Frank Rubolino, CADENCE, July 2006
Dori Levine is a scatting, swinging Jazz singer who posesses 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 lengthly “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
By Joe Knipes, Jazz Improv Magazine, November 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 ap- proach.
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 impro-
vised 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, wines, 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.
Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
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.
Vittorio Lo Conte, All About Jazz, Italy
Avant-garde singers have always demonstrated the incredible
possibilities of the human voice expanding improvisationally far beyond
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 coherance 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
This is an important recording of Vocal Jazz. It’s authors
successfully dare to brilliantly overcome the challenges on their path.
A positive force is behind their notes. This element has almost
Dori Levine Michael Levy
voice – piano
Cadence Magazine August 1999 – Frank Rubolino
If sultriness were patentable, Levine would hold the patent. She
vocalizes on a uniquely spontaneous program with pianist Levy
with a moody, down-to-earth style that projects her voice as an
improvising instrument in tandem with the piano. Yet she can also
ooze out emotion as a torch singer, placing her in a dual attack
role as a Jazz vocalist. Stoking the fire for Levine is Levy, who
carries on a love affair with the keyboards with his mesmerizing
development of the songs. Playing in fully improvised mode,
Levy creates the heat of smoldering embers that places emphasis
on the lower end consistent with Levine’s voicing. These two
creative performers develop each selection through acute
listening and interaction. You can hear each of them take
fragments of the other’s notes and turn them around in a new
variation on the theme. Levine approaches each song with the
originality and inventiveness that marks the work of Jeanne Lee.
She gets moody, pensive, or alternately highly excitable and
injects a creative spirit into every note. Whether scatting in
non-word phrases or melting steel with her sensual twist on
lyrics, she comes off as an inventive artist. Similarly Levy exists
in her same world, crafting deep-toned and weighty improvisations
full of substance. He broods over a tune, reaching down into its
bowels and emerging with lustrous gemstones. As a team, these
two are captivating in their moodiness. They raise the level of Jazz
vocal originality several notches and are definitely worth hearing.
by Vittorio Lo Conte for the
translated by Giacomo Franci
The music produced by New Artists Records doesn’t take into
account the demands of the market. The results are unusual CDs
like the duet of singer Dori Levine and pianist Michael Levy.
We’re talking about free improvisations and two famous standards
that Levine’s voice transforms almost into contemporary pieces.
Her hallucinated interpretations, above all, of the evergreen
“Lover Man” catch the nature of this standard, a piece where it
is surely difficult to say something new, but this duet succeeds
with this intention around the piano with the diction so unique and
so grounded in the Jazz tradition. On the other side, Dori Levine
gives life to the text with her voice so profound to attract the
attention on every syllable pronounced; exploring the deep meaning
of the words to give them a new dimension to the listeners. Perhaps
we can compare with the great Jeanne Lee, for example, the duet
of this Afro-American singer with the pianist Ran Blake recorded
in the 60’s. The free improvisations of the duet have not much to
do with academic character, they breathe Jazz, it’s voices, it’s
notes, it’s diction, it’s smoky nights, a dialog in the free idiom that
can insert two standards and can attract the listeners used only to
mainstream or to creative music.
Jazz Times June 1999 – John Murph
“The Duo delves deep into the throes of cerebral celebration . . .
intriguing dialogues . . . “