Tony and Pete Levin – Levin Brothers (2014)

Fans of the Levin Brothers might not have crossed paths, so different has each man’s musical journeys typically been. For the bass playing Tony Levin, there have been long associations with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. For keyboardist Pete Levin, similarly lengthy turns with the Gil Evans Orchestra and Jimmy Giuffre. Each is deeply respected, within his own world. Those worlds haven’t often collided, however, and never in such a symbiotic fashion.

And so we have two of the best sidemen in the business, two men who just happen to be siblings, constructing a series of original compositions in a style they associate so viscerally with their youth. There’s only a delicate take on King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai,” in fact, to remind you that you’re not listening some kind of mid-century found object. Such are the debonair joys of Levin Brothers.

Due on September 9, 2014 via Lazy Bones, it’s far more Oscar Pettiford than it will ever be Thrakattak — unfolding as a series of brisk, resonant musical thoughts. Augmented by guitarist David Spinozza, saxist Erik Lawrence and drummers Jeff Siegel or Steve Gadd, Levin Brothers in fact offers a total of 14 tracks, with two bonus songs to boot.

Along the way, there is time for plenty of low-key expressions of individual virtuosity. Pete switches to a nostalgic organ on “Brothers,” while Tony takes up a deeply expressive cello for “When Sasha Gets The Blues.” Gadd adds wit and style to “Bassics” and then one of the bonus tracks, “Fishy Takes A Walk.” Spinozza and the rest acquit themselves beautifully. But its the intermingling of the brothers’ instruments (see “I Got Your Bach”) or the way they effortlessly switch from dominant to supportive voicings from a chorus into a verse, that give this album a connective quality, a warm intimacy — and, maybe more importantly, a timeless appeal.

I’m not sure why it took this long for Tony and Pete Levin to construct something as effortlessly involving as Levin Brothers. (Well, maybe I am: Even now, Tony is preparing for the stage debut of the latest incarnation of King Crimson next week.) Nevertheless, it was certainly worth the wait.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso