CD review

Chad Lefkowitz-Brown – ‘Quartet Sessions’

Chad Lefkowitz-Brown – Quartet Sessions
(La Reserve. Album review by Adam Sieff)

La Reserve is a small New York music company with good ears. It has been the source of some interesting new releases recently,  and also has a  partnership with Cory Weeds’ Cellar Music and Reel to Real, which are based in Vancouver. The label’s latest release is a collection of standards from New York tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. Also known as Chad LB, he’s a 31 year old bandleader, educator and former touring gun-for -hire with Chris Botti and Taylor Swift who has also developed an impressively large online presence as an instructor, with over 60,000 subscribers on the YouTube platform alone.

Chad Lefkowitz-Brown . Photo from La Reserve Records

Quartet Sessions is a story of two young line-ups. The first features Estonian-born pianist Holger Marjamaa, double bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Bryan Carter. The second features pianist Steven Feifke, double bassist Alex Claffy and the Butcher Brown drummer Corey Fonville.

All the repertoire is very familiar, well-worn jazz standards and American songbook tunes as well as Paul McCartney’s Yesterday. But with the musicians collectively arranging each song, the results for the most part are pleasingly fresh. As Lefkowitz-Brown says: ‘when a band learns and plans everything by ear it creates more potential for those special moments to happen. The spontaneity of the music makes it so unique, and so I wanted to embrace that element by making the arrangement process an open and collaborative effort.’ The sessions were recorded at separate times by Matt Marantz, at 5th House and 718 Studios in Brooklyn, before being mixed and mastered by Noah Kellman who fits them together seamlessly.

Lefkowitz-Brown comes across as a big personality with plenty of enthusiasm and a rich tone. He’s an engaging and charismatic presence, and plays with confidence and style. He’s very much front and centre here, but allows the other musicians enough room to shine.

Each quartet has its own moments: the first really hits its stride on a fast moving Caravan with pianist Marjamaa following Lefkowitz-Brown’s solo with a fine one of his own and there’s a smart drum break section from Carter. They also play a nice version of Monk’s Let’s Cool One and a jaunty Mack The Knife. The second quartet excels on a terrific version of Watermelon Man (the Head Hunters version) and a funkified All The Things You Are using the riff from Donny Hathaway’s The Ghetto as an intro. I enjoyed Green Chimneys, the second Monk tune of the album (one per quartet) and there was more fine bopping on Rollins’ great Tenor Madness.

This is an enjoyable set of standards given a dusting down by an engaging and talented artist. Whether it’s Chad Lefkowitz-Brown or Chad LB,  the name is worth remembering.

Quartet Sessions is released today, 19 February 2021

LINKS:  Chad LB’s website
La Reserve Records website
Streaming links

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