Teasing the Korean

Pianist Lou Levy

43 posts in this topic

I have some stuff with Shorty Rogers. I may have some other stuff where he's a sideman but I don't recall what off the top of my head.

What do you suggest by him as either a leader or sideman?

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A few I can think of:

Stan Getz West Coast Sessions ('55)

Hamp & Getz ('55)

Frank Rosolino Quartet ('57)

He was a solid sideman on so many great recordings.

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If you aren't averse to paying them money, I am pretty sure that the Andorran thieves have some good Lou Levy Trio recordings available, as well as the Stan Getz recording that Paul mentioned.

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I don't know too much of his playing, I don't think, but he's absolutely wonderful IMHO on Warne Marsh's 'All Music' on Nessa.

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p.s. picked up a bunch of very very cheap vinyl yesterday, including a 1957 and 1981 Getz sessions on which he features. so looking forward to those!

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Thanks for mentioning Warne's date. Lou was a wonderful player and great sideman. On his own dates he seemed to be a bit "over romantic" for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, he was a great player, I just think his talent was best displayed as a sideman.

Dare I say he was a "white" Kenny Drew.

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IIRC, "Jazz In Four Colors" is nice (Ill try to listen to it tonight) but my fondest memories are of Levy's sideman appearances -- especially the previously mentioned "All Music," "West Coast Sessions," and "Hamp and Getz" (what a day in the studio that was!) There's a Levy original on "Jazz in Four Colors" whose title was his nickname, "The Grey Fox" -- after his prematurally grey hair and, one assumes, his rhythmic and harmonic foxiness as an accompanist. He was Peggy Lee's accompanist for many years, and I recall there was interesting passage or two about him in Peter Richmond's "Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee" -- one of them, I think, about a time that Levy and Lee got very crosswise with each other. (BTW, "Fever" is not a book to read if you're inclined to be depressed; the downward slope of Lee's life in later years is painful stuff.) Perhaps it was when Lee and Levy were on the outs (and after Sinatra's longtime accompanist Bill Miller and Sinatra had their own falling out in 1979) that I heard Levy back Sinatra at a Chicago concert in the early '80s. That was something to hear -- in particular, a ballad with just the two of them.

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I really like Lunarcy with Pete Christlieb. If you do vinyl, find a copy of "The Kid's Got Ears" on Jazzizz label - great solo version of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and some nice trio material. If you dig vocalists, check out his album with Pinky Winters - "Happy Madness".

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The duo album w/ Bud Shank on Sinatra-associated tunes, Lost in the Stars, is worth searching out.

I have one of the Fresh Sound reissues, I think just called The Lou Levy Trio--caveat emptor, it's only 26 minutes long!

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I don't know how easy it will be to find, but a great sideman date is "Ella in Hollywood".

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Is it just me, or is he one of those cats who always plays a little "sideways" if you listen closely?

Tha's a compliment, btw...

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Is it just me, or is he one of those cats who always plays a little "sideways" if you listen closely?

Tha's a compliment, btw...

Yup.

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Thanks for mentioning Warne's date. Lou was a wonderful player and great sideman. On his own dates he seemed to be a bit "over romantic" for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, he was a great player, I just think his talent was best displayed as a sideman.

Chuck, did you mic and mix the piano better than that one guy who recorded a lot of jazz albums? ;)

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Listened to "Jazz In Four Colors" (with Larry Bunker on vibes, Leroy Vinnegar, and Stan Levey) and one of its RCA successors, "A Most Musical Fella" (from I think the following year, 1957), both on Fresh Sound LPs from the mid-1980s; and fairly nasty, blurry-sounding transfers or (more likely) needle-drops they are of what originally was crisply recorded material. If they are needle-drops, it sounds like those Barcelona bastards played back the LPs on a 1956 Webcor console. In any case, the ear does adjust enough to make reasonable estimates. "Four Colors" is nice but at times a bit glib and/or slick; in particular, certain chordal patterns Levy is fond of tend to recur more than one would wish. By contrast, "Musical Fella" (a trio date with Levey and Max Bennett) is mostly incandescent; there are at least three up-tempo solos here ("Yesterdays" and Levy's way up "Apartment 17," in particular) that are in the vicinity of Bud Powell at his most inspired -- the melodic continuity, digital dexterity, and sheer mental agility are pretty staggering. Also, Bud is Bud, and Lou is Lou -- while there would be no Lou without Bud's example, Lou had his own thing. In this respect and others, Chuck's "white Kenny Drew" is spot on. One of the things that Lou and Drew have in common, at any tempo but especially when things get swift, is a sense that there's a gyroscopic motor turning inside them at least twice the speed they're playing -- an implicit doubled-up or twice doubled-up feel, a la boogie woogie perhaps. Among other things, this gives them a marvelously secure rhythmic base from which they can dart and dash seemingly at will. I agree that Lou could get "over romantic," but on "Musical Fella" the rhapsodic out-tempo passages, when they occur, are also for the most part full of damn musically subtle thinking, as with much vintage rhapsodic Drew. Also in such moods, the playing of both men can have a welcome undertone of vinegary bluntness; they themselves are not swooning. And does Lou ever play some "sideways" things on this album, harmonically and rhythmically. In particular, dig the way he radically smooths out the melody of "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads," utterly eliminating the song's "ring-ring-a-ling-a" hook and thus turning it into a Gil Evans-like hovering hallucination. Also, and this has something do with the "sideways" things, Lou seldom if ever has a harmonic idea that isn't also a rhythmic one -- or better, for him thoughts that seem to be harmonic can become rhythmic and vice versa (and back and forth again) very rapidly. It isn't always at that level, but when it is.

