The Wire review by Sturat Broomer

Daniel Levin Quartet – Organic Modernism (CF 212)
Daniel Levin first organized his quartet a decade ago and since then there have been very few changes: Nate Wooley and Peter Bitenc succeeding Dave Ballou and Joe Morris on trumpet and bass respectively. What remains the same, though, is Levin’s commitment to that distinctive instrumentation, matching trumpet and bass with his own cello and Matt Moran’s vibraphone, eschewing reeds and percussion for both a special clarity and an unusual mix of overtone patterns. The combination contributes to the spaciousness that the group possesses and also serves Levin’s particular sense of construction. Five of the 12 pieces here are Levin compositions, the others are attributed to the Levin quartet. There are significant overlaps in tonal language and methodology, but generally the compositions are more linear, “My Kind of Poetry” touching on the textures of early Third-Stream and “Audacity” suggesting the compositions of Eric Dolphy. The group “compositions” cover an inevitably broader palette, with particular interests in sound (e.g., Wooley’s eerie assemblage of noises on “Zero Gravity”) and more diverse modes of response. The music invites multiple modes of listening, ultimately echoing all the modes of listening and production going on in the quartet, whether it’s rooted in jazz, European modernism, or free improvisation; whether it’s linear, contrapuntal, or harmonic; whether emphasizing traditional tonal relations or exploring the distinctive overtone grain of the ensemble and its sub-groupings. This is consistently thought-provoking music, another arresting chapter in the Levin quartet’s distinctive body of work.

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