2014 Retrospective

2014

Another year “in the books”, as they say. It’s funny, but sometimes I really don’t make a sharp delineation as to when one year ends and the next begins, or even what day of the week it is. I stopped caring about that when I was 19, when I left college and set a course into the relatively unknown and unstructured world of just being myself. For about 5 years I played a lot of music, gave lessons on piano and harmonica, and had part time day jobs that included making waterbed frames, furniture moving, plumbing, house painting, welding, even a brief shot at instrument making. Then I realized that all I wanted to do was be a musician. I stopped the day jobs and committed my life totally to music, and the distinction between weekends and weekdays really lost its significance.

The work schedule of a musician is totally different from that of most people. It can even be totally opposite- we tend to work mostly at night and especially on weekends. It is even hard to find calendars and schedule books with weekend days that are the same size as weekdays…

We tend to sleep late (which can be tough if you have kids), go to sleep MUCH later (especially after playing till 2 or 3am). Some of us have teaching jobs, some of us live largely on the road, traveling by bus, car, or plane, living out of suitcases in hotels. I’ve done all of these things- teaching, touring, playing locally, recording, and even more, and can’t imagine a life without the incredible variety of experiences that the pursuit of music has brought me. So here is some of what last year was like…

January started with a trip to the Canary Islands, where Fox was playing with the Chicago Symphony. I also visited my parents in Florida and my sister and family in Atlanta on this trip. The Canaries were very different, the orchestra sounded fantastic, and I saw places that I never otherwise would have seen. It was also great to be around so many great musicians out of their usual downtown Chicago setting.

After that, I flew to California where Chris Siebold and I played at the NAMM Show for Hohner. This was a fantastic experience. We were treated really well by Hohner head honcho Clay Edwards and everyone else. We also got to see and hear so many great players (my favorite thing was hearing Giovanni Hidalgo and Paul Rekow play an incredible duet on congas at the LP booth). And as an extra bonus, my friends Ruben Alvarez and Kalyan Pathak sat in with us on percussion, and CJ Vanston hand- carried a great Casio keyboard for me to play. After that, we flew north and played shows in Santa Cruz and Napa, where we also got to record a bunch of lessons at Artist Works Studios for my online harmonica school. It was great to see David and Patricia Butler and the whole crew in Napa.

February was a slow month. I thought I would do a lot of composing, but it was hard to compose with the horribly cold and snowy weather. I have to confess that I got depressed and couldn’t come up with many ideas that I liked…I spent a lot of time shoveling and shivering, although I did practice a lot. Finally, I played a wonderful concert with Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. He wrote a great arrangement of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” featuring me on harmonica, and I also played on a bunch of other very cool New Orleans – flavored material.

March got me back in the swing of things. A very cool gig playing with the U. of Puget Sound big band in Tacoma, WA, a solo concert in Everett,WA organized by my harmonica pal Jim McLaughlin, a weekend with Chévere at Chicago’s Green Mill, another concert with Orbert Davis’ and the CJP, and a harmonica workshop on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with some very fine players from all over the US and Canada.

April was even more diverse. Richard Van Kleeck, director of concerts at Northwestern U in my home town of Evanston, IL, revived the Harmonica Convergence concert. It was a great one, with Pablo Fagundes (Brazil), The Windy City Trio, Corky Siegel, and myself. We played in about every possible style to a large, enthusiastic audience. A week later I was part of a big Beatles’ Tribute at the same hall, with my friend Chris Siebold putting together a great band, and featuring guest artists like Anthony Molinaro. I played with him, with Chris and the band, and the sold-out crowd loved it. Van Kleeck is a concert promoter with vision and imagination, and it is a shame that he decided to retire after putting Pick Staiger on the map with his wonderful programming.

In between those concerts, I played 2 concerts in Virginia with my old friend Paul Reisler (Trapezoid), and also played a concert in Williamsburg, VA with the College of William and Mary Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, led by Anne Rasmussen. She plays the kanun and has extensive knowledge of just about every type of music from the Middle East. This was a great experience, and probably the first time anyone had ever performed all of this music on a diatonic harmonica. Next, I played a show with Deacon Blues, a Chicago area Steely Dan Tribute Band. They featured me on the 2 tunes I recorded on Donald Fagen’s “Morph the Cat” CD, as well as other Steely Dan material. I love this music.

At the end of the month, I traveled to New York to accept a distinguished alumni award from “my old school”, Poly Prep in Brooklyn, which I attended from 7th grade through high school. I had only been back there 2 or 3 times for brief visits since 1969 and I’ve stayed in touch with just a few friends from back then. I received the honor along with a female judge, the first woman honoree, which was a good thing to see, as it was an all boys school until 1975. The place has changed in many good ways. I was glad that I went and accepted the award. It was an honor and it felt great to receive it and see old friends and classmates. My son and his girlfriend came to lend me moral support for my largely improvised acceptance speech and playing of the school fight song on harmonica. The melody and its archaic lyrics are embedded in my brain cells…

