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The Levitts: We Are The Levitts (2008)

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Although they may never have been the "first family of popular music," the Levitts family played music that echoed various forms and spoke a multitude of idioms and phrases that brought the psychedelic 60s to life. This record, We are the Levitts, is a remarkable document of their unique voices that brings to life a musical expedition through swing and modal music as well as bold excursions into the realm of popular song, standards and Brazilian rhythms. Despite the variety of the fare on this seminal recording, this is far from being an "everything to everybody" record. There was a lot of that kind of radio-friendly music that came out of such popular music from that era, but not on this record.

The Levitts were serious contributors to music. Al Levitt, the drummer on this date was a first-call sessions percussionist with various East and West coast musicians, notably Lee Konitz. His cool melodic approach to rhythm is one of the highlights of this record, especially on "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most." And the two Brazilian pieces on the date—"Primavera" and "O Amor em Paz"—show him capable of switching from straight ahead to what must have then been quite the changeover into more challenging Brazilian music. Stella Levitts also sang with Woody Herman and echoes the cool of Cass Elliott, but swings a little harder. Their son, the 13-year-old Sean, though not a virtuoso guitarist, as some of the older axe men of the day were, plays with a great deal of sensitivity on two tracks; his solo on "Candy" shows him to be one of the better voices of the day.

The signature, very hip date for its time, is livened up by the presence of pianist Chick Corea, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and bassist Teddy Kotick. And that makes this 60s session one by a band that may not have survived, but certainly lives on as one of the seminal groups of an era when jazz and popular culture collided all too briefly.

Track Listing: The Saints Off My City Are Children; Notes So High; Fun City; Then Was Then; Springtime (Primavera); Candy; Once I Had a Little Duck; Departed Hymn; Amor Em Paz; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; We're All Through (Theme Song).

Personnel: Al Levitt: drums (1-6, 8-10); Stella Levitt: vocals; Minou Levitt: vocals; Michelle Levitt: vocals; Teresa Levitt: vocals; Robin Levitt: announcement (8); George Levitt: recitation (8), tambourine (3); Sean Levitt: guitar (3, 6); Don Hellar: vocals (10); Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone (2, 11); Eddie Shu: harmonica (3, 5); Bob Leeman: piano (1, 3, 4), piano and arrangements (10), organ (6); Chick Corea: piano (2, 5, 8, 9, 11), cowbell (2, 10); Larry Provost: guitar (6), bells (8); Evangeline Steinbock: cello (1, 10); Teddy Kotick: bass (1-5, 8-10); Pete Yellin: alto saxophone (2), flute (5, 9); Lou Ormsteen: flute (8).

Record Label: ESP Disk

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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