Pianist⁄keyboardist⁄composer Mike Levine’s easy and smooth style comes through in a mellow and confident manner on his latest steady-as-she-goes release Star Gazing, featuring bassist Will Lee and saxmen Ed Calle and Andy Snitzer. If cool and romantic swagger, along with as a few boogie, feel-good jams are what you’re seeking, get an earful of this one. It’s an album laced with varied moods from the rich and sweet to some funky moments - all done with charm and sophistication.
Working his way through a plush musical landscape that includes tracks like the high-spirited lead track "Oh Yeah," the more somber and reflective title track, the finger-snappin’ island feel of "Rio Funk" featuring that catchy Snitzer sax and some funky 88s action from Levine, and the romantic ‘my my’ sweetness of "Sunday’s Touch" (calls for a glass of Chardonnay, candlelight, and that special someone) and the melancholy lyrics and caressing melody of "Really Wish I Could Love You" featuring the silky vocals of one Lenard Rutledge, Star Gazing gets it done in a big way. If you’re in the mood for a little light N’Orleans funk and blues, check out "Willie’s Gumbo," and I’ll leave it to you to figure out just who might have been the influence for the track "Jaco."
No small potato in the industry, having toured and recorded with some of the finest names in the biz, as well as programmed for many, Levine’s is a very diverse and colorful resume. This eclectic album is proof positive as to why. Do yourself a big favor and grab a listen to this artful endeavor.