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Listen Up!

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Album Review

A hard driving, tightly knit big band, Nick Levinovsky's group at times is what Les Brown might have sounded like playing Gil Evans arrangements. Other times, it resembles the Charles Mingus Big Band (not too surprising since some of the band's members also play for that group). But this band has its own character fashioned by Levinovsky's absorbing compositions and arrangements. There's excellent ensemble playing from the band as a whole and from its individual sections. The band's engine, drummer Rudi Petschauer, propels the group to a high level of intensity on the uptempo numbers, which dominate this session. Levinovsky, who expatriated from Russia, established the NLO label as a vehicle for getting his work and that of his talented vocalist wife Kathy Jenkins before the public — and jazz fans should count themselves fortunate for his initiative. He is a talented pianist, composer and arranger — all but two of the cuts here are Levinovsky composed. The aforementioned Jenkins is heard on the two standards allowing her to show both her virtuosity and versatility. On "My Favorite Things" Jenkins' voice takes on the characteristics of a horn as it is integrated into the trumpet and trombone sections. "Lazy Afternoon" shows her dreamy, languid side when with a flute floating behind her, she delivers an airy, celestial interpretation of the John LaTouche/Jerome Moross classic. Levinovsky favors rich diverse harmonies, created with a band as an instrument approach, à la Duke Ellington. Like the master, a lot of attention is given to the interplay and relationship between sections and individual instruments. The music written for the band as an instrument, so there is less soloing than usual, although there's some good individual trombone playing on "Last Flight" and "Listen Up!" and good sax work on the former cut. This cut also features some outstanding drum work by Petschauer as he runs through his entire drum set, from cymbals to snare. But it is the potential of a large group Levinovsky realizes so well with his compositions and arrangements. This album, an excellent 56 minutes worth of exciting music, is recommended.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Like so many behind the Iron Curtain, Nick Levinovsky was introduced to jazz at the age of 13 when he discovered and started listening (surreptitiously via short wave radio) to Willis Conover's Voice of America jazz broadcasts. From a musical family -- both of his parents were opera singers -- he was expected to take the classical route to a musical career. But after being exposed to jazz, he was hooked on America's music and there was no looking back. As the political climate in the U.S.S.R. began...
Full Bio

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Listen Up!, Nick Levinovsky
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  • $7.92
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Nov 18, 1997

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