May was a month of a lot of travel. I played several solo concerts, a show with Michael Riessler and Jean-Louis Matinier, and 6 duo concerts with Chris Siebold in The Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. I got to see many good friends, including Klaus Stetter, former managing director of the Hohner factory in Trossingen, Dr. Christian Niederwieser, Hohner’s former head of Artist Relations, my dear friend Michael Timler (former Hohner product manager and a legend in the harmonica world), as well as Richard Weiss from Hohner, and many other friends, including singer Satya Gummuluri, who I played with on bassist Matt Geraghty’s “Passport” CD, and who now lives in Ulm, Germany. It is always great to play in Europe and I owe much thanks to Raimund Kast for setting up this tour. Later in the month I traveled to NY and played 2 concerts with my old friend John Guth and his trio- Don Falzone, bass and Rich Stein, percussion. John is a guitarist and singer who writes unique vocal and instrumental music that combines Jazz, Folk, Rock and more. We have recorded a CD of his tunes which I will soon release on my label- stay tuned! During all of this I also keep up with my online harmonica school and do recording sessions for vocal and instrumental artists from all over the world- mostly overdubbing harmonica at my home studio with Joel Fox engineering.

June was the month when I started to work really seriously on completing a commissioned piece, an oboe sonata for Robert Morgan from the Rembrandt Chamber Players, accompanied by Jeannie Yu on piano. This is the first instrumental commission that I have written for someone else to play. It was challenging. I spent a lot of time in late May, all through June, and into July, composing this music and finally working with Ben Lewis, who entered into Finale for me. If not for him, my semi- legible notation would have been unplayable…Also in June, Trio Globo played an unforgettable weekend at The Green Mill- our first weekend at a 3-set/per night Jazz club. We had to resurrect some older material, which worked out really well. It can get pretty noisy in there sometimes, but you could have heard a pin drop during all of our sets over 2 nights. After that, Chévere played an outdoor festival in Franklin Park, IL booked by our old friend Murray Weiner. It was an unlikely location between noisy freight railroad tracks and a carnival, but the sound was great and the fantastic audience applauded every solo as if they were in a concert hall. Then I played 3 concerts with Corky Siegel in Illinois and Wisconsin. It was a great experience, except for the fact that I got a very bad case of bronchitis and had to take some pretty strong medicine as we were doing this. We have a blast playing together and he made me sing a tune- I picked the old Blues “Corinna, Corinna”. Nobody threw tomatoes at me, so I guess ONE vocal from me was just the right amount, especially with Corky playing the greatest piano accompaniment imaginable.

July started with A Prairie Home Companion’s 40th Anniversary Weekend July 2- 5th. This was a marathon- 2 full concerts and several smaller ones, lots of rehearsing. It was unforgettable and wonderful- such an amazing collection of great musicians and singers. One of the highlights was going to a Twins game with Garrison and Joe Newberry after 2 days of intense rehearsals. Garrison just needed a break and asked us if we wanted to go with him. He had a box behind home plate. During the 7th inning, he felt that his head was cleared, and he said, “C’mon, it’s time to leave”.

After that, back home, much frenzied work to finish the oboe sonata. I played an outdoor concert in MI with Chris Siebold, a church service in Hyde Park with Ben Lewis and Larry Gray, a concert with Chris at The SPACE in Evanston, and a concert at Orbert Davis’ Summer Music Camp. I thrive on this kind of variety when it is high quality.

August– I finally finished the sonata in late July and was able to take a deep breath. I went to several Chicago Symphony concerts at Ravinia, gave a bunch of lessons, etc. After a few smaller Chicago gigs, Fox and I flew to Florida to visit my parents. A few days after our return, I flew to Berlin to perform solo and with a Renaissance music group that improvised, and also included my old friend, the great French tuba and serpent virtuoso Michel Godard. This was at a wonderful venue called Radialsystem V, a former water pumping station. It was a supercool experience, made even better because Air Berlin flies there direct from Chicago.

September– I started preparations for playing for Jewish High Holiday services for Aitz Hayim. This involves extensive meetings, rehearsals and research with Cantor David Landau and Rabbie Julie Pelc Adler. I have done this for many years and my son Miles plays drums and percussion. It’s a challenging and spiritually rewarding experience- more on this later. Next, I played a big concert for the Jewish Council for the Elderly at a Chicago hotel. This came about through my connections with Aitz Hayim. I put together an all-star band that included Chris Siebold, Ernie Adams, Larry Kohut, Victor Garcia, Dee Alexander, and from Chévere, Steve Eisen, Joe Rendon, and Ruben Alvarez. The evening was a great success, thanks largely to Chris’ help arranging and making legible Finale charts! After this, I played a unique concert with Alberto Mizrahi for the Hellenic-Israel Alliance at Chicago’s Francis Parker School. My years of playing in a Greek wedding band came in handy. For part of my solo feature, I played one of the better- known Greek folksongs, and many people started to sing and clap along (in 7/8!)

Then I traveled to St. Paul to play another Prairie Home Companion Show- every one of these is special. This one also featured a street dance after the radio show with unforgettable events like a Bob Dylan sound – alike competition, a Loon- Calling competition, etc. It’s hard to play harmonica while you are laughing hard…Then the three Rosh Hashona Services at the Northbrook JCC, followed by an appearance with Orbert Davis on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”. And finally- the Chicago premier of my oboe sonata at Nichols Auditorium and The Driehaus Museum. It was a thrill to finally hear my piece performed. I also played Bartok’s Rumanian Dances at both concerts on harmonica with a string quintet. I take repeats and improvise on some of the sections.

