Mark Levine’s straight-ahead piano trio adds conguero Michael Shapiro for a Latin tinge. Yes, the quartet’s name comes from Jelly Roll Morton’s historical comment that our earliest jazz included elements from Central and South American cultures. After all, the geography of New Orleans aided in the mixing of many cultures.
So Latin tinge it is. And it’s as obvious here as it is in most jazz circles. Take out the congas and there’s still a Latin beat. Levine includes in his arrangements rumba, chá chá chá, danzón, timba, songo, mambo and straight-ahead elements. Audio samples for "Airegin," "My One and Only Love" and "You and the Night and the Music" are available at the pianist’s web site .
As a piano-led ensemble, the unit features lovely piano counterpoint throughout. Levine’s technique is not choppy and percussive, but instead relies on a fluid, lyrical approach. Even his montunos lay back and avoid the fire these dance steps sometimes demand. Everyone solos, and the session remains smooth but creative. On "You and the Night" and "Without a Song," for example, the pianist adds a few unexpected keyboard figures as an added thought. Levine’s session is creative, acoustic music from the mainstream, and his Latin tinge assists in spicing up the performance.
Personnel: Mark Levine- piano; Peter Barshay- bass; Paul Van Wageningen- drums; Michael Spiro- congas, shakers, guiro, wood block, cowbell.