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In Chauncey Street Brooklyn-based trumpeter/educator, Josh Levinson and his sextet return to the tight camaraderie, inventive soloing and captivating themes that characterized the Blue Note sound of the 1950s and '60s.
That Levinson is greatly influenced by Freddie Hubbard is evident throughout, the record even containing the intricate and memorable "For Freddie." On this and other hard bop tracks like the nostalgic" "F-It," Levinson's muscular staccato and gritty intonation are an homage to Hubbard rather than slavish mimicry. He is very much his own man, especially when he is in the spotlight on the modal "Without a Struggle," where his lengthy, sometimes hesitant and often bold improvisation is one of the highlights of the session.
The piece also showcases band mate Noah Bless' extreme agility on the trombone and the great facility by which he navigates the winding paths of this complex original. Bless is in excellent form throughout as he glides in an out of the melody on the loosely swinging "10, 9 ,8, 7" weaving richly colored harmonies.
Bless and Levinson are well-matched on the frontline with saxophonist Kenny Shanker, whose deep and organic tenor is featured on the serene ballad "Rain" that closes with a twist; an instrumental group dance, led by Shanker.
"Rain" also highlights Jeb Patton's classically tinged piano, while "Wired" showcases his percussive approach to the keys, peppered with Afro-Cuban hints. Patton brings angularity to his electrifying performance on the funky "Heat," flirting with free jazz on a tune whose swagger is characteristic of Blaxploitation film soundtracks.
Bassist Peter Brendler and drummer Brian Fishler make up the dynamic and versatile rhythm section. The bassist's pizzicato solo, reminiscent of a guitar, enhances the Spanish feel of "Avishai," which also features Shanker's serpentine and circular soprano sax and Latin style of brass blowing over percussive beats.
Last but not the least, Mike Eckroth fills the piano chair for the bop-ish "180 Degrees," bringing a heavier almost harpsichord-like accent to the closing minutes of this highly engaging and enjoyable, albeit not groundbreaking, album.
Chauncey Street; F' It; Wired; Without Struggle; Rain; Heat; 10, 9, 8, 7...; Avishai; My Blues; For Freddie; 180 Degrees.
Josh Levinson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brian Fishler: drums; Jeb Patton: piano; Mike Eckroth: piano (11); Peter Brendler: bass; Kenny Shanker: tenor and soprano saxophone; Noah Bless: trombone.