Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2003 21:20:21 -0500

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Here is a review from our beloved harmonica player, howard levy.


Levy's harmonica shines with fine Acoustic Express

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By Aaron Cohen
Special to the Tribune
Published December 22, 2003

  As one of the few harmonica players in jazz, Howard Levy is relatively 
free from assumptions of how he's supposed to sound.

Levy's new group, Acoustic Express, could become the ideal format for 
his singular technique. Most of the band's repertoire consists of jazz 
standards and other melodies that emphasize his pristine tone. Without 
a drummer, the combination of guitarists Pat Fleming and Chris Siebold 
and bassist Larry Kohut maintain the right dynamic balance.

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The band's sense of harmony and its flexibility were pronounced=20
Saturday at Martyr's on such songs as Jelly Roll Morton's "Sidewalk=20
Blues." While Levy's solo was impressive for its dexterity, so was=20
Siebold and Kohut's seamless change in their roles. In a subtle=20
mid-song shift, they replaced each other as the rhythmic foundation for=20=

the group. Another quietly surprising move came when Acoustic Express=20
performed the bop anthem "Cherokee" in an unusual slow waltz tempo.

But the exchange between Fleming and Siebold sounded particularly=20
fiery. While Siebold's steel guitar carried a resonance from country=20
and bluegrass, Fleming seemed to take more inspiration from such early=20=

swing guitarists as Django Reinhardt.

Fleming also showed remarkable versatility. His own composition, "A Voz=20=

Doce," is a lovely tribute to Brazilian singer Elis Regina.

Since Beatles songs rarely work in a jazz context, the group took a=20
risk in covering "In My Life." Siebold's lines sounded like a fine=20
substitute for the piano on the original recording, but Levy's dramatic=20=

flourishes became mired in cliches.

Perhaps what has been most disconcerting about Levy's style is that his=20=

clarity can come across as restrained. In making the harmonica a=20
vehicle for jazz virtuosity, the ragged earthiness that it derives from=20=

blues and folk gets undermined. But Levy did let loose and get reckless=20=

on a Bulgarian dance tune as well as on Robert Johnson's "Kindhearted=20
Woman Blues."

On top of Siebold and Fleming's slide duo, Levy got so worked up he=20
even stomped his foot. More than once too.

Copyright =A9 2003, Chicago Tribune

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