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Ira Gitler on Levy in "Swing To Bop": "There are a couple of records Levy made with Chubby Jackson -- the band that went to Sweden -- and his solos on 'Boomsie' and "Dee Dee's Dance" in particular have that crazy intensity of the bebop period. He captured an essence in those solos."

I believe I have those on a Xanadu LP collection, "Bebop Revisited, Vol. 1,"; if so, will listen and report.

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Thanks for the detail, Larry.

Surprised to hear that about the Fresh Sounds label. I have a stereo pressing of Mundell Lowe's "TV Action Jazz" from Fresh Sounds that is superb. When did they get their act together?

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I'll second the recommendation on "Lost in the Stars" with Bud Shank. Check out Levy's work as a sideman on "A Ballad Album" with Warne Marsh on Criss Cross --one of Marsh's more conventional albums, but some of it is stunning.

Levy made a few albums as a leader in the early 90s on Verve and/or Gitanes. Lunarcy (on Verve) was mentioned by Pete B. From about the same time there's a solo effort ("by myself") and a quartet album ("ya know") with an usual lineup (piano, two basses, and drums).

The duo album w/ Bud Shank on Sinatra-associated tunes, Lost in the Stars, is worth searching out.

I have one of the Fresh Sound reissues, I think just called The Lou Levy Trio--caveat emptor, it's only 26 minutes long!

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Lou Levy features extensively as a sideman in my record collection, the earliest being with the Herman Second Herd in 1948-49 on Keeper of the Flame (Capitol) and the latest in 1997 with Lanny Morgan on A Suite for Yardbird (Fresh Sound). I only have one recording in Lou's own name: Solo Scene (RCA).

Edited by BillF

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I don't know too much of his playing, I don't think, but he's absolutely wonderful IMHO on Warne Marsh's 'All Music' on Nessa.

You're not alone in your opinion of his playing on "All Music". :tup:tup:tup

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Just spent a couple of hours listening to those two Getz albums I mentioned. The first was 'The Soft Swing' (1957), the second 'The Dolphin' (1981).

TSS is interesting - different rhythm sections on each side. Levy, Leroy Vinegar arnd Stan Levey are a MUCH tighter, more compelling unit that Mose Allison/Addison Farmer/Jerry Segal, IMHO. In fact, the Levy 'section' is absolutely wonderful! Echoing Larry above (#16), Levy is really boppy here. Unsurprisingly I guess, given the date, but he's very much more from Al Haig (even Elmo Hope, on a more conservative, 'behaving' outing) than Bill Evans, who I hear a lot more of on the 'All Music' and '...Dolphin' dates.

On the latter dates, although there's more of an Evans influence, Levy seems far more oblique (certainly on the Marsh date; again, probably unsurprising given the company and material, I guess!) and certainly more solid rhythmically than Evans.

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There is one significant difference I hear in the the Lou Levy -Kenny Drew comparison. Drew is a much more blues oriented player than Levy. Drew and Hampton Hawes share that strong blues focus which has elements of Horace Silver's

approach.

Lou Levy has an RCA recording, available on CD, titled "Solo Scene" which is very nice. Two trio CDs well worth consideration are "My Old Flame" on Fresh Sound, and "Countdown" on Interplay(Japanese).

The two Verve CDs "By Myself" and "Ya Know" are sessions I enjoy. The EmArcy quartet date with Pete Christlieb - mentioned before, "Lunarcy" is simply (in my opinion) wonderful.

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A closer inspection of my copies of Lunarcy, Ya Know, and By Myself shows that they're all on Verve in their "Gitanes Jazz Productions" series.

There is one significant difference I hear in the the Lou Levy -Kenny Drew comparison. Drew is a much more blues oriented player than Levy. Drew and Hampton Hawes share that strong blues focus which has elements of Horace Silver's

approach.

Lou Levy has an RCA recording, available on CD, titled "Solo Scene" which is very nice. Two trio CDs well worth consideration are "My Old Flame" on Fresh Sound, and "Countdown" on Interplay(Japanese).

The two Verve CDs "By Myself" and "Ya Know" are sessions I enjoy. The EmArcy quartet date with Pete Christlieb - mentioned before, "Lunarcy" is simply (in my opinion) wonderful.

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Also worth searching out is a Herb Geller date, Fire in the West on Jubilee, probably around 1957. It features Geller, Harold Land, Kenny Dorham, Ray Brown, Lawrence Marable, and Lou. It's been getting a lot of play around here lately, particularly "Jitterbug Waltz."

Edited by jtaylor

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Just spent a couple of hours listening to those two Getz albums I mentioned. The first was 'The Soft Swing' (1957), the second 'The Dolphin' (1981).

TSS is interesting - different rhythm sections on each side. Levy, Leroy Vinegar arnd Stan Levey are a MUCH tighter, more compelling unit that Mose Allison/Addison Farmer/Jerry Segal, IMHO. In fact, the Levy 'section' is absolutely wonderful!

I agree about "The Soft Swing" rhythm section versus the electrifying Levy/Vinnegar/Levey rhythm section in (so to speak) absolute terms, but the Allison/Farmer/ Segal team does have a distinctive loping feel that probably has something to with Stan's playing on TSS being among the most relaxed, at best sublime, Stan on record. On the other hand, a little birdie in my head tells me that the degree and nature of Stan's relaxation on TSS might have had something to do with the amount and nature of opiates that could have been coursing through Stan's system at the time. On TSS he sounds at once sufficiently alert and utterly stoned.

Also, while no one, other than perhaps Horace Silver, probably could be more legitimately bluesy than Kenny Drew, Lou could be very bluesy too -- hear his "Lou's Blues" on "A Most Musical Fella."

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