Daniel Levin Quartet: Some Trees (2006)
This group sets out a highly individual stall within the market of creative improvised music, not simply through the use of unusual instrumentationand to the extent that even when these musicians tackle compositions by Eric Dolphy, Steve Lacy and Ornette Coleman, they bring to them a refreshing depth of personal interpretation and expression.
Levin's own compositions might also have been written with this group in mind, so strong is their sense of identity. The balance, and indeed the creative tension, between them and the external pieces make for something of a manifesto, the overall effect of which is that of a group eager to acknowledge one strand of the collective musical past at the same time as it ploughs its own furrow.
On the title track, Matt Moran's vibraphone only tangentially evokes the spirit of, say, Walt Dickerson, at the same time as his lines have about them the air of a musician who has found his own voice and the methodology to deploy it effectively. The involvement of two string players (Joe Morris' bass and the leader's cello) most obviously enhances "Sitting On His Hands," where trumpeter Nate Wooley's contribution is measured in terms of the stealth through which it catches the listener's attention.
It might just be, however, that the quartet doesn't quite grasp the full quirkiness of Lacy's "Wickets," and the division between theme statement and improvisation seems just a little forced. Wooley, however, proves tantalising in terms of just what might have been had he ever had the opportunity to serve in one of Lacy's bands.
If any overall criticism can be made of what's on offer here, then it could be said that the music seems a little too self-conscious in places. This does not alter the fact that this is a singular programme of music put across by musicians with a deep commitment to it.
Track Listing: Morning It's For You; Out To Lunch; Some Trees; Sitting On His Hands; Zolowski; Wild Palms; Wickets; Song.
Personnel: Nate Wooley: trumpet; Daniel Levin: cello; Joe Morris: bass. Matt Moran: vibraphone (1-7).