This is, by far, my favorite Howard Levy recording in my collection. I had the privilege to see the group about 12 years ago and I was floored. They played with an effortlessness that had everyone moving. Howard's playing is at its most accessible and he plays every piece like a seasoned jazz master from the golden era. The back-up band is absolutely tasty, especially lead guitarist Chris Siebold, who I have watched develop over the years into a much-sought-out player.
The music covers a wide range of styles, from Pop to Hot Club Jazz, from Middle Eastern to Balkan. Every cut is a joy to listen to.
If I had introduce somebody to Howard Levy CD, this is the CD I would pick and let them take the musical odyssey from there.
Pete Krampert, author
The Encyclopedia of the Harmonica
ABOUT THE RECORDING:
Harmonica innovator and pianist Howard Levy started Acoustic Express in 2003, after missing playing swing music, and wanting to play more acoustically on harmonica. Bassist Larry Kohut recommended guitarist Chris Siebold. Howard and Pat Fleming we were in The Balkan Rhythm Band together in the early ‘80’s. Instead of trying to recreate The Quintette of the Hot Club of France or imitate Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli, they created an open-ended group that could play Swing, Jazz, Blues, Bulgarian music, Brasilian music, Dylan and Beatles tunes, and originals, too.
These recordings were made in Larry’s living room, at Studio Chicago, in concert at Northminster Church in Howard's hometown of Evanston, IL, and live at his former hangout, the now defunct Café Express on Dempster St. in Evanston. The name “Acoustic Express” partially comes from the café, where they played several unamplified gigs - a rare treat for music fans. Howard rediscovered these four recordings in 2001 which were sitting around his house like little "Time Capsules," each with a specific feeling and mood. There are no overdubs or fixes, though there is some editing on some cuts.