The Levin Brothers Celebrate the Release of Live Album
at the Kennett Flash
By Rob Nagy
Pete and Tony Levin have been a creative force as solo artists and sidemen for decades. Working with an astonishing list of high profile artists in the jazz, progressive rock and rock and roll world, they are about to release the Levin Brothers debut live album “Special Delivery.
“During our Spring 2017 tour we recorded three of our shows, which will become a Levin Brothers' live recording - our first,” says Pete Levin, from his home in Woodstock, New York. “It will include a lot of the music we've been performing live that isn't on our debut album. We started touring doing two hour sets, but as we recorded, we decided that it felt better doing one long show. We found that audiences were appreciating this more. As we did that, we realized we needed to expand what we were doing. As we got into it we were thinking let’s try adding some arrangements of more contemporary pieces ‘cause people obviously like them. Not doing them in a pop style but doing them in a jazz style, recognizable melodies without vocals. People were relating to that and we felt good about doing that, so a lot of those pieces are on our new album.”
“Tony and I had been trying to find the time to get a new release together for quite a while and this was a great opportunity,” says Pete. “When I finally got the tracks back, seven hours of recording, to go through to cut down to 70 minutes there were a lot of decisions. Performing live is a great thing because there is a lot of spontaneity with the audience. It was a matter of picking and choosing different things from different concerts and eliminating things that we would have liked to put on but there was just no room on the CD.”
Special Delivery, due for an early January 2018 release, features memorable Levin Brothers’ original compositions “Gimme Some Scratch,” “Special Delivery,” “Ostropolya,” “Fire Drill,” “Havana,” “Pete's Blues” and interpretations of “Scarborough Fair” (Paul Simon), “Weight of Action” (Erik Lawrence), “Theme from Cinema Paradiso” (Ennio Morricone), “Milonga del Angel” (Astor Piazzola) and “Ballad of the Innocent” (Jeff Siegel)
“Tony and I work together very well,” says Pete. “We come from the same background. We both came up trained in classical music in the same public-school system, which had a great music department. We both went on to music school and ended up in New York doing session work, the same disciplines that are involved with becoming a sideman on a professional level.”
Establishing a highly regarded reputation on their respective instruments, Tony (bass) and Pete (keyboards, French horn), found them in great demand in the studio and on the concert stage by a long list of iconic artists.
“Tony and I went in different directions,” recalls Pete. “I tended to work more with jazz artists and producers. Tony, early on started working with pop rock figures and different artists. We both made some phenomenal connections. Tony with Peter Gabriel and me with Gil Evans. Tony, of course, has gone on to do King Crimson and The Stick Men.”
Pete’s own storied career has found him appearing on hundreds of pop and jazz recordings by Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorious, David Sanborn, Lenny White and of course Gil Evans, just to name a few. Pete and Tony crossed paths when they were members of Paul Simon’s touring band in 1979/80.
“When you’ve been called to play for a session or a live gig my objective is to always make a piece of music as good as it can be,” says Pete. “Tony thinks the same way. You could interview a line-up of major artists who will tell you the same thing about Tony, I try to do the same thing. They are all learning experiences every one of them. Every time something new pops up I learn something from it.”
The birth of the Levin Brothers came to fruition just a few years back when Pete and Tony found themselves reminiscing over the music of their youth.
“In 2014 Tony and I were talking and somehow, we got talking about jazz records that I used to play in the house when we were kids,” recalls Pete. “One of us just started to staff one of the melodies and the other one just joined in. We hadn’t heard these recordings in more than 50 years and we remembered the melody from those recordings and some of the scores. We were thinking how meaningful that was and we thought, ‘We should record this.’ That was the beginning of the project.”
“This is the first time we’ve sat down from scratch and decided to do this together,” adds Pete. “The Levin Brothers, a logical name, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do and we’ll put a band together and we’ll see what happens. We’re really doing it for ourselves remembering music we did a long time ago and make it memorable and meaningful. It’s coming from another era, the cool jazz era post bebop. Hopefully, people like it. If they don’t like it the satisfaction was in creating it.”
They released their debut album “Levin Brothers” (2014) followed by a 2015 tour that was cut short due to Tony’s schedule with King Crimson.
“I’m going to be 75 soon,” says Pete. “I’m thinking that maybe now I’m just starting to get good at what I’m doing and I realize how much I don’t know and I want to keep learning. Our goal is to create a great experience for us and the people that come to see us.”
The Levin Brothers will perform at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA 19348, on Tuesday January 2, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and information, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To stay up to date with the Levin Brothers visit www.thelevinbrothers.com