Rob Levit Trio: Uncertain Path

Before settling in Annapolis, Md., Rob Levit spent time in New York playing with top-shelfers like Chris Cheek and Stephan Crump. He is a modern, versatile plectrist who reminds me of Pete McCann, and his trio disc Uncertain Path (Symbol System), with bassist Amy Shook and drummer Frank Russo, is a solid summary of his talents as an improviser and composer. The covers of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” are unexciting, but “Footprints” is much better-a chance for Levit to go crazy with his harmonizer, as he also does on “M-Dive.” Even Levit’s folky acoustic numbers (“Safe Returns,” “The Undoing”) have complex layers, and the hints of dark, Shorter-esque harmony in “After You” and “Ballad #3” are a balm. Telltale Metheny-isms creep into Levit’s playing when he picks up the pace, as on “Moving Closer,” but tone-wise he’s arrived at something quite individual.

Levit’s double-disc Anatomy of Ecstasy (Symbol System) is another beast entirely-an electronica sequence inspired by visual art. He drew upon his instincts as a painter and “visualized” the sounds he sought to create. (Levit does his own album art and has other work on display at roblevit.com.) The result is a hip, highly listenable blend of drum ‘n’ bass, “blip-hop” and ambient noise. There doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between the two discs, which are equally good. Levit lists a Heritage electric guitar in the detailed equipment list, but nothing is so easily identifiable on Anatomy of Ecstasy. The background whooshes, scratchy improvised lines and subdued drum ‘n’ bass beat of “Gauntlet” typify the concept at its best.