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The Nick Levinovsky Big Band: Listen Up!

Jack Bowers By

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Pianist Nikolay (Nick) Levinovsky came to the U.S. from Russia nearly a decade ago to seek fame and fortune, but wound up leading a Jazz big band instead (only kidding, Nick!). Listen Up! is the band’s debut recording, and if it doesn’t cause one to listen up, there’s scant hope for big bands anywhere. I don’t know at what conservatory Levinovsky learned Jazz composition, but he must have lingered near the head of the class — he is an outstanding writer and arranger, not to mention Jazz pianist, and his ensemble is as well–endowed as any that one would expect to encounter in the Big Apple. Levinovsky wrote six of the album’s eight songs, and they embody the kind of freshness and vitality that signal the arrival of an important new talent. Like many perceptive composers, Levinovsky often writes with images in mind, and so it is that “Second Wind” expresses the creative energy he felt on arriving in New York in 1990, “Breath of North” mirrors the peacefulness and natural beauty of Maine, the skittish “Last Flight” reminds us that each flight we undertake could be the last one, and the even–tempered tone poem “Farewell to Summer” is a self–explanatory musical landscape brightened by Serge Gurbelo’s eloquent tenor saxophone. “Mysterious Beauty” paints another enchanting musical portrait, whereas the candid title selection is simply a grooving showcase for the band that accentuates robust solos by Levinovsky and trombonist Noah Bless. Vocalist Kathy Jenkins (Mrs. L) is featured on Levinovsky’s stylish arrangements of “My Favorite Things” and the too–seldom–heard “Lazy Afternoon” (from a mid–’50s Broadway musical, The Golden Apple ). The ensemble is abundantly stocked with resourceful soloists including Gurbelo, Bless, alto Chip Burris and trumpeter Andy Gravish (“Second Wind”), alto Bob Parsons and flugel Alex Sypagin (“Breath of North”), tenor Andy Middleton (“Mysterious Beauty,” “Last Flight”), trumpeter Charlie Caranicas (“Mysterious Beauty”), trombonist Deborah Weisz (“Last Flight”) and last but not least, Levinovsky himself who also presides over a high–powered rhythm section (Boris Kozlow, bass; Rudi Petschauer, drums). If this is merely the opening chapter in Levinovsky’s big–band book, I can hardly wait until the second one is inscribed.

Track listing: Second Wind; Breath of North; My Favorite Things; Mysterious Beauty; Listen Up!; Lazy Afternoon; Last Flight; Farewell to Summer (56:25).


Personnel:

Nick Levinovsky, piano, leader; Bob Parsons, alto and soprano sax, flute; Chip Burris, alto sax, flute; Andy Middleton, Serge Gurbelo, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Mitch Frohmann, baritone sax; Mike Ponella, Dave Ballou, Andy Gravish, Charlie Caranicas, trumpet; Alex Sypagin, trumpet, flugelhorn; Noah Bless, Deborah Weisz, Steve Bleifuss, Thomas Sullivan, trombone; Boris Kozlow, bass; Rudi Petschauer, drums; Kathy Jenkins, vocals.

Contact: NLO Productions, 484 W. 43rd St., Suite 10

Title: Listen Up! | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: NLO Records

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