Some players seem to enjoy the adventure of not knowing with whom they are going to play with next, while others would rather develop the interpersonal communication that can only come with time. Since jazz is, at its core, an improvisational art, playing in the moment is the ideal, with different kinds of music requiring different musical reflexes.
Jed Levy, as demonstrated on the most attractive Gateway, lives in the mainstream world, but one that is filled with unexpected twists and turns while bringing together musicians who had never played together as a quartet. However, the interpersonal chemistry which one might think would be lacking is more than balanced by the extremely high level of musicianship present at the session.
What is clear from the music is that these players really listen to each other and are so quick of musical thought that they have more than enough time to negotiate the detours in the road while reacting to what is happening around them.
Levy's tunes cannot be called adventurous, but neither are they totally predictable. Odd phrase lengths abound, as do changes in meter, but they never sound overtly shocking for their own sake. In the notes, Levy actually speaks of his compositions as representing the natural outcome of what he is hearing at the moment and not any artificial constructs.
As the tunes of Gateway each flow by, the record's pacing moves from the up tunes through ballads and back. Jazz that has that warm comfort level, which comes from recognizable structures, exists simultaneously with the excitement of players who are so facile that they can play around within Levy's music.
This facility comes at a price however, since everyone makes it sound so easy. Someone who looks to jazz for the shock of the new or who wants to listen in the moment as the players play in that moment will not find it here.
But, then again, that is not what Gateway is about, which is simply to present good music and to play it honestly and directly.
Life of Riley; Irony; Gateway; Lost April; Positivity; Chorale; How Am I To Know; Afterthought Blues; Carillon.
Jed Levy: tenor saxophone; George Colligan: piano; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.
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