October– Miles and I played the 2 Yom Kippur Services for Aitz Hayim. These are really intense experiences, impossible to describe and very different from what you would find at traditional Jewish congregations. There is a lot of communal singing and dancing, some of my original music, music of John Coltrane, Leonard Cohen, et al, as well as all the traditional Jewish tunes. Guest rabbi Burt Visotzky was incredibly enlightening and to the point. After that, I played a concert at Cleveland’s Severance Hall with Jamie Haddad, Julien Labro, and The Hot Club of Detroit. This was a blast. The next day flew back and performed excerpts of Bach sonatas and organ pieces for Bach Week in Evanston’s 40th Anniversary Benefit Concert. Then, a drive to Lexington, KY to perform solo and with the U. of KY Faculty Jazz Quartet at Natasha’s Bistro. Miles Osland and Raleigh Daley have a great thing going down there. Next, a concert with Trio Globo at Western Michigan U. in Kalamazoo, MI, followed immediately by a tour of Europe. I played 5 concerts with Riessler/Levy/Matinier in Germany and Austria, and one with pianist Dominic Cuzzato in Treviso, Italy. In between Passau and Treviso, I spent 2 days in Vienna with Fox, who was on a Chicago Symphony European Tour. I got to hear the orchestra play at the magnificent Musikverein concert hall. Their encore of the overture from Verdi’s “Nabucco” under Maestro Muti was something indescribable and electrifying. The place went crazy- and so did I.

November…. A concert at DePauw U. in Greencastle, IN with Trio Globo and vocalist Loire. Then a big concert with Orbert Davis at The Auditorium Theater, one with Deacon Blues at Fitzgerald’s, a benefit concert for EISMA (they bring great music to Evanston schools) with Jazz violinist Diane Delin, and finally a wonderful concert in Indianapolis with Trio Globo, Loire, and percussionists Yousef Sharonick and Shane Shanahan. It was a very special occasion- The Percussive Arts Society inducted Glen Velez into their Hall of Fame. We all felt inspired and the music seemed to play itself as everyone honored Glen’s achievements and prowess.

December– Two more concerts with Corky- this time I wasn’t sick, and I sang my “Christmas Blues”. Also, the annual Harry Shearer/Judith Owen Holiday Concert at SPACE. This is an unforgettable, hilarious, poignant, indescribable show with a ridiculous amount of talent onstage- Jim Peterik, Nick Tremulis, CJ Vanston, Kathy Richardson, etc, etc. It was an insanely good time. I put together a solo harmonica medley of Christmas tunes for this that was very well received. The next night I played a Hanukah service/concert with Alberto Mizrahi and a fine band at Anshe Emet Synagogue. For this, I played a solo harmonica medley of Hanukah melodies. Drummer Mo Jennings joined me at just the right moment when I played Maot’zur and Mi Yemalel with a Bo Diddley groove….

But the most special event took place earlier in the month when I played a concert with Alberto at a temple in Boca Raton. I played a bunch of Sephardic music and Jazzy Hanukah tunes with him, an oud player and conga player, and one very soulful tune with the cantor who organized the event, Ben Tisser. There was a great PA, a perfect Steinway B piano, many guest vocal artists, and an audience of about 1200. Alberto said some very kind words about me before I played a solo harmonica version of excerpts from my Harmonica Concerto. I got a great response. But the highlight of the night came just after this, when I introduced my father, Ira Levy, to sing a song as a surprise guest. Although we had planned it, he wasn’t listed on the program, and there was a gasp from the audience when I mentioned that he was 91. He walked slowly up the steps to the stage and took his place near a microphone. I didn’t say what tune he would sing. I played the introduction and he started to sing. My father has a beautiful bass baritone voice that flows out of him with effortless power. After about 10 seconds of “Some Enchanted Evening”, the audience began to cheer the way a crowd at a baseball game cheers when someone hits a home run… They quieted down till he finished, then gave him a roaring standing ovation. I was stunned. He was stupefied. It was hard to go on with the show- it was truly a show- stopper.

The background story to this is very long, but part of it is that my mother (88) fell and broke her femur, had surgery, was in a hospital and a rehab center for almost 3 weeks and came home the day before this concert. My dad was exhausted and under a terrible strain from this. Somehow, he was able to sit in the audience for 2 hours and get up and sing with no warmup…it was incredible and I think we will play some more concerts together in Florida in 2015. And my mother is doing much better, and will soon be able to walk without a walker. Fox and I will fly down there and visit them in January.

New Year’s Eve, I play First Night Evanston with Chévere at The First Presbyterian Church. This is a great big party with many acts and venues that I played last year with Acoustic Express. Come if you can. I wish all of you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year, and hope that this next year brings the world more sanity and sees people behave in more humane ways to their fellow humans.
Love to all,
Howard

2012 Grammy-Best Instrumental Composition!

AND THE WINNER IS!!!!

Life In Eleven
Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)
Track from: Rocket Science
[eOne Music]

Flecktones on Jimmy Fallon

Don’t forget the original Flecktones lineup is on tour. They stopped by Jimmy Fallon, Nov 14th and played some Flying Saucer Dudes.

