Pianist Mike Levine’s steps forward with his debut release From the Heart with about as much might and soul as any in the business. His effervescent style is both catchy and full of character. The music here, all original, immediately leaps out as that worthy of serious drive-time radio play all across Smooth Jazz America. It’s bouncy, invigorating and happy. You’ve gotta love that in a pianist. Much of his style reminds me of David Benoit or Bob Mamet, although this guy has "fingers" all his own, believe me.
I like to talk about melody a lot and this album is generously full of it. From the opening track, the lively "Headin’ Home," through totally smooth, hook-tight and enticing tracks like the title track and on to the latin-tinged "Carmencita" and the gentle, relaxing and aptly titled finale, "A Baby’s Breath," I found it quite difficult to allow this album to end.
Considering that Levine has shared studios and stages with Michael Bolton, Ed Calle, Pat Metheny, Hubert Laws, Julio Iglesias, Stanley Turrentine, Tom Scott and Hank Crawford, you must assume that the man definitely "gets it" and does so from many musical perspectives. While there are many talented artists who play quite effectively and with purpose, to "get it" is an invaluable quality in a business where fans come with such discriminating and meticulous tastes. The material here is high-end and without any of the studio "fluff" associated with making fair material sound great. Levine proves here that he and his material are quite capable of standing on their own.