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Elliot Levine & Urban Grooves – 347 Live!

July 24, 2013

Recently, we covered a concert in Virginia at which keyboardist Elliot Levine was sitting in as a guest. We witnessed so much energy and drive from this keys master that he literally held his audience riveted and in awe of his talent. It was a wonderful first for us, having never Elliot Levineseen him in concert before.  His latest CD, 347 Live!, was recorded at Baltimore, MD’s Club 347. Reviewing this album was made incredibly easy as I recall that VA performance.

The very essence of Levine’s spirit and ability to connect with an audience via his energized music is on full display here on this album.  Packed with both funky and smooth originals alongside great covers, the album easily defines Levine as one who can hit it out of the park each time he steps up to a keyboard or piano.

This live set opens with a cover of songwriter/producer/musician Miguel Pimentel’s “Adorn” and features the powerful vocals of one Brian Blunt who also appears on other tracks on the album. Following that very melodic and well-performed track is a Levine original simply called  “Funky Bass Line.” The title is self-explanatory and packs the wallop you’d expect from such a number. The smooth and laid-back “Woodlawn Drive,” another Levine creation, is next up and is a Brian Culbertson-like journey into the land of perfectly phrased piano in a seductive mood.

There are so many quality tracks here that it’s hard to single out faves, but the previously mentioned tracks would have to be among them, as well as covers of Maxwell’s “Bad Habits” with Blunt on vocals, Rufus’ and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” with strong vocals from one Koshka Raynelle, and The Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark,” again with Blunt on vocals.

All told, this set is aglow with brilliant keys work and outstanding vocals, as well as other very competent elements of Levine’s accompaniment.  An easy add for your collection of good, solid music. – Ronald Jackson