The Original Flecktones

In case you haven’t heard, Howard is on the road with Bela Fleck and …The Original Flecktones. In support of the new album, Rocket Science, Bela and crew have hit the road and are on their way to a town near you. Don’t miss this opportunity to catch the original line up with new songs and of course your favorite classics.

 

Howard Levy Interview

Howard discusses Balkan Samba in this interview.

Howard Levy’s Tonight and Tomorrow is on Nomination Ballot

“To all Grammy Award Voting Members; for your consideration, “Tonight and Tomorrow” by Howard Levy is on the Nominating Ballot in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Howard Levy’s solo on “Flunky Jazz” is on the Nominating Ballot in the Best Improvised Solo category.”

Howard Levy’s Acceptance of the Bernie Bray Award at SPAH 2010

Tonight and Tomorrow review

A great new review about Howard’s new CD, Tonight and Tomorrow.

Tonight and Tomorrow
Howard Levy | Chicago Sessions
By Matthew Warnock

Tonight and Tomorrow is an intellectually stimulating and highly enjoyable album by virtuoso harmonicist Howard Levy. Featured on both harmonica and piano, even performing both simultaneously on “Sandi,” Levy and his trio–bassist Larry Gray and drummer Ernie Adams–perform together as if they’ve been on the bandstand for years. With an uncanny ability to interpret and anticipate each other, the trio sounds as one instrument as it weaves its way through the album’s various tempos, feels, grooves and harmonic progressions.

Levy wrote all of Tonight and Tomorrow’s tunes, with the exception of two collective free improvs, “Flunky Jazz” and “Triosity.” Drawing from across his forty-plus year career, Levy has brought together ten songs reflecting his different artistic tastes. There are odd-meter compositions such as “Song for Susan,” Brazilian-influenced grooves like “Chorinho,” and everything in-between. With such a diverse and extensive history it would be almost impossible for Levy to sum his career up on one disc, but Tonight and Tomorrow comes as close as possible to doing just that. Levy’s harmonica playing is startlingly fluid and full of the technical prowess that would be expected from the genre’s top saxophonists, not from an instrument that is often associated with campfire cowboys and Mississippi bluesmen. In the capable hands of the Chicago-based musician, however, the harmonica cooks. On the opener, ”Howard’s F# Blues,” and the freely-improvised “Flunky Jazz,” Levy tears across the Instrument’s three octave range with such a wide variety of tonal colors, harmonic flavors and timbres that it is almost impossible to think that all of these amazing sounds are coming out of an instrument that fits into the palm of his hand.

Gray and Adams give stellar performances throughout. Aside from his strong rhythm playing, Gray also contributes several memorable solos, including standout improvisations on “Song for Susan” and “Slanted Samba.” Adams is as solid as a rock with his comping and grooves. Never one to overplay, Adams knows exactly when to lay back and let the soloist explore the groove and when to jump in and engage the lead player head on. It is this level of interaction between the rhythm section and soloist that provide some of the albums most poignant moments. Tonight and Tomorrow is an engaging release by the Chicago trio of Levy, Gray and Adams. These three musicians have come together to prove, once again, that it’s not necessary to only look to New York for the best in American jazz. The Windy City scene is doing just fine, thank you.
http://jazztimes.com/articles/25818-tonight-and-tomorrow-howard-levy03/10/10 Howard LevyTonight and Tomorrow Chicago SessionsBy George Kanzler

When the harmonica is heard in jazz, it is most often the 12-tone chromatic harmonica, not the diatonic “blues harp,” which is associated more with Bob Dylan and Chicago blues. Howard Levy, however, has almost single-handedly developed the full jazz potential of the diatonic harmonica. His harp can be heard with the original version of Béla Fleck’s Flecktones and with Paquito D’Rivera and Kurt Elling, as well as on a host of pop recordings by artists as varied as Steely Dan and Dolly Parton.

But this, happily, is by no means only an album of diatonic jazz harmonica; it is instead a marvelous piano trio album featuring Levy’s harmonica. And the pianist is none other than Levy, who overdubs his harmonica on all but one of the seven trio/quartet tracks. The only two tracks that aren’t Levy compositions are on-the-spot improvisations by the trio, sans piano, with harmonica, Larry Gray’s acoustic bass, and Ernie Adams’ drums: “Flunky Jazz” gives us Levy’s bluesiest, train-whistle folk/blues harp style over a rolling brushes rhythm; “Triosity” features a long rubato prelude segueing into bop riffs and ending in a strolling swing finale.

For the most part, Levy avoids obvious blues-harp gestures, playing more like a jazz saxophonist than a bluesman, leaning toward bop strategies even on “Howard’s F-sharp Blues.” Although he cites McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock as influences, Levy the pianist has a sunnier, more ebullient style than either, enlivened by an unfailing upward momentum, even on the relatively slow ballad, “Floating.” The trio interplay is first-rate throughout, as are the arrangements—the best being last: the eight-minute-plus mini-suite from which the album is titled. The track has an arc that is simply captivating in its trajectory.

