Mood for Max
Portrait of Sylvia
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Montreal-born, eminent NYC jazz guitarist Peter Leitch wears several sizeable hats on his new recording: composer, arranger, conductor and co-producer. All compositions on this magnificent project (co-produced with Jed Levy) were written by Leitch, with the exception of Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight, Rogers and Hart’s immortal balled of longing and loneliness Spring is Here, and The Minister’s Son by Levy (an outstanding track, written in honour of Leitch’s dear friend, pianist and musical collaborator, the late John Hicks). In the framework of this arrangement, Hicks’ and Leitch’s unique, soulful, rhythmic style is palpable throughout, and the heady sax solo from Levy calls to mind the potency of a snifter of cognac!
Following a heroic victory over cancer, Leitch could no longer physically play guitar, so he chose to reinvent himself, and express his new musical vision through a medium-sized ensemble that would still have the flexibility to embrace free soloing by the gifted, NYC A-list members who define the sound. These include trumpeter Duane Eubanks, Bill Mobley on trumpet/flugelhorn, Tim Harrison on flute, Steve Wilson and Dave Pietro on alto/soprano sax, Levy on tenor sax/flute/alto flute, Carl Maraghi on baritone sax/bass clarinet, Matt Haviland on trombone, Max Seigel on bass trombone, Phil Robson on electric guitar, Chad Coe on acoustic guitar, Peter Zak on piano, Dennis James on arco bass, Yoshi Waki on bass and Joe Strasser in the drum chair (whose skill, dexterity and taste are the ultimate ingredient).
Leitch explains: “The title New Life refers not only to my personal odyssey, but also to the music itself – to the act of breathing ‘new life’ into the ‘raw materials’…”. Every track on this 17-piece, two-disc recording is a pinnacle of jazz expression. A few of the many highlights include the opener, Mood for Max (for Dr. Maxim Kreditor), a snappy, up-tempo, joyous arrangement featuring a fluid and thrilling trumpet solo from Mobley and equally fine alto and piano solos by Wilson and Zak; Portrait of Sylvia – a lovely tune for the ever-lovely Sylvia Levine Leitch – an exotic and ephemeral piece, featuring guitar work by Robson – and Fulton Street Suite, a masterpiece in three movements that paints an evocative, jazzy portrait of lower Manhattan, replete with all of its artsy, manic energy. Without question, this is one of the top jazz recordings of the past year.