By James Calemine
Chuck Leavell commands respect in the music world. He’s played piano with the Rolling Stones (for half the band’s history), Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Dr. John, The Allman Brothers, Sea Level, The Black Crowes and many others.
Leavell’s third solo release, Southscape, recorded in Nashville, sounds like a quiet southern jazz jubilee. Eight songs on this 45-minute CD are original compositions written by mostly Leavell, and longtime collaborator Randall Bramlett. Leavell covers Dickey Betts’ “Jessica”, an Allman Brothers classic that Betts once mentioned, “…is as much Chuck’s song as mine…”
“Tomato Jam” opens the CD with Bramlett’s resonating saxophone guiding the song. Next, Leavell’s keyboard cascades on “Savannah” reiterate his talents as a composer and musician. An ode to the great Georgia River, “Altamaha”, showcases the seasoned chemistry between Leavell, Bramlett, and Tim Ries, while the title track serves as a soulful centerpiece to this elegant collection.
On “Ashley”, a tribute to his daughter, Leavell follows advice from the Rolling Stones original pianist, Ian Stewart, by intending all notes to sound like “diamond tiaras”. The final song, “Cherokee Wind”, concludes a serene mood on Southscape that captures an undeniable southern grace.