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Mark Feldman's Level 5: The Sybil EP

Doug Collette By

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Jazz-rock fusion may have peaked in popularity back in the 1970s, but it has remained an integral sub-set of jazz ever since. That said, those traits that undermined its force back then—fake funk and over-emphasis on technique—have remained so pervasive within the hybrid that truly distinctive entries in the genre are few and far between. The Sybil EP by Mark Feldman's Level 5, however, is one of those rare and welcome exceptions.

Guitarist Oz Noy composed each of three tunes, so he might well deserve co-billing on this truncated outing. But given his collaborative nature, well-established over the course of twenty-some years doing sessions for others and releasing his own records, it only stands to reason he would stand back and let his contributions speak on his behalf. On this title track, for instance, he dominates through the explosive power of chord flourishes he offers in the midst of moving fluently back and forth between the syncopated rhythms of drummer Feldman and bassist nonpareil Will Lee (The CBS Orchestra, the Fab Faux). All the while, the composer's instrument remains locked in with Adam Klipple's keyboards.

The roughly twenty-minutes of playing time of this EP might not seem sufficient duration to fully illustrate this quartet's skills. But under Feldman's tutelage—with such panache all around—the group covers plenty of ground in the course of these six-to-seven minute cuts. In so doing, Level 5 whet the appetite for more, either from the studio or the stage, even as an aptly-named performance like "Swagger" sounds full and complete unto itself. And, given how the leader so nonchalantly interacts with his bandmates, his self-professed admiration for Jeff Beck's landmark albums, Blow by Blow (Epic, 1975) and Wired (Epic, 1976), is hardly a surprise.

These recordings were made at a number of studios, home and otherwise, so it's to the credit of engineers Drew Guido (recording and mixing) and Tom Hutten (mastering) that The Sybil EP sounds fully detailed across the stereo spectrum, from start to finish. Right down to the nuances of the cymbal work on the final cut (named like the others by Mark Feldman himself). "Jabber Jaw" radiates a playful quality that, to a greater or lesser extent, permeates all the musicianship on this record.

Track Listing: Sybil; Swagger; Jabber Jaw.

Personnel: Oz Noy: guitar; Will Lee: bass; Adam Klipple: keyboards; Mark Feldman: drums.

Title: The Sybil EP | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Mutant Cat

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