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Rob Levit: Uncertain Path & Anatomy of Ecstasy

David Rickert By

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Rob Levit
Uncertain Path
Symbol System Records
2004

Many musicians who explore a wide variety of musical styles are unable to combine them into a coherent whole. Not Rob Levit though, a guitarist who is able to seamlessly blend all sorts of influences from blues to funk to heavy metal into a coherent whole. Thus Uncertain Path is an ironic title for an album that is so focused.

Levit contributes most of the compositions and shows a knack for creating memorable melodies that bear a strong resemblance to the work of Pat Metheny in structure in tone. However, Levit isn't afraid to throw in a stray country or metal lick as long as it suits the music. But the real gift of Levit is his keen sense of composition. Where lesser musicians would create a head and then run the changes, Levit's songs unfold, suite-like, through several themes, all of which he explored with fluid, tasteful improvisation.

Levit takes us on quite a journey, passing through the skittery funk and acid washes of "M-Dive" to the pastoral beauty of "Safe Returns," bringing an arsenal of guitar effects that demonstrate Levit's sensitivity to tone and aural shading. Levit also tackles others' songs as well, and well no one really needs another version of "Fields of Gold," he redeems the Muzak- like treatment with a hauntingly exotic solo at the end. Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," normally a ballad, is cranked up a notch with a funky backbeat.

On Uncertain Paths Levit avoids the traps that many guitarists can fall into; namely, flashy solos and a surplus of electronic gimmickry. He's a musician first, and chooses his approach from a compositional standpoint rather than what he can effectively solo over. Levit also gets great support from his rhythm section, Amy Shook on bass and Frank Russo on drums, who are very sympathetic to his playing and respond as a unit rather than as mere backup. This group has clearly spent many gigs together.

Rob Levit
Anatomy of Ecstasy
Symbol System Records
2004

Another new Levit release, Anatomy of Ecstasy , is a completely different ballgame. It's subtitled "Electronic Soundscapes," and Levit uses his computer and guitar to create digitized pastiches that, in his words, "explore the relationship between sound and the visual arts." Call it electronica, or trance, or whatever you want, it is clearly a different artistic pursuit than Uncertain Paths. As far as this type of thing goes, it's decent enough. Judged by what he set out to do, Levit accomplishes his goal, as these "soundscapes" run through a variety of emotions and textures and never sound as cold and sterile as some other electronic music. But two discs' worth? One might have been enough to satisfy Levit's desire to explore this direction.

Both CDs are available at www.roblevit.com .


Uncertain Path
Personnel: Rob Levit - guitars; Amy Shook - bass; Frank Russo - drums and percussion.
Track listing: 1. Singularity 2. Field of Gold 3. Uncertain Path 4. After You (for Elaine) 5. M-Dive 6. Safe Returns (in Memoriam 9/11) 7. Sophia/Solace 8. Daily Grind Blues 9. Ballad #3 10. The Undoing (for Jaya) 11. Moving Closer 12. Waiting In Vain 13. Footprints.

Anatomy of Ecstasy
Personnel: Rob Levit.
Track Listing: Disk 1: Anatomy Of Ecstacy; Charnel Grounds; Crushed; Optix; Prayer To End Suffering; Gauntlet; Voices; Era Of Praise; Flight Ascent Ode; Lofoten; The Truth Is Not Permitted; The Circle; Enter Evening; Light On Bay Ridge (For Lew Cronin); Celebration; Unseen Shore; Conduit:Light; Conscious Arising (Deeper). Disk 2: Light; Slab; Tongues; Open Sky; Invasive; Shattered Love; Tronix; Window Of Chance; Golgotha; Elaboration; Beat Prophecy; Delta Sleep; Burst; Silent Offering; Chuu; Cross-village Communication; Conception; I Dance In Your Light; The Aquisition Of Things; Pre-dusk Light; Dawn Unfolds; Step Into The Light.


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