The Alex Levin Trio | A Sunday Kind of Love

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A Sunday Kind of Love

by The Alex Levin Trio

"Levin’s approach is a classic one, and any lover of the golden era of bebop piano of the 1940s and 1950s will love this CD." --guitarist Davy Mooney
Genre: Jazz: Piano Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
clip
1. Sweets
5:22 album only
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2. A Sunday Kind of Love
5:40 album only
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3. The Jetsetters
4:31 album only
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4. The Surrey with a Fringe on Top
4:25 album only
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5. Blues for Wynton Kelley
4:29 album only
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6. At Least We’re Together
4:30 album only
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7. The Best Thing for You (Is Me)
5:29 album only
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8. Strolling Through Yonkers
4:43 album only
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9. What Is This Thing Called Love?
4:44 album only
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10. I’ve Told Every Little Star
5:04 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"I give Alex and his musical crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an 'EQ' (energy quotient) score of a (perfect) 5.00 – which means that he also gets my 'PICK' for 'best piano-led jazz trio album." Rotcod Zzaj, Contemporary Fusion Reviews

Album notes by Dr. Davy Mooney:

When Alex Levin asked me to write the liner notes to his latest CD I was
pleasantly surprised. Levin and I have been on and off collaborators since the heady days
just after Hurricane Katrina—the pianist is also a humanitarian, who helped this
displaced New Orleanian guitarist find an apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I have
looked forward to his occasional calls to collaborate on various projects since we first
met, serendipitously, in late 2005, seated at adjacent tables at the excellent Dominican
restaurant El Gran Castillo de Jagua, on Flatbush Avenue.

My pleasant surprise became true aural pleasure as I put the CD on, as it
exemplifies to me the type of ebullient, unpretentious swing that drew me to jazz in the
first place. The ghosts of Ahmad Jamal, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, and even at times
Errol Garner hover over the music on A Sunday Kind of Love, and I don’t think I’m
exaggerating when I state that this approach to the music is seldom encountered on a
recording by a contemporary New York pianist—New York where the meters are odd,
the 8 th notes are straight, and abstraction and complexity often exist seemingly for their
own sake. Levin’s approach is a classic one, and any lover of the golden era of bebop
piano of the 1940s and 1950s will love this CD.

The disc begins with a Levin original, “Sweets,” a 20-bar modern jazz tune
characterized by clever harmonic movement. The tune wouldn’t be out of place on an
early/mid 1960s Blue Note record (Herbie or McCoy perhaps). Bassist Phil Rowan takes
the first solo, then Levin. Both navigate the tricky chords and form expertly. The last two
choruses of Levin’s solo are shared with drummer Ben Cliness—Levin plays 12 bars and
Cliness solos over the last ostinato eight. A great example of straight-ahead piano trio
playing, with an effective arrangement.

The album continues with the often-recorded title track, which receives a straight,
walking-ballad treatment. Perhaps it is the aforementioned state of New York jazz that
makes this approach sound so refreshing to me? Swing, taste, dynamics, and
understatement go a long way, especially on such an expertly composed piece.
“The Jetsetters” is another Levin original, with an elongated AABA form. The
bridge is delightfully unpredictable. Again, the track is swinging and understated. Cliness
switches to sticks at the perfect time—halfway through Levin’s first solo chorus. The
pianist takes the tune out at the bridge; Cliness goes back to brushes for the last A.
Another simple, effective arrangement.

It is a testament to both Levin’s confidence and the durability of the material that
he is able to tackle a standard-standard like “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” and do it
justice. Levin’s touch on this track brings Ahmad Jamal to mind, but in contrast to the
breakneck tempo this tune receives on Jamal’s seminal 1958 album Live at the Pershing:
But Not for Me, Levin opts for slow swing.

“Blues for Wynton Kelly” is Levin’s tribute to the great pianist—accompanist to
Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, and countless others. It is a 16-bar minor blues, with
some chord substitutions and simple hits on the head. Levin’s “At Least We’re Together”
brings to mind both Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” and Rodgers and Hart’s
“Manhattan.” Levin’s touch on this track is particularly appealing.

