Pete Levin has been around performing and recording music along as a sought-after musician by recording both in the Jazz and Pop world from Paul Simon, The Brubeck Brothers, Jaco Pastorius, Charles Mingus, Annie Lennox, Judy Collins, and the late great Miles Davis. This year, he’s released his ninth studio album entitled, Möbius. The album was recorded live in the studio for two days as Pete captures the spirit and essence of Gil Evans.
Now I first became aware of Pete Levin after he and his younger brother Tony did the Levin Brothers album which was released three years ago on the Lazy Bones Recordings label and I was completely blown away how much the two brothers work well together not just as band members, but as a family by working one-on-one. Now with Möbius, Pete wrote eight original compositions and there are two covers which include one by Thelonious Monk and Tony Williams.
Not only Pete and Tony Levin are on the album, but it’s almost the who’s who that are on the album. You have guitarists Jeff Ciampa an Kal David (John Mayall), drummers Lenny White (Chick Corea) and Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, and Security Project), Erik Lawrence on Baritone Sax, Alex Foster on Tenor & Sorpano Sax, and Chris Pasin on Trumpet to name a few.
What Pete does on here, is to take his keyboards into unbelievable territories. Levin’s music is like walking on a different triangular section of the Rubik’s cube and it’s almost a trip to see where he, Tony and his band members go into those various sections of the doors that are ready to be opened with six highlights on here that are enduring and mind-blowing.
The opener, Promises begins with the Electric Piano going into a stereophonic mode going left and right then getting into the styles of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters-era meets Steely Dan’s Aja-era. The horn and sax section go into a workout mode plus some funk-rock rhythm guitars while Tony Levin channels a different perspective of the riff on Chameleon.
Pete then goes into the Rhodes city laying down some improvisational sun rising textures that makes it an excellent piece to start things off. Before the take of Monk’s I Mean You, Pete wishes Thelonious a happy 100th birthday and gives him his regard and saying “Hi!” to Gil for him. There is this walking dance mid-beat tempo between the Clavinet and the Electric Keyboard before the Horns and Guitar do a melody that rises up and down.
Tony then walks fast as the sax’s do a solo improvisation to give Monk the appreciation he deserves. When you listen to I’m Falling, at first you think it sounds like a film score that this almost a nod to the golden-era of the 1970s Blaxploitation films as you can imagine Richard “Shaft” Roundtree walking into the next building and following the crime scene for the next batch of clues which he would consider his last case before retiring.
But then, the mood changes into a lukewarm evening for the sax going into a pin-drop momentum as Pasin’s trumpet sets the blare by giving a Miles-sque surrounding in the nighttime sky before dawn approaches. Then, the 10-minute title track starts with the synth notes going up and down the stairs.
Tony brings his upright bass and gives Pete a helping hand. The Rhodes, Sax, and Trumpet along with the guitars going into some essence of Allan Holdsworth and Richard Pinhas’ exercise. Instruments do a thunderous roar as they take part in the melody before Percussionist Nanny Assis creates this intense/dramatic duel between him and the drummers.
While Pete and the band members rise up, up, and up before the guitar does a little bit of feedback, Tony comes into play through the strings and go around, under, and in. The last few seconds come to a dooming end from the synth and it hits a “BLLAARP!” note. Their tribute to Tony Williams with his cover of There Comes a Time, Pete goes back into the driver’s seat of the electric piano and works out more of his magical moments to give a nod up to Tony Williams up in heaven.
I imagine there’s more walking alleyways that Pete gives the band heading into those halls for another adventure with a bluesy twist. But it’s the guitar and Tony’s bass sharing the same alleyway near the last two minutes on the melody share structure as it ends with him and Pete closing shop. But it’s Way Down Yonder where Pete brings everybody into a circle.
Everyone gets ready to drive down into the highway one last time to drive off into the sunset as they are back in 1972 of Herbie Hancock's golden-era, but with an interesting twist of the harmonica and jaw harp style done by Rob Paparozzi. Pete heads into the Organ and plays some Blues/Soul style on the instrument as if the recording was done inside a church and laying down the gospel.
Pasin meanwhile goes into a plunger trumpet mode and bringing to mind of the late ‘30s style of swing at the end. Not only it’s a closing number, but it shows that Pete and his teammates are having a whole lot of fun. While as I’ve mentioned this album was recorded in only two days, Möbius is not only Pete Levin’s finest, but he brings the entire house down.
It is a well solid release that made my ears go up of how much accomplishment this is on as they jammed, relaxed, and creating wonders to see what Pete Levin will think of next.