Some live jazz albums transport the listener. If you shut your eyes, you can picture the dim lights of the candles on the tables, the clinking sound of ice cubes falling into glass tumblers... you might even find yourself looking around for someone to take your drink order. One Night at The Kitano makes you feel like you are out at the midtown jazz spot.
Joined by Bill Mays on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Billy Drummond on drums, saxophonist Jed Levy delivers one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. It's also accessible, straight-ahead music that everyone can enjoy. Novice listeners will say "now, that's jazz I'd pay to see live."
That's not to say that it won't appeal to seasoned jazz veterans. Musical complexity and inventiveness abound, especially on the Levy original "Reversible You," which (as the title suggests) applies some structural adjustments to a familiar standard to superb effect. The set consists of six Levy compositions, as well as one standard: a ten-minute rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," with the leader and Mays at their most inspired.
The disc's opening number, "A Great Week," pays tribute to an engagement Levy once played with the late John Hicks. The loving homage offers a lively, up-tempo celebration of the pianist's legacy, with excellent support from Mays.
The rest of the program features a number of mid-tempo swingers that afford plenty of solo time for the featured players. Levy's tenor doesn't recall the gruff aggressiveness of a Dexter Gordon or a Ben Webster, being more akin to that of Stan Getz. He's able to navigate the high register and achieve a mellow, romantic tone that, at times, makes you think he's switched over to alto.
A Great Week; Fallen Eagle; Reversible You; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Limited Means; Match Point; Blues Excerpt.
Billy Drummond: drums;
Jed Levy: tenor sax;
Bill Mays: piano;
Ugonna Okegwo: bass.