Reflections on New Year

Well, 2009 was quite a year. It ended softly- no big New Year’s Eve concert- but I did make a lot of noise for most of it. There was the Flecktones’ reunion tour, the release of FIVE new cd’s- Alone and Together and Time Capsules (on Balkan Samba), The Riessler/Levy/Matiner Trio’s Silver and Black (on Enja), Tonight and Tomorrow (on Chicago Sessions), and Unfolding with Saffron Caravan members Kiu Haghighi (santur) and Latin percussionist Jean LeRoi.
There were memorable concerts with: Alberto Mizrahi (Quebec), Jeremy Monteiro (Singapore), Steve Bailey/Jeff Sipe, Trio Globo, Chris Siebold, Mark Nauseef and Miroslav Tadic (Bulgaria), Anthony Molinaro, and Andrew Tecson. I performed my harmonica concerto in Trossingen with the Hohner Accordion Orchestra, played on “A Prairie Home Companion” again, and did concerts with Pat Donohue, Rich Dworsky, Corky Siegel, etc, etc- incredible variety. I thank my lucky stars that I am fortunate enough to play in all these settings and have such a rich and varied musical life.
And of course, the opening of The Howard Levy Harmonica School, a major undertaking with the folks from Artist Works. This is a very exciting new online entity. An important person in all of this has been my new assistant, Bob Kessler, who designed the Balkan Samba cd packages and is my right-hand man for the Harmonica School as well.
There is much more to come in 2010- a new Trio Globo cd on Stonecutter Records (!), more live and recorded collaborations, concerts with Chevere, Fox Fehling, Trio Globo, and some surprises, too. So stay tuned. Thanks for your support, interest, and good will. Please stay in touch. I wish all of you peace, prosperity, and good health for 2010Best Wishes,Howard

Howard Levy’s new Harmonica School

New Website, New Recordings, and…New Online Harmonica School

We are pleased to announce lots of growth around Levyland. Howard has been very busy this year and hopefully you’ve been able to see him with the Flecktones again or picked up Alone and Together. For all the players out there we invite you to check out the new Howard Levy Harmonica School. Online lessons from the best.

Newest recordings

Tonight and Together – Chicago Sessions
Time Capsules – Acoustic Express
Alone and Together – Solos, Duets, and Quartets

Outer Banks Intensive

Oct. 16- 18, 200912:00 pmHoward Levy Harmonica Intensive!For the 4th consecutive year…This annual event returns to The Outer Banks of North Carolina.It has drawn harmonica players from around the world. For a full description, go to http://www.classactsontour.com/ and click on Music Intensives

New Chevere review

A new review on Chevere is out. It also has some great photos of the band.

Chicago Sessions

Here’s a great article on the Chicago Sessions label by Ruth Sze for Chicago Jazz Magazine

Straits Times of Singapore

Here’s an article on Howard from Straits Times of Singapore.

New Balkan Samba site

New website for Howard’s label BalkanSamba.com with a new recording by Norman Savitt

Howard on NPR’s All Things Considered

Howard was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” January 25
Listen to the full interview

New Balkan Samba site

January 2009Howard was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” January 25 Listen to the full interview
New website for Howard’s label BalkanSamba.com with a new recording by Norman Savitt

Diverse music experiences

This year has been an extraordinarily diverse musical experience so far. Here are some, but not all, of the highlights from the first half:

  • 2 trips to Mexico to play private parties and concerts with the great Jewish Cantor and singer extraordinaire, Alberto Mizrahi.
  • Performing my Harmonica Concerto, music of Bartok, Piazzola, etc with the Catskill Symphony Orchestra
  • A reunion concert with my old boss, Paquito D’Rivera
  • Several concerts and the start of recording a new cd (!) with Trio Globo
  • Great concerts in Europe with the Riessler/Levy/Matinier Trio
  • A concert with Paul Reisler and friends at Loren Maazel’s beautiful little concert hall in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Sitting in with Steely Dan at The Chicago Theater
  • Playing 2 Prairie Home Companion Shows with people like Sam Bush and Gearlyn Steele, and getting to act in several comedy sketches.
  • A great concert with Ethel in NYC
  • A string of wonderful concerts with Chris Siebold and my son Miles on the East Coast
  • A Bluegrass show with Special Consensus
  • Playing harmonica with Sylvester Harper’s group at Chicago’s Gospel Fest
  • And Chévere, like Proud Mary, keeps on burnin’ with shows in Glen Ellyn, Evanston, and at The Green Mill and Fitzgerald’s.

Latest events

Howard has been really busy with a lot of different things. November included a European tour with the Riessler, Levy, Matinier Trio, right off the plane from Frankfurt to play with the fantastic Django Reinhardt Festival band at Birdland in NY. Then down to Florida to record 3 tracks for a cd with composer/pianist Scott Routenberg, back to Chicago for a concert at The Old Town School with Corky Siegel and Chamber Blues. A concert in Michigan with ¾ of Acoustic Express, a holiday concert with the wonderful finger-style guitarist Muriel Anderson, playing at the dvd release party for Chris Steinmetz’s Acoustic Chicago project, a benefit concert for relocating Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, playing with Luis Ewerling and A Cor do Brasil, 2 concerts playing a John Williams piece on harmonica with the Chicago Symphony, and finally a mostly classical concert with Fox Fehling.

Videos, Videos, Videos

We have launched a new Video page for your enjoyment. Over time we will add new vintage clips and new footage as it is captured. You can keep updated here and via Howard’s new MySpace page .

