Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge


Left Coast Clave Records, LCC003

Mark Levine, pianist; Harvey Wainapel, clarinet & soprano saxophone; Sheila Smith, vocalist; Peter Barshay, acoustic bass; Michael Spiro, percussion; Paul van Wageningen, drums.

Left Coast Clave's latest CD provides further evidence of this San Francisco Bay Area ensemble's depth and breadth. Music by Cedar Walton, Duke Pearson, and other composers isn't so much re-constructed as it is meaningfully expanded upon, to the benefit of the listener.

Central to this aesthetic is the notion of a two-beat pulse, which brings drum and percussion instruments on equal footing with the piano. In this regard, Levine's connection with Thelonious Monk's pulse-driven music is apparent. Isla isn't a competition between virtuoso pianist and rhythm section; it has more to do with contrasting levels of dialogue with percussion instruments, including the piano; witness the polyrhythmic inventions on the standard, "Tea for Two".

Levine's example speaks powerfully to a core value in improvised music. Jazz as collaboration--where each member of an ensemble contributes to the unit-is a view that isn't necessarily shared by other groups in this region.

Highly recommended.

by James D. Armstrong, Jr.

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