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Another of my favorite pianists. Similar in style to Russ Freeman, both from the same era of bebop, both from the west coast. My favorite album of Lou Levy's is "Jazz in Four Colors." I have it in LP, I don't think it's available in digital format.
I think Freeman was more prolific over his career, but Lou Levy got around as well and was playing well into the 1970s.
I like Levy because not only can he really put together some bebop lines, but he uses interesting harmonizations and he definitely had his own voice. LIke Freeman, a very versatile musician.
I've got several of his albums. One of those I'm NOT a fan of is the "Ballad of the Sad Cafe". The vocals on it irritate me. I personally feel he shines best in his own quartet or trio.
Here he is with Ella Fitzgerald doing Flying home. Flying Home is based on the "rhythm changes" and if you'd like another version from that same old time era, check out Lionel Hampton's swinging version of it.
I remember seeing Lou Levy playing with a combo at Keystone Korner's jazz club in the early 1980's. They had the jazz singer, Leon Thomas if I remember correctly, come on stage and sing a song. He asked Lou Levy to start the song with a piano intro. Somehow it displeased the singer and he exploded in anger and turned and and shouted at Lou Levy that it was wrong and do it differently (I think it was about the tempo). I remember how Lou Levy just smiled and took it calmly and started again at a different tempo. I'll always remember how gracefully he handled the singer who treated him so disrespectfully in front of an audience.
I really like Lou Levy's playing with Getz live at the Keystone Korner from '81
Originally Posted By: rintincop
They had the jazz singer, Leon Thomas if I remember correctly, come on stage and sing a song. He asked Lou Levy to start the song with a piano intro. Somehow it displeased the singer and he exploded in anger and turned and and shouted at Lou Levy that it was wrong
What a tool. Surely Lou Levy thinking the same thing but too much of a professional to say anything.
I believe it was back in the 80s the Steeley Dan guys (Becker and Fagen) wanted to do a jazz album and they got Lou Levy and a couple of sax players to put one together. What a colosally weird project and a strange result. Definitely not Lou Lev in his prime element. I've got the album but I never listen to it because it just doesn't work. It sounds off and Levy sounds like his temperment and rhythmic style doesn't work with the type of music they're trying to do.
I really place Levy squarely in the bebop and post-bebop style where he truly shines.
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
That Fagen/Becker record is Apogee.
There are some pretty burning moments on this imo. A classic rendition by Pete Christlieb on "I'm old fashioned". "Donna lee" along with the Joe Roccasano charts..
Also cool to hear the juxtaposition between Pete & Warne Marsh. Agree that Apogee doesn't showcase Lou's finest work, although he still sounds very good imo. But there were many extenuating circumstances involved around making this record.
I've spoke with bassist Jim Hughart (who played bass on the date) on gigs on several occasions and the recording atmosphere wasn't exactly one of a traditional jazz record date. I'll just say that Fagen & Becker, especially Becker, kept the proceedings a little more pop/rock rigid then a more loose jazz feeling session. So consequently this made most all the players a little more uptight...especially Warne who wasn't used to that kind of scene at all.
I still listen to my vinyl on it...don't think it was ever released as a CD, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I still think a lot of it holds up quite well. The tunes that don't are the Fagen/Becker tunes imo.
Regarding more on Lou--in the 80's and even well into the 90's you could not go out in town here and not run into him somewhere. He literally played 5-6 nights a week. I'd guess I've seen him at least 40-50 times. Super nice guy. A little cold at first but once he knew you, he was as warm and open as could be. A million great stories.
I actually thought he shined best in the role of vocal accompanist in those later years then piano trio soloist. He didn't sound anything like those early records were he was touted as a white Bud Powell in some circles. Beautiful and sensitive vocal accompanist, I learned a lot listening to him work with singers. Like J+ said...he was unflappable.
Dave - interesting to hear some history on that album. Thanks for sharing. Just listening to it, I could tell something was "off", but of course I didn't know the background. I don't recall if I have the vinyl or CD version. I'll have to take it out sometime and have another listen.
It also seems Levy might have started slowing down in that era? I don't know how old he was - maybe he was getting up in age.