JazzTimes (p.93) - "This band works because it benefits from the contrasting personalities of its members. Binney's edginess, Abercrombie's spaciousness, Stern's earthiness, Locke's capacity to enriched define an ensemble texture -- all are reconciled here into a complex, distinctive, appealing group sound."
Personnel: Ray Levier (drums, drum); John Abercrombie, Mike Stern (guitar); David Binney (saxophone); Federico Turreni (soprano saxophone); Joe Locke (vibraphone); Ned Mann, François Moutin (bass instrument).
Audio Mixers: Rich Tozzoli; Ned Mann.
Recording information: Knoop Studios, River Edge, NJ (09/25/2007).
Ray Levier had spent plenty of time as a studio musician, a sideman, and a touring accompanying drummer. Here he finally lets loose as a bandleader for the first time, taking with him a set of fairly well-known musicians and a generally outstanding band. While Levier is the nominal bandleader, his approach tends toward the quieter side of affairs for much of the album, accentuating the work of the other musicians more than making himself known by force. Instead, it's the other musicians who take the forefront throughout. Depending on the piece, one of two guitarists (either Mike Stern or John Abercrombie) is likely to go on an extended solo, all of which are worthwhile listens. Vibe player Joe Locke also shows up for half of the tracks, adding in some outstanding melodic accompaniment as well as a few steaming solos. The album spends quite a while developing and exploring, but never entirely seems to find itself. The Stern-penned "You Never Know" seems taken from a light version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Oscar Pettiford's "Blues in the Closet" stands out as a completely different beast, one with a thick bass groove and a good funk to it. Again completely different, the title opening track lets loose with a barrage of urban jazz, showcasing Locke's vibes as well as Dave Binney's sax to excellent effect (and a little more energy from Levier himself, to boot). Despite all of the exploration, the album never quite settles into a comfortable place, never quite seems to come to fruition. Not a bad debut outing, but there should be a little more yet. ~ Adam Greenberg