete Levin's ability on synthesizer that was featured during his stints with Gil Evans, Paul Simon and Annie Lennox, but he sounds right at home on organ throughout his new CD Deacon Blues (Motema), whether doing slow grooves, moving into bop territory or doing contemporary pieces like “Once Lost.”

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The Review of Jazz & Blues: Creative improvised music
June, 2007

lf you're heavily into the music of Gil Evans then you should know veteran keyboardist Pete Levin.  For his latest endeavor, the synthesizer whiz returns to one of his primary loves, the organ, and seems to immensely enjoy this return to his roots. A nice diversion from an always interesting musician.

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Elmore Magazine
On The Record
June 2007
Pete Levin: Deacon Blues
by Robin The Hammer

What we have here is a disc full of great playing by masters of the trade.  Pete is known as a synth wizard and an electronic visionary, but here he is doing what he loves to do; playing the Hammond B-3.  The approach to the tunes is varied and skillful.  Levin lays back and features his players - the mark of a good leader.  The whole thing Swings.  All in all, a treat for fans of intimate, thoughtful jazz.

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The Working Musician
More Sugar, March 2007
CD review by Roger-Z (01/20/07)
Pete Levin
"Deacon Blues"
Motéma Music MTM-0008 (release date 03/20/07)

Pete Levin made his name as a synthesizer specialist with The Gil Evans Orchestra, Miles Davis, Paul Simon, and Annie Lennox. He gets back to his roots on this album.  The guitar duties fall to Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco. Danny Gottlieb handles most the drum tracks with Ken Lovelett picking up the slack. The band grooves incomparably. The music breathes and you can feel the space.

The Levin penned "Uptown," features tasteful, Wes Montgomery inspired octave playing by Joe Beck. I always loved The Beach Boy's "Sail on Sailor" but almost didn't recognize it when I heard this bluesy arrangement featuring Mike DeMicco's stinging, single-note solo. The magical first notes of Erik Satie's classic "First Gymnopedie" immediately grab attention. Then suddenly, it shifts into a swing section propelled by Danny Gottlieb's drums. Jimmy Giuffre's "Dragonfly" jumps out in full Mahavishnu Orchestra mode, then segues into a swing section full of intricate twists and turns. The atmospheric "Might Have Been" features mighty organ waves and Joe Beck's searing guitar.  Finally, the 1929 standard, "Mean To Me," features a wonderful "talking" solo by Levin and a great "chording" improv by Joe Beck.

This beautifully packaged CD includes a comprehensive review of each tune written by "Jazz Times" and "Jazziz" contributor Bill Milkowski. This CD swings old school - real musicians playing real music in real time. And where can you find that nowadays?

©2007 Roger-Z

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