February-25th-2004, 10:25 PM
Reevaluating @ 500k
I wasn't really familiar with this guy. He sat in tonight at Tonic with The Jacob Fred jazz Odyssey (I was the oldest person in the audience--I think they have a jam band/MMW type following, but they're very different, IMO). This guy really blew me away, on tenor and flute (one of the strongest flute sounds I've ever heard). He looked familiar, and I'm pretty sure he was in the Cecil Taylor Sound VIsion Orchestra thing I caught a couple of years ago.
Who's familiar with him?
I reproduce Eugene Chadbourne's AMG bio:
If one was to believe descriptive snippets, the thing to do when Elliot Levin approaches is find a place to hide. In a worse case scenario, try to climb a tree—at least, that is the advice hikers would receive about the oncoming approach of something "ferocious...frenzied...bearlike." However, the comparison with bears is based on the size and appearance of the Philadelphia performer, while the other adjectives are filling one of their more esoteric purposes in the English language, attempting to describe just what it is free jazz performers do when they blow into their horns. Whatever it is, Levin does alot of it, on tenor saxophone and flute. He also has a quite active career as a published poet and likes to combine the two aesthetics in his performances, much to the delight of the growing live poetry audience and to the chagrin of hipsters who insist jazz poetry is a form of torture, worse than cold showers. Other listeners might find the entire free jazz experience itself torture, in which case its back to the beginning as far as advice regarding Levin: there is nothing watered-down or weak about his performances, no attempt to make the music a bit more accessible to the novices, tender-hearted or just plain wimpy. He also doesn't seem to play music as if it was connected to some kind of career strategy, other than to just play all the time. Besides playing professionally with a variety of groups, embarking on semi-regular journeys around the country, he also jams. No description of the Philly jazz scene exists that does not include something along the lines of "And Elliot Levin has been known to sit in, buggin' out with his sax and flute..." A Philadelphia drummer described Levin as "the guy that calls you at two in the morning, wanting you to haul your drums over to some jam session."
Levin grew up in Philly, but studied music and creative writing on the west coast at the University of Oregon. He took private lessons with a former Philadelphia Orchestra saxophonist, Michael Guera, and embarked on further research with the great jazz pianist, Cecil Taylor, in whose groups Levin has also performed. Claire Polin is Levin's primary instructor on flute. The weekend grocery list of Levin credits includes playing with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes for a decade as the saxophonist in The Sound of Philadelphia band, as well as with Odeon Popes' Saxophone Choir, Tyrone Hill, Don Preston, Scram!, New Ghost, Atzilut (Fourth World), Talking Free Bebop and various collaborations with bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma. Levin's gigs with Taylor included the groups Phthongas and Unit Core Ensemble, and he can be heard on the Taylor FMP album Live in Berlin. On the poetry scene he has peformed with Miguel Algarin, Gloria Tropp, Mbali Umoja, Marty Watt and Frank Messina. Levin has published several books of his verse, which also appears in publications such as L.A. Weekly, Blue Beat Jacket, The Painted Word, Po' Fly, Vital Pulse and Poets and Prophets. In 1999 Levin was featured at a number of European jazz festivals. He has received awards from New American Radio in New York, The City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, The Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and the California Endowment for the Humanities.
February-25th-2004, 10:36 PM
the cantilena of speech
Yeah, he's really good. My intro to him was, oddly enough, via doing reviews of a batch of CDRs for Cadence, usually a thankless task. One of them was Sassafras Hello by Robert W Getz & Elliott Levin (that's the spelling of his first name there, anyway). Crummy packaging--a folded insert straight off the inkjet--but the music proved to be much better than I'd expected. Getz is a good free pianist--somewhere between Taylor & Borah Bergman (& incidentally quite the character, a devotee of Tristram Shandy & Ulysses & the author of books on collection Simpsons collectables[!]). But the thing that really caught the ear on the disc was Levin, who sounds great. Eugene's not kidding in saying he plays hard--I found myself running to the stereo when I put it on to turn it down, because Levin gets a really big sound out of his horns.
Anyone heard his stuff on CIMP? I think he's on one or two discs on the label. & yes he's recorded with Cecil Taylor. But I don't know what else he's done.
February-25th-2004, 11:05 PM
Reevaluating @ 500k
I fixed the spelling. AMG has it as Elliott in the heading, and the bio is inconsistent.
Last edited by Pete C; February-25th-2004 at 11:06 PM.
February-26th-2004, 06:55 PM
I have The Motion of Emotion on CIMP and it's always been a particular CIMP favorite. Levin has a huge Rollins-like sound and just keeps linking ideas together in a way that never gets tiresome. His flute playing is very strong also. This is a nice release because he's backed up by the late, great Denis Charles, CIMP mainstay Dominic Duval & Akira Ando on bass and cello. Now that it's out of the rack, maybe I'll give it a listen over the weekend.
I keep meaning to pick up the one that he did with Tyrone Hill but other stuff keeps getting in the way.
February-27th-2004, 08:04 AM
I've got one of the two he did with Hill. It's nice.
I saw Levin with Don Preston a couple of years ago. He was very impressive (and physically imposing). I've been wanting to check out the one with Duval and Charles.