"Sometimes, musicians who've previously played together in various contexts experience an immediate rapport when they first perform as a group. That's just what happened to pianist Milcho Leviev, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kevin Tullius. "I had played with both Milcho and Kevin in different situations and always felt comfortable. So when I had a trio gig at a Beverly Hills restaurant last year I called them," says Senatore, the ex-Stan Kenton and Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass Sideman who ran the renowned Pasquale's Jazz Club in Malibu from 1977 to 1983 and now is the musical director and in-house performer at Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill and Jazz Club. "From that engagement, we've developed a real empathy. We're so tuned into each other that no matter what we do, it seems to meld." That's the feeling on this CD by the three artists who call themselves LESENTU (pronounced 'listen to'; the name is drawn from the first letters of the players last names, making it effectively a co-op group).
The music is relaxed and inviting and was completed in first takes. "It went down smoothly," said Senatore. "The music sounded so natural. It's not like a normal piano-bass-drums trio. We have three guys playing music." Well put. The bassist, a solid drum player who is a fixture in Los Angeles area jazz circles and whose latest solo release, Pasquale, features bassoonist Paul Hanson and drummer Billy Higgins had good words about colleagues, both of whom are also L.A. jazz scene regulars. "Milcho [a Bulgarian emigre who co-founded the group Free Flight] has tremendous facility and is very creative and emotional musician," says Pat. "Kevin [a co-founder of the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet] is a very musical drummer. He fits in so well, adding more like another voice, not just drums. And like Milcho, he writes beautifully." The tunes include the little known but lovely bossa, "Dee Song," by the Italian composer Enrico Pieranunzi, the heartfelt "Miyako" by composer-saxophone giant Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd's "Forest Flower," as well as compelling originals by the members such as Senatore's title track, Leviev's "Passacaglia" and Tullius' "To Helen Suzanne." These days, so many jazz albums are full of heated, high-energy selections that it's a lovely surprise to hear the less rigorous, more expressive aspects of the music. That's just what Milcho Leviev, Pat Senatore and Kevin Tullius offer with Lesentu. There have to be scores of listeners for an album just like this.
- Zan Stewart
Contributor, Los Angeles Times, Down Beat, Stereophile
Other artists on Explosive Records:
Bill Stumuk Nugent
City School Music Project