John Frigo, Steely Dan, Flecktones and more

It has been an eventful few weeks. Some great things, and one very sad one. After a lifetime of bringing joy to people through his music, art, and poetry, the great jazz violinist John Frigo passed away at the age of 90 on July 4. He was a dear friend and musical co-conspirator, and I will be posting a tribute to him here at levyland.com. On more cheerful notes, on successive nights in Chicago, I sat in with Steely Dan at The Auditorium Theater and The Flecktones at Symphony Center. Then I played shows in Montreal with The Flecktones and Kurt Elling. The show with Kurt was recorded and filmed, so watch for the dvd. I also played at Ravinia with A Prairie Home Companion. One of the high points for me was playing an emotional version of “Don’t Think Twice” with Garrison and Rambling Jack Elliot. I also played “The Ravinia Merengue”, a tune I’ve been doing in Europe with the Riessler/Levy/Matinier trio. Esther Cepeda, a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times who was in the audience, was so surprised to hear Latin music on APHC that she raced up onto the stage, interviewed me, and published a little item about it in the paper a few days later.(webmaster note: Thanks to Howard for giving me the John Frigo ‘tour’ whilevisiting with him last year in Chicago. Frigo was truly an amazing human being)

Latest events

The last few weeks have been very intense. In a short period of time, I played concerts with 3 artists whose cd’s I played on- Matt Geraghty, Siora, and Kurt Elling- in New York, Quito, Ecuador, and Chicago. With Matt and Siora, I played full concerts, which meant intense rehearsing and learning of repertoire. With Kurt, it was just 3 tunes, but intense nonetheless.

After that, I flew to Germany and played several concerts with Michael Riessler and Jean Louis Matinier that were recorded by NDR in Hamburg. Totally different music, with pieces composed by all three of us. We also recorded music for a radio play composed by Michael at Luna Studios in Hamburg.

Upon my return home, I played “Listen Here”, Neil Tesser and Mark Ruffin’s syndicated radio show, with Acoustic Express. Then, it was right into the world of ETHEL, a marvelous classical/improvisational string quartet. We performed their music and 3 of my compositions in concert at Northwestern’s Pick Staiger Auditorium. Included in the program were an arrangement of parts of the second and third movements of my chamber suite “Harmonia Mundi”, and the first live performance of “Raga Fantasy”, a piece I composed for my new harmonica instructional dvd. This was a fantastic experience for me. We hope to collaborate again in the future. The next night, I came back to NU and sat in with my friend, the amazing guitarist/composer Chris Siebold, at his joint concert with Fareed Haque.

National Harmonica League

On Feb 8, 2007, Howard played a concert in Richmond, England, with a trio of excellent English Jazz musicians. The concert was sponsored by the National Harmonica League, which featured Howard on the cover of their magazine, Harmonica World.www.harmonica.co.uk

Brad Walseth wrote a review of Chevere for Jazz Chicago available here http://www.jazzchicago.net/chevere.html

Interview with Howard Levy in Musicians Professional Resourceon Chevere http://www.musicians-professional-resource.com/interview3.html

Latest activities

Recording activities in the last few months: Howard recorded harmonica on 2 tracks of a cd by French harmonica player David Herzhaft. Harmonica on 2 tracks on Alan Jackson’w new cd, “Red Like a Rose”, produced by Alison Krause in Nashville. One song for New York singer/songwriter Stacey Wilde, 5 tunes for Chicago singer/songwriter Ernie Hendrickson. Howard composed and recorded the music for “The One-Room Schoolhouse in the 21st Century”, a radio documentary by noted author and producer Neenah Ellis, to be broadcast on Public Radio. Trio Globo recorded a cd with the amazing singer Amikaeyla Gaston in Washington, DC. Howard also recorded harmonica on the soundtrack of a movie by Brasilian filmmaker and composer Rodrigo Assad.

June 10, 2006
For those of you who wonder what I’ve been up to recently- I wrote 9 new compositions for a new harmonica instructional video filmed at my house by my webmaster Chris Sampson with filmmaker Otis (blanked on Otis’ last name). They are in 9 keys, and I played them on a C harmonica for the sake of music theory. There is an Indian – style piece in Db, a Spanish tune in Ebm, a swing tune in E, a Klezmer- style piece in Fm, a Tango in F#m, a funk tune in Abm, a bossa in A, a bluesy swing tune in B, and some Blues in C and Bb.

Recently, I read the biography of film composer Bernard Hermann- Citizen Kane, Psycho, etc. An amazing story. Also another book of interviews with film composers. On my long plane rides to Europe and back, I became addicted to crossword puzzles. I did them till my brain shut down and I fell asleep.

On piano, I have been trying to become more proficient at playing classical piano music. As someone who is primarily a jazz musician, this can be an incredibly frustrating endeavor. But it is very gratifying, and the hard work pays off, especially for my left hand. I’ve been tryiong to play some of the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich- they stuck in my head from hearing Sviatoslav Richter recordings years ago. I’ve been revisiting several Mozart Piano Sonatas, the Debussy Arabesque #1, several Scarlatti Sonatas that I used to play 30 years ago (…), the Brahms Rhapsody Passionato and his beautiful Intermezzo in Bbm.

