Contrasts flavor life. Growing shadows creeping across an expansive lawn add drama, slowly and deliberately, like a long note played deeply against the strings of a cello. Raindrops pound dry asphalt in summer, peaking the human senses like rapid spurts of a cornet against the heavy pulse of a bass.
The Daniel Levin Quartet's Don't Go It Alone
mirrors nature's abstract reactions and transforms them into music. By combining cello (Levin), cornet (Dave Ballou), vibraphone (Matt Moran), and bass (Joe Morris), the group creates textures that reflect the idiosyncrasies of life.
Highlighting the merits of collectivity, Levin's compositions often pair instruments. They then spotlight solitude's vulnerability by dabbing a fragile solo with spouts of uncommon sounds from the other instruments. 'In Parts' opens with Levin and Morris' dueling bows. The cello slices through the deep, plundering bass. In 'Non-Sense,' the cornet and cello embark on the same phrase, beautifully together, then breaking apart, falling out of step with each other, until they come to disagree completely before collapsing into spasms.
Moran's vibraphone adds a supernatural effect to the album, creating an atmosphere that conveys the fourth dimension. His notes pop and echo against the gloomy, mysterious, low tones of the cornet and cello. When he bows the bars, like in the opening track 'Unfortunate Situation,' the sound shimmers with twisted sustain.
All players converge in 'Underground.' Their cadence resembles a storyteller, a reference to the album title perhaps, suggesting that it takes more than one to relay a true message.
The second to last track, 'Fleeting,' gets lost in post-improvisational exhaustion, as the players balance time between breath and sound. But the pace picks up for the last tune 'Bronx No. 2,' Morris resuming his marathon down the bass neck. Levin, who apparently doesn't want the session to end, takes his frustration out on his cello by running his bow the wrong way, and banging his strings. Ballou seems to have contracted autism, with the incessant chatter on the horn.
While the growing shadows and dampening streets request nary a nod, Levin, with his debut recording as a leader, reminds us that moments often missed in the passage of time deserve some contemplation.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Track Listing: Unfortunate Situation; Underground; 17th Street; In Parts; Interlude; Non-Sense; Sad Song;
Nervous; Fleeting; Bronx, No. 2.
Personnel: Dave Ballou: cornet;
Joe Morris: bass;
Matt Moran: vibraphone;
Daniel Levin: cello.