A proponent of the more relaxing side of the jazz spectrum, pianist and keyboardist Mike Levine presents his fourth album as leader, offering thirteen primarily original pieces falling decidedly within the smooth jazz category. A talented composer, Levine's music seems to eschew the core jazz tenet of improvisation in favor of catchy melodies perfect for those chilling-out moments that overwhelm us all sooner or later.
A first-call musician by anyone's count, Levine draws on his vast experience performing in various genres and in many formats from trios to big band in designing this special album. A well-established artist in Miami and the south Florida area, he calls on thirty musicians, playing in different formats, to complete this effort. From flautist Nestor Torres, and saxophonist Andy Snitzer to altoist Ed Calle as well as guitarists Steve Oliver and Randy Bernsen, among them. In reaching out to friends, including several musicians from the talent-rich Miami jazz scene, Levine assembles an impressive cast.
Opening up with the apropriately titled "Let's Do This," Levine and band do just that on a lively, percussive chart featuring Snitzer, whose exquisite solo moments slide right into the second piece, "Gliding," where guitarist Oliver takes over the tune with his light string work on a charming chart. The pianist's melodic lines come shining through. Paying tribute to the city he has called home for a long time, Levine plays joyfully and humbly on his own "Miami," accompanied well by the great Nestor Torres.
Definitely a shoulder-moving number, the title track is one of the keepers of the set featuring the leader on keyboards. Other like tunes include "I Found You," "Summer" and "Star Gazing," featuring a vocal duet from LeNard Rutledge and Wendy Petersen.
The doctor is in the house when Dr. Ed Calle lends his high-pitch alto saxophone on the rousing "Soul Gumbo." Levine provides a delicate touch on Lennon-McCartney's "Eleanor Rigby" with fusion guitarist Aaron Lebos powering the track with his rock-styled riffs.
The relaxing tunes wind down the set on the stellar "Simple Samba" and "Nice and Easy," and closes with "On Ramp," bringing one marvelous session to a smooth ending. But not for long: Mike Levine's Just Chillin is one of those albums that creates a distinct musical appetite which only repeated spins can satisfy.
Let's Do It; Gliding; Reflection; Miami; Just Chillin; I Found You; Summer; Soul Gumbo; Eleanor Rigby; Star Gazing; Simple
Samba; Nice and Easy; On Ramp.