Levin / Hill / Allen 5et: Opportunities & Advantages (2003)
Here’s a band ripe with triangulating affiliations. Levin jointly fronts a quartet with Hill (two CIMP dates under their belt). Hill served with Allen in the Sun Ra Arkestra and they have likewise done shared space in the Spirit Room on previous CIMP date. Levin and Allen share (along with Hill) the common language of post-Ornette jazz and a Philly-centric base of operations. Together these three represent the manner in which creative improvised music fosters continuous collaboration. The very nature of its freedoms makes it easy for players to connect, reconnect by way of musical relationships. Building on their previous bodies of work for CIMP, this fresh set of music pilots a coastline closer to post-bop shores.
Book ending the set with second-line infused rhythms of Hill’s “March on Cumberland Street” the band begins after a brisk count-off from the composer. Cooper’s plush bass line grounds the groove and the horns riff ebulliently above before Allen sets down with a fluttering intervallic exposition. Hill picks up the ball next, muscling his slide and spouting out a string of lubricious lines. Levin’s soprano solo is pocked by delicious nasal trills and dive-bombing asides. A tension building drum break from Watkins presages a tight return to the staccato theme. Everything is beautifully captured by engineer Marc Rusch’s microphones.
Levin’s “To See You Again” uses the simple materials of a diminished scalar line as a springboard for solos and collective improvisation, but ends up with a sum sounding less than its individual parts. “Trio Number One” dispenses with rhythm section and fares better. Allen’s clarinet weaves with soprano and trombone in a chamber jazz reverie of twining legato tones that is soon broken by pitch bending pyrotechnics. “Space Station” brings home the Arkestral influences with a big, boisterous orchestral sound belying the band’s quintet size.
Watkins gets compositional credit for “Gruff,” a terse and unruly fragment that doesn’t seem sure whether it's coming or going, but structure returns in Levin’s “High Society Hill Street Blues.” Essentially a riff-driven groover, the piece lurches along as a loose vehicle for solos with Levin’s tenor stepping up for an early scene-stealing statement. Hill sidles along with rambunctious counterpoint before segueing into his own strafing sortie. But it’s Allen’s feathery alto phrases that ultimately seal the deal on the track through an accapella section of concentrated beauty. On the Ellington-tinged “Tone” the saxophonist reaches back into early jazz annals and the piece that again conjures the illusion of an ensemble far larger than its five participants. Levin’s “Day of Blowing” sounds less surefooted compositionally, but a blistering tenor solo by the composer early on sets precedence for the spirited blowing to follow.
Levin, Hill and Allen are but three members of the CIMP extended family. With a catalog edging ever closer to 200 titles, the label continues to exist as a supportive haven for ensembles both old and new. Based on this latest entry, these particular three and their rhythm partners are far from finished with having fresh things to say.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: March on Cumberland Street, take 2/ To See You Again/ See Minor Run/ Trio Number One/ Space Station/ Gruff/ High Society Hill Street Blues/ On in Onondaga/ Tone/ Day of Blowing/ March on Cumberland Street, take 1.
Personnel: Elliott Levin- tenor & curved soprano saxophones; flute; Marshall Allen- clarinet, alto saxophone; Tyrone Hill- trombone; Howard Cooper- bass; Ed Watkins- drums. Recorded: September 24 & 25, 2002, Rossie, NY.