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Album review: 'The Whistleblower'


Joel Levine

"The Whistleblower"

IUE Records

Four decades ago, the Philadelphia jazz scene had one highly unusual player. Joel Levine would bring his axe to gigs and proceed to blow everyone away. His axe is a recorder, but Levine is not just any recorder player. He can not only charm the pants off any snake with his sinuous sound; he can play three recorders at once, the middle one providing a drone note. When he takes off on a solo, he ventures way out of the chord-comfort zone, rivaling top saxophonists. With his debut CD, "The Whistleblower," he finally steps into the spotlight.

Among his powerhouse band-mates are drummer Lenny White (who also produced), violinist Diane Monroe, guitarist Tom Guarna, and keyboardists Anthony Wonsey and Michael Wooten. All contribute great solos and engage in inventive interplay with Levine. Singers Evelyn Simpson-Curenton, Chevy Chevis, and Chris Williams are all wonderfully expressive. Tunes range from Stevie Wonder to George Frederick Handel and include four fine originals. But the best track is White's "Big Broski," a funk classic ripe for great solos and infectious bass riffs by Daniel Winshall.