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Tenor saxophonist Brian Levy headlined a Chuck Perrin Dizzy's production at 98 Bottles last night, featuring an international quartet of heavy hitters including drummer Rick Hollander from Germany, bassist Dave Santoro from Boston, and San Diego's own Mikan Zlatkovich on piano.

Levy's aesthetic is firmly rooted in the '60s tradition of tenor giants like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. His sound is full and dark in the low resister — and remarkably centered throughout.

Beginning with an oblique interpretation of "Stella By Starlight," Zlatkovich was up first — with winding lines that swing at any tempo — channeling the jazz piano tradition with a joyful attack. Hollander kept the fires stoked with precise ride cymbal articulation and propulsive snare and tom chatter. Levy soloed last — coming out wailing with serpentine ideas and fat honks for punctuation.

"Little Monster Castle," went for the jazz-funk effect--Levy's essay ripping through the changes over Hollander's rim-shot backbeat. "Dancing Fly Reflections," emerged as a hypnotic waltz--this time the saxophonist tackled the form with density and passion not unlike Michael Brecker--minus the altissimo screaming.

On Zaltkovich's "This Is For Horace," a McCoy Tyner-ish piece with alternating swing and Latin grooves--Hollander got to showcase his Elvin Jones Afro-Cuban beat while Levy tore into the changes like a starving dog in a butcher shop.

After a brief intermission, the band hit gold with "Flamingo Rain," a swinging, modal groove straight out of the Blue Note '60s. After the melody, Hollander soloed first, accompanied the Jimmy Garrison-like open-string strumming of Santoro--who was a delightful, if under-mixed force the entire evening. The whole thing started to remind me of "Dahomey's Dance," from the epochal Coltrane album Ole.

Levy finished up the concert with a sublime piano/saxophone duet in a pensive reading of "Body & Soul." He and Zlatkovich have a special chemistry--so strong, in fact, that although I've heard this tune a million times--they managed to keep me riveted.

Photo by Jamie Shadowlight

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jmenders Aug. 20, 2012 @ 8:05 p.m.

Two excellent sets, breezing through styles, all A-list players. Glad I went, looking forward to the next time.


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