Inner Landscape (Clean Feed; 2011)
Daniel Levin has been at the forefront lately in the creative circles of jazz. His recordings (both in duo, trio and quartet settings) have been some of the most inventive and challenging in improvised music. It is amazing to think that after seven albums as leader that he has never recorded a solo cello album. Until now.
Inner Landscape contains six fully improvised pieces that feel more contextual than spontaneous. It's a journey of individual passages with distinct stories interwoven between the chords. Levin takes the listener from a well focused starting point, then catapults you into a realm where the boundaries of free jazz, improvisation, classical and jazz just fall by the wayside. It becomes MUSIC. No defined genre (only for you, the listener, to decide).
"Landscape 2" displays these thoughts brilliantly. It is a piece with endless possibilities. It begins with some loose but fast paced finger work from Levin. He sets the tempo by utilizing the space around the composition. There are short gaps between each moment before he really begins to focus and let loose. The improvised sections on first listen may be hard to grasp but on second listen you are full engulfed by the structure and patterns Levin has created.
"Landscape 6" is Levin walking you through forest at dusk. At first it seems peaceful and you delight in the beautiful trails. But then darkness falls and your psyche creeps in and your thoughts start to betray you. Levin quickly scrambles the pieces and you are left to guide yourself to the exit. But the music moves up in pace, and the journey seems in all directions--Levin brings the listener back only slightly and only for a few moments before literally stretching you right out of the piece (you'll understand that when you hear the piece).
Inner Landscape is a collection of multiple themes with various shapes, colours and patterns that need deep repeated listens. Emotional. Moving. Unexpected. And yet well rounded. There are only a few cellists on the scene today that can make the instrument sound more than what it is in addition to taking you on an other-worldly journey.
Daniel Levin continues to do this with ease. Inner Landscape is a superb first solo outing and I'm hoping he sprinkles more like this in between his other projects. Brilliant.