Dori Levine, voice
Ed Littman, acoustic guitar
1. Pound Cake (lyric version by Dori Levine)
2. It Might as Well Be Spring
3. Do I Move You?
4. Bye Bye Blackbird
5. Deep Creep
6. But Beautiful
8. Foolin' Myself
10. Over the Rainbow
BIO: DORI LEVINE
Dori Levine is a scatting, swinging Jazz singer who possesses a coquettish voice to lure one into her web. On Click she sings in duet with guitarist Ed Littman, and the two lovingly caress each song. Levine takes a standard, such as “It Might as Well Be Spring”, and puts a personal twist to make it brand new; yet she just as quickly switches to present the lyrics in a hip, straightforward fashion to give the piece a dual personality. Levine also has a sultry side, which comes out when she glides into Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You?” Littman gets low down with heavy Blues choruses to set the table for Levine to cook on this one. Levine and Littman at times become an instrumental duo when the singer turns her voice into an instrument, such as when she scats her way into an unexpected rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird.”
Besides the standard repertoire, the two present three totally improvised pieces. Dipping low or rising high with spirited vocalese, Levine takes off on these joyous rides propelled by the intertwined freedom flowing from Littman’s strings. The lengthy “Swipstitch” gives the two extensive room to roam the outer fringes with quirky spontaneity and diverse interactivity. In between these free pieces, the team reverts to the ballad, where Levine sings with sincerity but still adds her original phraseology to the tunes. Levine and Littman have plenty of fun on this zesty session; they have a definite feel for each other’s direction and this empathy translates into a delightful musical venture.
— Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine, July 2006
A fresh and inventive take on the guitar and vocal duo format has appeared from Dori Levine and Ed Littman in the form of their new CD, Click. It is a title that aptly describes the degree to which the two musicians connect. Littman’s acoustic guitar work employs a crisp, snappy attack and a sense of propulsion behind Levine as noted on “Pound Cake.” Here and throughout, the vocalist’s sense of humor becomes another tool in her bottomless bag of tricks. This opener on which Levine wrote the lyrics, right away demonstrates her ability to interact with the guitarist, as she often plays the role of another instrument. The takes on “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” use a similar approach in opening the performances with syncopated scatting and percussive string effects. Both songs also showcase a style of delivery from Levine that bears the stamp of American folk music, one that reveals an individual approach. On the former, Levine lays way back on the beat and draws out the lyrics over Littman’s bossa nova strumming. The latter distinguishes itself with a much lengthier introduction, and the tune itself appears somewhere around the three and a half minute mark. Both are quite original and almost impressionistic. Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You?” is in a country blues mode with Littman plucking hard and bending strings. Levine is up to the challenge as she toys with dynamics and some emotive singing. Both musicians stay true to the style with idiomatic phrases reminiscent of originators like Robert Johnson. “Deep Creep” is the first of three completely improvised pieces, and it finds Littman out front for several phrases. Levine joins in later, staying in a limited vocal range, with phrasing that floats over Littman’s eerie chords and intervals that are played on the lower strings. “But Beautiful” is treated to a tender introduction from the guitarist and a rubato reading of the lyrics. Here, Levine takes great liberties with the melody as Littman plays interesting counter lines, the two taking time to alternate leading and following their partner in the dance, with sublime results. “Tailgate” is improvised and features the guitar repeating a rhythmic phrase that leaves space for Levine to fill in with various vocal sounds. She sustains long phrases that include held notes, strange effects, yodels, and scatting – all the while in a heated three-minute exchange with Littman’s guitar. “Foolin’ Myself,” a shuffle, is a short and sweet example of how these two complement each other so well musically. The final improvised piece, “Swipstitch,” is the longest at ten and one half minutes. Littman rubs and scrapes his strings rapidly. Levine squeaks, cackles, whines, in the beginning before an abrupt halt. This moves into light interplay with the two walking on eggshells. You may find yourself giggling about one third of the way into this piece, as the sounds become truly comical. However, this is a great example of two musicians ridding the music of all pretenses in favor of creative interplay and living in the moment. On the closer, “Over The Rainbow,” Levine’s lazy reading of the melody is supported hand-in-glove by Littman’s guitar. Click is a testament to approaching music with a sense of humor and fearlessness, and this duo has achieved some fine results.
— Joe Knipes, Jazz Improv Magazine, November 2006
This set of duets between singer Dori Levine and guitarist Ed Littman ranges from spooky free improvisations (“Deep Creep,” “Tailgate,” and “Swipstitch”) to swinging versions of Harry “Sweets” Edison’s “Pound Cake” and “Foolin’ Myself” and a few somewhat demented versions of standards (including “But Beautiful”). One can feel the influence of Lennie Tristano, particularly on the swing numbers, but Levine has a distinctive voice all her own and she is certainly not shy to take chances, either with the material or with her voice. Acoustic guitarist Ed Littman, who sticks to a supportive role, seems to always know where Levine is heading and his intuitive playing is very easy to underrate. This is an intriguing effort overall.
— Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
Avant-garde singers have always demonstrated the incredible possibilities of the human voice expanding improvisationally far beyond standards. Dori Levine and Ed Littman convincingly succeed in defining both artistic elements; improvisation and standards. Both of these elements are found in compositions like "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Over the Rainbow." This melding demonstrates a coherence that nearly grazes genius. When we listen to this work we are amazed by their audacity. Their work shows the vitality of the spirit of Jazz classics as well as the creativity and innovative energy of the great interpreters. They are detached from the mainstream tendencies to search for a public that would follow something new.
The skill of guitarist Ed Littman is masterful as well. He further expands the already existing wide vocabulary of the music languages; it’s a pleasure for lovers of good music! In their new original pieces the two artists move toward all the possibilities of the modern avant-garde without denying their Jazz roots.
This is an important recording of vocal jazz. Its authors successfully dare to brilliantly overcome the challenges on their path. A positive force is behind their notes. This element has almost shamanistic aspect.
— Vittorio Lo Conte, All About Jazz, Italy
"Littman is charged with improvisational daring."
— Bill Milkowski, writer for Jazz Times