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Record Review

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Among the most impressive retro acts in the country, the New Leviathan Oriental Fox-trot Orchestra is an 18-piece band from New Orleans that lovingly re-creates American popular music of the early 20th century -- cakewalks, rags, rumbas, two-steps, the jazzy sounds of the Roaring '20s. Their authentic performances have been showcased everywhere from Saturday Night Live to Woody Allen movies.

The Leviathan's new album, Favorites, assembles some of the best-loved and most-requested material from the group's live repertoire, including superb renditions of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." Although recorded live, the 18-track collection has the brightness and precision of a studio album, whether it's the astonishing clarity of the woodwinds on "Tiger Rag," the remarkable string section solo on "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" or the playful slide-whistle effects in "Mysterious Mose."

Favorites' deceptively simple packaging includes an informative booklet, offering historical background on each selection along with intriguing anecdotes (e.g., the fact that "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" lyricist Jack Norworth had never actually been to a ballpark). The engrossing liner notes are yet another delightful little detail that guarantees Favorites favored status.



New Leviathan Oriental Fox-trot Orchestra plays the Forum at Defoor Centre Sat., Oct. 12.

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