Standards like George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” and Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers’ classic tune “My Heart Stood Still” are garnished with a modern flare in the hands of pianist Alex Levin. Levin’s trio comprising of bassist Michael Bates and drummer Brain Floody grazes the stars of jazz music’s yesteryear on the group’s latest recording New York Portraits, which additionally features two original tracks written by Levin. Pensive and penetrative, New York Portraits is driven by the winds of showtunes style harmonies and swing-inspired melodies. The tracks elevate the spirit with each one displaying Levin’s keen melodic sensibilities and the trio’s ability to fuse their ideas into a striking mix.
The title of the album, New York Portraits, refers to the theme resonating through the recording as Levin puts together a collection of songs that are descriptive to him of New York City including his original contributions, the cushiony gospel tones of “Last Train To Brooklyn” and the jitter-fused swing palpitations of “Blues For Charley.” Levin’s strokes are elegantly hewn and the trio’s interlocking verses exude a sophistication reminiscent of Nat King Cole. The group’s renditions of the Gershwin’s “Isn’t It A Pity?” and Irving Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek” are checklist perfect, and the musicians own improvised add ons like Bates’ whirling arcos in “My Heart Stood Still” and Levin’s wiggling keys glittering along “Who Can I Turn To” produce a sleek ruffling. The somber coloring of “Body And Soul” closes out the album with a vision of the city winding down and its inhabitants having a last dance before turning down the lights.
In many ways, New York Portraits seems like Levin’s dream of what the music played in the swing clubs around New York City during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s must have sounded like. The melodies live in two worlds, the past and the present. The songs are steep in nostalgia in their phrasing but the tones and the improvised lines are purely contemporary. New York Portraits is a vital asset to jazz music’s gallery. It bridges two worlds that are far apart and yet enjoy each other’s company, at least the way Levin’s trio presents it.
Alex Levin - piano, Michael Bates - bass, Brian Floody - drums
My Heart Stood Still, Who Can I Turn To, Last Train To Brooklyn, Cheek To Cheek, I Remember You, I Loves You Porgy, Isn’t It A Pity?, Like Someone In Love, Blues For Charley, Body And Soul
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