When: Tue., Sept. 19, 9 p.m. 2017
Not since the days of Abdul Wadud has there been a cellist in the jazz world as interesting as Daniel Levin. Combining the passion of Albert Ayler, the extreme noise side of Jimi Hendrix, and the quiet focus of modern European classical music, Levin is at the top of the game in the creative music world, performing with masters like Anthony Braxton and Joe Morris. Living, his new record on Belgian label Smeraldina-Rima, is the culmination of twelve years of playing solo shows around the world.
Levin initially approached solo playing as a way to meet the audience halfway between what he wanted to do and what he thought it was expecting. "I was very much focused on the experience of encountering the audience," he says. "It was about throwing myself in front of an audience and working with the excitement and fear and adrenaline of needing to create a set of music on the spot, in a live performance setting."
After a few years of exploring his ideas for solo cello, Levin began to wonder what would happen if he removed the audience from the equation: "What would happen if playing solo became a kind of private ritual that was done purely for my own enjoyment and satisfaction, with neither awareness of nor concern about the audience's experience of it?" he posits.
The answer is Living, which feels like eavesdropping on a stranger's private, most intimate moments. Some parts feel like the quietest of whispers, a voice delivering a message you can't quite understand. There are others, though, that feel like the most horrendous of nightmares, the kind that you wake up from too terrified to go back to sleep.
Since making Living, Levin says his role as a performer has become even more complex, and he wonders if he's meeting the audience's expectations or his own. He continues, "Am I attempting to experience my private ritual of exploration and expression for myself, while somehow providing the audience with a special opportunity to observe me doing this as if I were truly alone, so that their presence would have no influence on my choices and thinking?"
The answer to this question, he says, is both.
"The tension between these two very different experiences of creating solo improvisation can itself be used to provide structure and meaning in live performance," Levin says.
The cellist's Tuesday night stop in Raleigh is his first-ever concert in North Carolina, and it seems as though he'll offer something the Triangle has never experienced before—and, quite possibly, may never witness again. —David Menestres