Daniel Levin – Inner Landscape Daniel Levin (CF 224)
It wasn’t until he broke his arm in 1949 that bassist Oscar Pettiford became a jazz pioneer on the cello. He experimented with its smaller cousin, which he could play even with his arm in a sling and performed and recorded on it for the rest of his career. But not until the ‘60s New Thing did the cello properly find its place. Today the cello plays second fiddle to no one, especially on the disc at hand.
On Inner Landscapes we are left with the cello alone. On his first solo record, Daniel Levin allows his imagination to run riot over the course of six improvisations from a brace of live dates captured during 2009. In the liners Levin describes his intention that the music be “casual but very determined” and he fulfills that wish through an impressive focus on weight, line, dynamics and overall direction. On the way he invokes all manner of musics with prodigious skill: jazz, classical, improv, noise, vocal chorus. But nowhere are the references sustained as he restlessly pursues an unceasing inner flow, which makes blow-by-blow description thankless. Contrasts and jump-cuts a bound, with ideas picked up, examined and discarded in favor of newer routes all within the space of a few minutes. Some moments stand out in relief: a passage of plaintive cries pitched against dark grainy slashes; a litany of multi-layered abrasions; a sequence of descending chuckles in contrasting registers. But in practice the six tracks are all of a piece. His technique is unquestioned and he revels in the physicality of the instrument. Those with an adventurous streak or interest in the outer reaches of the cello universe will find much to savor.