March 5, 2010

Lou Levy

Lou Levy started young. Born in 1928, he became a professional piano player at age 19 in his native Chicago. His style was strongly influenced by Bud Powell and also Art Tatum; considering it was the 1940s, this is not surprising. He could play bop piano with the best of them. In the late Forties, he played with Sarah Vaughan, Woody Herman, and Tommy Dorsey, among others. After taking a hiatus from jazz in the early Fifties to work in medical journal publishing in Minneapolis, he got the itch to get back in the game, especially when some of his old sidekicks came through on tour. (Medical journals were apparently no match for the bandstand.) He went to Los Angeles and worked as a sideman with Shorty Rogers, Stan Getz, and other “West Coast jazz” players. You can see him performing with Stan Getz in Italy on "Woody 'n' You" (1961).
Twelve Nights in Hollywood     But his true calling may have been as an accompanist to jazz singers. He worked with June Christy, Peggy Lee (Lou worked with her for nearly two decades, arranging and conducting, and can be heard on her best-selling Black Coffee), Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald, and Pinky Winters. With Ella, he accompanied her on Ella Swings Lightly (1958), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (1959), the recently released 4-CD set Twelve Nights in Hollywood (Verve, 2009) from 1961, and others. Lou would have been 82 years old today; he died in California in 2001.

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