The music of composer, drummer, and percussionist Jason Levis lives in the rich spaces where styles intersect and musical languages merge. His career began playing guitar in a high school reggae band, and he has since broadened his artistic scope to include jazz, contemporary improvisation, and modern classical composition. His wide-ranging creative efforts are skillfully bound by his innate sense of timbre, sonic space, rhythmic force, and his insatiable interest in discovery. Over the years his passion and curiosity have led him to search out the intersections of musical paths less traveled, and the resulting unique perspective is reflected in his music. Levis holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California, Berkeley and currently teaches at the California Jazz Conservatory. He is active as a performer and composer in the United States and Europe.
performed by Marc Bolin on bass trombone with the Eco Ensemble conducted by David Milnes on December 11th, 2012.
"Plum Blossom / Warm Gentle Wind / Shimmering Stillness is a composition for solo bass trombone and accompanying ensemble. It is in six movements and is approximately 17 minutes long. The piece is dedicated to my grandfathers Benjamin A. Levis, and Harbert S. Gregory, who have passed away in recent years. I initially began work on concepts for the composition while studying with Professor John Thow, and then with Professor Jorge Liderman, but put it away after their untimely passing. Movement four is dedicated to both of them. The composition was written for my good friend and unparalleled bass trombonist, Marc Bolin.
The title reflects my interest in haiku, and the possibility of containing in a brief statement, a moment of total clarity and harmony. While reflecting on Professor Thow's passing, sitting on my front porch, watching the blooming plum tree in front of my house shake and stir ever so gently when the wind would pick up, I experienced one of these moments of deep quietude. Even as the title is not a haiku in its traditional form, it contains a moment for me where something brief and subtle can have a sudden impact and lasting resonance. Even though the composition is inspired by this moment, it is not an impressionistic, sonic image of the natural world. Rather, it is a metaphor for the complex relationships that make up our human experience, the impact those relationships have on us, and the lasting effects and reverberations they create.
The work employs a myriad of extended techniques, engendering layers of timbral commonality. This allows the ensemble to fuse into blended "meta-instruments", and magnify the sonic landscape of the bass trombone. The composition is influenced by my interest in the sometimes antagonistic aims of post-spectral harmony and orchestration, self-similarity modeling of the new complexity school, and large-scale architecture in improvisation.
The instrumentation for Plum Blossom Warm Gentle Wind Shimmering Stillness is bass trombone, four percussionists, piano, two violins, viola, violoncello, and contrabass." ~ Jason Levis
Plum Blossom / Warm Gentle Wind / Shimmering Stillness
a sneak preview of the new record of live recordings of Levis' chamber music.
"This record is a collection of live recordings made while completing my Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. It showcases my works for large and small ensembles, featuring compositions that are fully notated as well as for improvising ensembles. The groups included on the record (in order of appearance) are: Marc Bolin with the Eco Chamber Ensemble, ChamberBridge, Key Note + with Chris Froh and Florian Conzetti, Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade, and the Heftpistole Chamber Ensemble." ~ Jason Levis
some cuts from the trombone-based, instrumental reggae-dub band.
Joseph's Bones, an instrumental trombone reggae band, performs drummer/composer Jason Levis' original compositions as well as arrangements of reggae classics from Bob Marley to Augustus Pablo and Burning Spear.
The ensemble features old-school roots reggae grooves inspired by Studio One, Island and Trojan records, and the echo heavy wash of dub artists such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry. The hard-hitting, heavy one-drop rhythm section is counterbalanced by the singing harmonies of the trombones and live dub soundscapes of the guitars.
Joseph's Bones is Rob Ewing, Scott Larson and Naomi Siegel on trombone, Marc Bolin on tuba, John Schott, Myles Boisen and John Finkbeiner on guitar, Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, and Jason Levis on drums and compositions.
Included here are songs from Nomadic Pulse and its dub counterpart Pulse in Dub, as well as early recordings of Levis' arrangements of the Bob Marley and the Wailers' Kaya album.
duo B., the Heftpistole Chamber Ensemble, and other jazz projects
a collection of recordings, both live and in the studio, dating from 2000 to the present.
duo B. is an ensemble of acoustic bass and percussion that plays ethereal chamber music wrapped in dense improvised soundscapes. Percussionist Jason Levis uses gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, bowed cymbals, marimba and drumset to create lush, delicate textures and abstract noise grooves. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa draws on a palette of sinister drones, punchy vamps and acoustic bass manipulations to weave storylines through gnarly rhythms, pointillistic shapes and ecstatic melodies. duo B.’s influences range from free jazz to indie pop to contemporary chamber music, from Threadgill to Zorn, Wilco to the Boredoms, Messaien to Grisey and back again. In fall 2006, the group released its first full-length CD, these things seem natural to us (Evander Records). The second release start this before dawn touches the skyscrapers featuring graphic scores by West Coast composers, including Jon Raskin, Phillip Greenlief, Wadada Leo Smith, John Schott, Aaron Bennett, Heather Frasch and others, was released in 2011 on Edgetone Records.
"...mysterious, complexly textured improvisations that sometimes take shape as the aural equivalent of abstract expressionist paintings, whether the ethereal, mystical canvasses of Mark Rothko or the jittery, splatter techniques of Jackson Pollock." ~ Derk Richardson, KPFA radio host and San Francisco Bay Area music critic
The Heftpistole Chamber Ensemble, created and directed by Jason Levis, combines elements of contemporary composition and experimental improvisation. The ensemble consists of some of the best musicians in the Bay Area and has ranged from 3 to up to 12 players depending on the demands of the work being performed. Since 2000, the Heftpistole Chamber Ensemble has premiered many of Levis' compositions and has performed in several venues throughout the San Francisco bay area and Berlin, Germany.