Fox and I have been playing a lot of Dvorak pieces- the Sonata in G, Songs my Mother Taught Me, 4 Romantic Pieces, and the Romance in Fm, as well as playing through the Beethoven, Tchaikowsky, Brahms, and Glazounov violin concertos, with me stumbling through the more difficult orchestral passages. We always go back to the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas, too.

In Jazz, I continue exploring the ins and outs of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” period, trying to more thoroughly internalize the 7 modes of the Lydian Augmented scale system, and I am always writing little tunes, which sometimes develop into bigger ones.

Just last night (June 9), I sat in with The Flecktones at The Chicago Theater. It was a lot of fun- we played “Sex in a Pan” and “The Sinister Minister”, with an amazing Victor Wooten bass solo at the end. A few months ago in the same theater, I sat in with Donald Fagen, playing “What I Do” from the “Morph the Cat” cd. That was a thrilling experience for me. I had to rush down there on a break from Chévere at The Green Mill, play, and then rush back. It was an experience I will never forget.

Also went on a wonderful outing to Iceland in May, courtesy of Garrison Keillor. We played a 3 hour show carried live on Icelandic Radio, which was edited down and broadcast May 20 as “A Prairie Home Companion”. The morning after the show, I got to see some spectacular scenery- waterfalls, geysers, etc. The images stayed in my mind for weeks. I hope to go back some time.

I recorded 4 tracks on harmonica for bassist/composer Matt Geraghty at CRC in Chicago. Also recorded 12 tracks on piano for a very diverse cd featuring Alberto Mizrahi, produced by Stuart Rosenberg at The Tone Zone in Chicago, Roger Heiss engineering. But wait, there’s more….Anthony Molinaro and I recorded our June 3 concert for our 2nd cd, Joel Fox engineering.

A project released earlier this year is Bonnie Koloc’s “Here to Sing”. I produced it at my house. Joel Fox engineered and mastered. I played piano and harmonica, and hired great musicians who played their hearts out on this. It’s special. The cd is available at www.bonniekoloc.com. Here is a review from Sing Out Magazine:

Sing Out! review
BONNIE KOLOC
Here To Sing
Reviewed by Rich Warren

Bonnie Koloc is not a folk singer. Now that is out of the way, I can say she is fabulous. She sings blues, jazz and the odd folk song. Her versatile, fluid soprano pours forth effortlessly wrapping itself around whatever song it touches. Similarly, the songs wrap themselves around Koloc. Wisdom and passion burnish her performance to a fine patina. While Koloc has been singing and recording since the early 70s and is something of a super star in the Chicago area, Here to Sing is the first album to do her justice. Much of this can be attributed to producer and multi-instrumentalist Howard Levy. Although Levy is joined by other accompanists, the CD is far from over-produced and the musicianship shows exceptionally high quality. Koloc penned seven of the 12 songs on this CD. Her opening “Red Hot Red” ignites the CD with a sizzle, but her song that follows “Slow Dancing to the Blues” shows the remarkable range of her voice. Her intriguing song “The Snake” is an involving allegory. Koloc also does great justice to North Dakota farmer Chuck Suchy’s folk-style songs “Dancin’ in the Kitchen” and “Its Great When It Rains.” She has a lot of fun with Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” Her interpretation of “Skylark,” the classic by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer is an absolute keeper. If I set the CD player to repeat a single track, that would be it.

Koloc’s “I Love You Waltz,” written for her husband, sure sounds like a folk song. However, on the next track Koloc also displays a sense of humor with her song about the foibles of marriage “Crumbs in the Butter,” which she performs like a 1950s doo-wop classic. If you want to hear a knockout performance of diverse, well-chosen material, Koloc is Here To Sing.

Reprinted with permission from Sing Out! v.50#3. (c) 2006 Sing Out!All rights reserved.

Jazz Journalists Award

Howard has been nominated for a Jazz Journalists Award in a category with so many words that we will make it into an acronym “POTYOIRIJ”. $25 for anyone who can figure it out. Just kidding- it’s “Player of the Year of Instruments Rare in Jazz.” You can check it out at www.JazzJournalistsAwards.com.

New projects

Howard will teach Harmonica, Odd Time Meter Improvisation, and Piano at The Outer Banks Harmonica Intensive in a beautiful setting on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. This is part of what actually is a Trio Globo Music Insitute. Eugene Friesen and Glen Velez, both superb teachers, will also be teaching classes, and Trio Globo will perform as well. This takes place from Oct. 8- 14. Details are available at www.classactsontour.com/special.

Recent recordings:Howard recently recorded 2 tracks at Avatar in NYC for Donald Fagen’s new solo cd. He also recorded music for storyteller Sid Lieberman, several tracks for Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, played on 6 songs for singer/songwriter Melissa Rhine, a track for electric bass phenom Jon Reshard, and recorded a live radio concert with Theodore Bikel that was broadcast on WFMT in Chicago. The new CD by Glen Velez, “Rhythms of Awakening” features harmonica work by Howard and is now out on SoundsTrue.

New Balkan Samba releases

I have finished 3 important recording projects. The first, “Cappuccino”, is a cd I recorded with my fiancée, Chicago Symphony violinist Fox Fehling. It will be coming out in January of 2005, and is the first cd on Balkan Samba Records. On it, we play 3 movements from Mozart Violin and Piano Sonatas, a fiddle tune, some Jazz, and 4 of my compositions.

