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Holmes-Levinson Group, Holmes-Levinson Group (Self-Released) 

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It's hard to imagine a more unlikely grouping of tunes working so well together. From the Neville Brothers' "Yellow Moon" to Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" to Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand," of all things, guitarists Gene Holmes and Louie Levinson have artfully crafted a record that successfully plays upon many of their varied musical interests and strengths.

While both have alter egos that anchor their countrified outfit, the Cochise County All-Stars, Holmes-Levinson is mostly about everything but country, with a heavy focus on jazz, and Latin jazz in particular. While this is primarily exemplified through Levinson's two instrumental originals, "Good News/Bad News" and "Afuera de Langers," his nylon-string guitar is all over this recording, adding Latin licks to "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas," "Speak Low" and "My Heart Holds." The latter is a true gem, given how the group has taken a relatively obscure Japanese folk tune and reinterpreted it as a smoothly arranged, Latin-flavored instrumental.

A large part of this album's charm is the seamless blend of acoustic and electric guitars. On "Good News/Bad News," Holmes' electric Guild and Levinson's acoustic get along in ways that surprisingly complement each other. At the same time, Holmes provides bite when needed. While Jack Wood and "Uncle" Dave Jeffrey on bass and drums are support players, their strong presence makes it clear how essential they are.

More by Jim Lipson

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