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Yosef Gutman Levitt - Upside Down Mountain (self-released)

27 September 2022

It’s usually reductive to talk about music with a comparative equation, but bear with me here. Imagine if bass guitar great Steve Swallow joined the Vince Guaraldi Trio and recorded for ECM. That’s not a million miles away from what acoustic bass guitarist Yosef Gutman Levitt accomplishes on Upside Down Mountain, his eight album and, amazingly, first trio record. Joined by pianist Omri Mor and drummer Ofri Nehemya, the Johannesburg-born/Jerusalem-based musician essays a series of compositions based on improvisations, but arranged as if they were carefully thought out. Gutman and his sidefolks aren’t interested in virtuosity or grandstanding, even as all three of them could easily slip into that mood. Instead, the trio concentrates on melody and arrangement, with Gutman and Mor passing the main tunes back and forth while Nehemya’s brush-heavy trap work keeps the tracks flowing. The leader’s songs don’t mince riffs, going straight for the heart with a series of beautiful tracks, including the lush “The Warriors,” the sentimental “Time With Abba,” and the downright gorgeous “The Great River.” Having lived several lifetimes already – South African farmer, Berklee student, NYC jazz player, spiritual seeker, tech company founder and, finally, Jerusalem-based composer – Gutman brings it all home in one release of sincere, almost sublime, beauty.