Irving Berlin is next in line for the Levin Trio treatment. “The Best Thing For
You Is Me” is another tune associated with Ahmad Jamal; Levin takes it at a similar
medium-up swing tempo. We hear from everyone on this track, as Phil Rowan follows
the piano solo and Cliness alternates a chorus of eights with Levin.

Levin’s “Strolling Through Yonkers” is a bass feature of sorts, as Rowan plays
the melody on the first two A-sections and receives the first solo spot. Cliness switches to
sticks for the piano solo—the dynamic effect is similar to “The Jetsetters.” It’s hard not to
smile as the drumstick starts to hit the rim of the snare on beat four during Levin’s second
chorus!

Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” is played straight, save for a
simple ostinato on the A-sections. The disc concludes with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s
“I’ve Told Every Little Star,” a standard that I can’t help but associate with David
Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Thankfully, Levin’s treatment of the song is swinging,
sophisticated, and devoid of any sinister undertones (unless you count his quote of the
Jeopardy theme)!

And there you have it. A refreshing disc—Levin, Rowan, and Cliness treat the
material with respect by presenting these expertly composed tunes without any of the
precious bells and whistles that often suffocate modern renditions of jazz standards. On A
Sunday Kind of Love, 1950s classic jazz swing is king, and we’re all the better for it. I’m
grateful to the three of them for their courage. Straight, no chaser, as they say. Down the
hatch!

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Reviews


to write a review

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
Let me say up-front (before anyone else does!) that I don’t consider myself an authority on jazz, but I listen to and review a lot of music from a variety of genres (mostly piano-based) and I know what I like. With that disclaimer out of the way, I will say without hesitation that I LOVE The Alex Levin Trio’s "A Sunday Kind of Love"!!! Why? Well, the music is smooth (without falling into the “smooth jazz” category), sometimes sultry and sometimes energetic, sounds effortless and yet it reveals more of itself each time you listen to it. A collection of ten original compositions and cover arrangements, this is feel-good music that is relaxing despite making your head bob and your toes tap. "A Sunday Kind of Love" is The Alex Levin Trio’s fifth album.

The Trio consists of Alex Levin on piano, Phil Rowan on bass, and Ben Cliness on drums and percussion. Referring to their music as “elegant New York City jazz piano,” the three musicians make music together seamlessly. The piano is usually in the lead on most tracks, but all three artists are obviously masters of their instruments with each bringing a unique and essential voice to the music.

Levin has been performing jazz in NYC for more than a decade. A Philadelphia native, he studied at The New School Jazz Program in the 90's before graduating from Brown University and moving to Berlin. He performed throughout Europe with his quartet before returning to New York City in 2001 and quickly established himself as an in-demand solo pianist and bandleader.

"A Sunday Kind of Love" begins with “Sweets,” a Levin original. Lively, energetic and rhythmically complex, all three musicians have a chance to shine in this one. The title tune goes back to the mid-1940’s and has been recorded by many artists. This version has a slow swing rhythm that is easy to get lost in - a favorite! “The Jetsetters” is a second Levin original. Light and breezy, Cliness’ use of brushes on the drums takes the sound back to a simpler time several decades ago. Complex but very accessible, it’s another favorite. “Surrey With a Fringe On Top” was a surprise, but a very pleasant one! Slower that you usually hear it, the easy-going tempo and gentle swing are warm and infectious. “Blues for Wynton Kelly,” a slow minor-key blues piece with a strong groove, is Levin’s tribute to the American pianist who died in 1971 at the age of 40. Levin’s “At Least We’re Together” is a slow, sultry ballad propelled by the strong bass and brushes on the the snare drums. “Strolling Through Yonkers,” another Levin original, has a relaxed but purposeful feeling - like a brisk walk around a familiar neighborhood. Phil Rowan takes the lead in several sections with the piano in a more supporting role. The album closes with Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “I’ve Told Every Little Star” which features the surprise inclusion of part of the “Jeopardy” theme in the middle. Sure to bring a smile!

"A Sunday Kind of Love" is very highly recommended!
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