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Tenor saxophonist Brian Levy set the spirit of jazz behemoth John Coltrane into motion last night with a set that toggled between blistering power and velvet warmth to offset the chilly air at the new Dizzy's, joining forces with pianist Mikan Zlatkovich drummer Duncan Moore and LA bassist Hamilton Price.

Zlatkovich started "Tune For 'Trane," alone, rumbling rhapsodic flourishes before the band entered and Levy began with probing lines and winding, scalar contours. The pianist followed, alternating waves of force and finesse over the double-stop strums and ride cymbal shimmer of the rhythm section.

A short solo from Moore set up a duet with Levy as the suspended one-chord vamp of "Con," emerged, and Zlatkovich jumped on the throbbing pulse of Price while the drums stirred cycles of mayhem into the vortex. By the time the saxophone solo began, a thick brew of kinetic energy lofted him into cascading sequences of spiraling ideas and screaming intensity.

For a dramatic shifting of gears, the band launched into a picture-perfect reading of "Easy To Remember," a ballad Coltrane loved to play. Activating a soft purr, Levy caressed the melody with enough romance to melt a stone. Zlatkovich broke into a melodic rapture, then Price almost stole the show with sighing glissandi in the thumb position.

The dark drama of "World As Will," unfolded with gauzy, pensive harmonies over the hypnotic swirl of Moore's brushstrokes as Levy layered the long-toned theme, reminiscent of "Spiral," from Giant Steps on top.

Evoking the essence of a musical giant like John Coltrane without resorting to mimicry or, alternatively falling way short of the mark is no easy feat. It takes a guy like Levy, who understands the concept on both intellectual and visceral terms, and a band of highly skilled interpreters to pull something like that off.

Excellent music that is still resonating in my head.

Photo by Laurent Kramer

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