Chances are Grant Levin is not a name you will immediately recognize. A Northern California pianist, Grant attended the Jazz Studies program at the University of Nevada at Reno. The Bust
is his inaugural effort in the form of a traditional piano trio. Along for the ride are drummer Rufus Haereiti and bassist Hans Halt, a faculty member in the music department at UNR. Just 22 when this recording was made, Grant definitely adds his name to the growing list of talented young players on the scene today.
Four of the compositions featured are Levin's, with one from Halt. It is refreshing that such a young player chose the Joey Calderazzo tune "Midnight Voyage. Calderazzo has been around for a while yet deserves wider recognition beyond the New York scene. Levin includes "Windows, a wonderful 6/8 piece from Chick Corea that has become a welcome new standard in the jazz repertoire. Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge shows more of Levin's respect and joy in visiting songs from the masters. Rounding out the set are three Charlie Parker tunes.
Take particular notice of Levin's reading of the opener "Segment. The piano voicing is quite inventive and captures the nimble, bouncy feel of Parker's vision. Also of note is a very quick reading of Pat Metheny's "Ubiquity Road, from Metheny's incredible first album, Bright Size Life. By including this on his own initial album, Levin gives us a sign that he is paying attention. One hopes that more young players will continue in this vein.
Choice of meters favor patterns in 3 and 4, while tempos chosen are appropriate and varied enough to keep things interesting. The group exhibits a relaxed swinging feel all the way through. What becomes quickly apparent is Levin's fluid technique. His understanding of the changes and choice of notes show a growing maturity displayed with youthful exuberance. Haereiti is nothing if not solid, staying firmly in a tastefully supportive role. Halt's playing may be the real surprise, showing ample signs of veteran understanding. For example, listen to the expressive bowed introduction on the set's only ballad, "Six Million. For further evidence, check out his intelligent and precise solo on the beautiful "Brazilian Dreams. All of his playing reveals similar attributes, not the least of which is excellent intonation, always a challenge on acoustic bass.
The recording quality is another unexpected pleasure, coming from Imarage Sound Labs in Reno. Engineer Tom Gordon did some fine work, and Rafe Bradford of Silk Mastering completed the picture. Further mention need be given to David Seyboldt of Beezwax Records. This small company differentiates itself from the big boys with careful attention to details. Packaging is unique and personally configured for the customer. The approach Seyboldt uses towards customers is certainly uncommon.
The Bust is recommended to listeners who prefer straight-ahead, contemporary playing that is nicely recorded.