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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Rob Levit Trio

Uncertain Path

Review by Gary Hill

While possibly "progressive jazz" might be a better description of this disc than progressive rock, there are enough prog influences and an overall experimental air to put this one into the prog rock category for me. The general mood of this Maryland based trio's disc is that of an energized, proggy modern take on the classic jazz trio. The result is an album that at times is very good, while at other times misses the mark. For my tastes there are moments where this lacks direction and gets into noodly territory. Also a general similar texture tends to make this a bit of a difficult disc to make it through in one sitting. Still, while it has flaws, I would say that this one lands into the good to very good category, rather than anywhere below that point.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Singularity
This one comes in like a more jazzy take on a Peter Banks era Yes cut, with a slight Caribbean texture at times. As it carries on it's obvious that the more stripped down guitar bass drums jazz trio textures will be the order of the day here. The drums get to put in an invigorating solo.
Fields of Gold
This cover of a Sting solo piece has a more mellow acoustic ballad like style. It is quite pretty and restful. The bass gets a cool solo on this and the guitar solo has its moments, but also gets just a little noodly at times. This becomes quite energetic as it carries on.
Uncertain Path
This feels a bit like an acoustic take on modern King Crimson and also a bit like California Guitar Trio. A different mellow mode takes the piece for a time. It drops down then a fusionish Santana like electric solo takes it in new directions. This is more meaty and still more cohesive than the solo on the last cut. It turns back to the more sedate after this solo. It goes back to the Crimsonish textures later, and then they turn it almost to funk before ending.
After You (for Elaine)
This one starts very mellow and carries on moving through various modes while still maintaining its mellow textures. This one doesn't do much for me, being a bit too sedate and not passionate or dynamic. It eventually wanders into spacey weirdness, but by this point you're really getting pretty well lulled to sleep. They move it back to the ultra sedate. At 6 1/2 minutes, this goes on way too long.
M-Dive
Now, this is more like it. Clever Crimson-like jamming lays down an energetic, yet still mellow groove. After running through in this form for a time, they move it to a bass dominate section, then into a rather free form jam that calls to mind both King Crimson and Djam Karet. Then they kick it up to electric for a wah segment, then a smoking heavy rock solo that screams out. This gets very weird and spacey, feeling a bit like Hendrix and Hawkwind both at times. A series of interesting changes takes the piece in new directions before they drop it way back again to a satisfying groove, then work and rework that 'til the abrupt conclusion.
Safe Returns (In Memoriam 9/11)
Pretty acoustic guitar starts this in a sedate balladic mode. They rework and recreate these themes, while never wandering far. This is an effective and intriguing melodic excursion.
Sophia/Solace
More traditional jazz elements start this and are the order of the day here in this sedate piece. It gets a little to free form for my tastes at points, while still not pulling it together enough to fully maintain the interest. There are some strong passages, though. They do energize and revitalize the piece late, though, for good effect, but wander off a bit too much into weirdness at times there, too. At over 8 minutes this one overstays its welcome a bit, too. The drum and bass solo leading into space textures is nice, though.
Daily Grind Blues
This one has a bit more soul, spirit and energy while still maintaining an old school jazz texture. This is another that gets a little too noodly and incoherent at times.
Ballad #3
This pretty and sedate jam feels more cohesive and effective while still managing to create varying sounds and textures. The group all put in solid performances here and get their chance to shine. This one turns into one of the most expressive and expansive musical performances of the whole album.
The Undoing
More sedate acoustic elements create the basis for this one. The guitar puts in one its tastiest appearance on this one as they ramp up the volume and intensity to carry on later. This is one of the best songs on the album.
Moving Closer
This one comes in feeling a bit too much like more of the same. That's a shame because it's actually one of the better tracks on the album, but by this pint everything is feeling far too similar. This is actually quite energetic and cohesive and features a killer rhythm section. The bass puts in one of its best showings of the CD here. The drums also find plenty of time to shine. The later fast paced segment of the piece is among the best musical moments of the album.
Waiting in Vain
Here the trio takes on a Bob Marley cut. This has a mellow groove that makes it a change up from the rest of the material here. This is a tasteful jam that's entertaining, and because of its placement more than anything else, a highlight of the album. This one with its cool keyboard elements also represents one of the most traditional prog showings on the disc. They move this through a number of changes and progressions as they carry forward, but bring it back to its beginnings to end.
Footprints
A Wayne Shorter classic, feeling a bit like The Police, this high-energy jazz jam is another nice change of pace. It is one of the more diverse cuts, moving into pure electrified Crimsonish fusion jamming and represents a strong conclusion to an inconsistent, but overall good album.
 
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