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On his second CD, Afterimage, jazz guitarist Rob Levit presents such a wide array of emotions he’d baffle a mood ring.
“Premonition” is melodic and contemporary enough to be played on WDCU during its don’t-offend-the-ears-of-the-office-workers hours, but “Bleyism,” with its wide-open chromaticism, could be slotted in the moodier midnight hour.
“[‘Bleyism’] is one of my favorite tunes,” says Levit, “because it goes from sort of a second-line New Orleans thing in the intro into a freely improvised section, then it returns back to that New Orleans feel except with a little rock in there. That’s exactly the type of thing I’m into.”
The 31-year-old Richmond native cites nonguitarists Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman as his main influences, but as composers, not improvisers.
“I say Ornette Coleman is the quintessential pop music writer,” claims
Levit, only slightly tongue-in-cheek. “If you listen to his tunes, most of them are 11 bars, 8 bars, 12 barsnone of them are longer than 32 bars. They’re really short, very catchy, bluesy, quirky melodies. In that sense I equate him to a pop writer because you’re trying to get more of a maximum emotional impact into a shorter space.”
“I try to write for as many different settings as I can. Some people would consider that a strength and others would consider that a weaknessmaybe they think I don’t have a common thread running through my music, but the common thread is the different styles. After
all, we are improvisers and we have different angles
Levit received his master’s at the New England Conservatory and then moved from Boston to New York, and then to a place that isn’t exactly the new Kansas CityAnnapolis. But the suburban digs have been good to Levit: In addition to teaching gigs, his sideman work has increased, including a spot with up-and-coming vocalist Imani. But constant work with his own ever-evolving band is his primary pursuance.
“I’m really into exploration. But it can be difficult because, especially with the Rob Levit Group, I don’t give myself the luxury of using my music as just a great showcase for myself. I try to write stuff that is challenging, that pushes my guitar playing in different directions. My music is to challenge myself, to get myself out of the box I’ve always been in.”