Rod Levitt - trombone, composer; Bobby Zottola - trumpet; Gene Allen - baritone sax, bass clarinet; George Marge - tenor sax, flute; Buzz Renn - alto sax; Sy Johnson - piano; John Beal - bass; Ronnie Bedford - drums
Called "the most interesting composer to emerge since Gary McFarland" by Down Beat magazine, Portland native Rod Levitt was a surprise hit during an afternoon appearance at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival. An imaginative writer-arranger and potent soloist, Levitt led his octet through a collection of originals that showed the considerable influence of Duke Ellington as well as modernists like Gil Evans and Leonard Bernstein.
The suite-like "Down Memory Lane" (the lone piece represented here from their July 3rd set) is a kind of miniature history of jazz that incorporates elements of Swing, jazz and free jazz (and is somewhat reminiscent at times of the jazzier aspects of Bernstein's score for West Side Story). Levitt's incredibly disciplined unit executes the challenging music with impeccable precision while occasionally engaging in some stirring collective improvisations. (Milkowski)