The second is another duo cd with guitarist/singer/composer Paul Sprawl. It will be a joint release on Balkan Samba/Vagabond, and will be out by late January. This is a very bluesy and eclectic cd. It is also my recorded vocal debut.
Both of these cd’s were recorded at my home studio. The Levy/Fehling cd was mixed and mastered here. The Levy/Sprawl cd was mixed and mastered at Sutton Sound in Atascadero, CA.

Also coming out in late January, is the 3rd project, the long –awaited Cheveré cd. Entitled “Secret Dream” after the tune by Ernie Denov, this is the 3rd release on Balkan Samba. Half of the music was recorded in 1993 and the other half in 2003. I have played in this band since 1979, and composed much of the music. We have recorded at least 4 other times in the studio, but this will be the first material to be released.

In June of 2004, I performed and recorded my Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra with The Czech National Symphony. I will be mixing it in Prague in February. Other recorded events and cd’s in 2004:

I produced “A Bestiary” for Bonnie Koloc (recorded and mixed at my studio, Levyland) performed on PBS’s “Soundstage” with Cyndi Lauper, recorded 2 shows for BET’s “Studio Jams”, appeared 3 times on A Prairie Home Companion, and recorded tracks for Paul Asbell, Ken Ramm and Euphoria, Alberto Mizrahi, Michael Manson, Butch Stewart, Phil Roy, Taylor Mesplé (Song for Autumn), Christie McKreary (Akimbo), Lenny Capp, , Rick Peregoy, and others.

Wishing all of you a happy, productive, and peaceful 2005.Howard Levy

New Paul Reisler CD

Howard is featured on a new cd, “At Night The Roses Tango” by Paul Reisler, also featuring singer/songwriter Angela Kaset. It is available through www.paulreisler.com.

Touching emotional events

Recently I was priviledged to play for two very touching and worthwhile events in two days. The first, Halliestock, took place in Queens,NY on Saturday, Sept. 18. The second, a gathering in memory of Steve Goodman, was the following evening on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

Halliestock was an all-day celebration of the life of Hallie Geier, struck down by a car in front of her house in Springfield Gardens, Queens. She was the niece of my old friend George Andoniadis, the daughter of his sister Sofia. I was friends with both of them at Northwestern in 1970, and we all moved to New York in 1971.
When George told me about this, I decided to go and play. You can find out more about it at www.lovehallie.com, It is a beautiful website set up by Sofia and her husband, Ted. I played several songs with guitarist/singer/songwriter John Guth, then played Stephanie’s Dance and Amazing Grace solo. We all performed a song composed by George to Hallie’s words, entitled “Stage Fright”.
I flew home the nest morning, played a rehearsal and a recording session, then drove down to Lucille’s on Lincoln Ave, the former site of Somebody Else’s Troubles, a club owned jointly by Steve Goodman and John Prine back in the ‘70’s. A memorial gathering for Steve took place, with many old musical friends getting up and singing his great songs. It was the 20th anniversary of his passing. I joined Tom Dundee, Barbara Barrow, Mick Scott, Jim Tullio and others and played a bunch of tunes on harp. It was inspiring and uplifting, and re-reminded me of what a great person and artist Steve was.

I played with him in the late 70’s. As a producer, he hired me to play on sessions in Chicago with John Prine, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, and Malvina Reynolds. He was one of the all-time great guys- brilliant, generous, intense, funny, and fierce, not to mention a true friend and a hell of a musican. He wasn’t your typical singer/songwriter guitarist- he could really play guitar. And the songs…topical, universal, sad and funny at the same time, cosmic.

Summer 2004

I arranged, engineered, and played on a project for Bonnie Koloc, 13 songs about animals, a modern bestiary. The cd will be packaged with a book of woodcuts by Bonnie. The songs are unique and beautiful, set like modern chamber music. The instrumentation includes bass, cello, accordian, sax, flute, piano, harmonica, guitar, and mandolin. The recording was made in my house, a great place to record acoustic instruments. The Bestiary should be available soon at www.bonniekoloc.com.

I had the great pleasure of recording with the wonderful Indonesian band Krakatau at Steve Ford Studios in Chicago in June. Alfred Ticoalu, who runs john frigo’s website, introduced me to them. I played harmonica on several tunes. Their music is a true fusion of Indonesian and Western styles. As I have been an avid fan of Javanese and Balinese music for 30 years, it was a thrill for me to play with a gamelan gong, suling, rebab, and other instruments. Then we played a free improvisation that crossed just about every musical boundary. I look forward with great anticipation to the release of this cd. If you’re interested in hearing them, check out their cd “Magical Match”.

Also in June, I played for the BET show Studio Jams with guitarist Dominick Miller, bassist Doug Wimbish, drummer Will Calhoun, keyboardist Nick Pappas, and percussionist Emedin Rivera. We played 4 tunes of Dominick’s and one of mine. Then, the highlight for me was a free improv where we got really loose. Again, I really look forward to hearing this stuff when it airs.

New Releases

Howard appears prominently on both harmonica and piano (on 13 tracks) on Bonnie Koloc’s “Timeless”, a new double cd containing mostly live tracks from 30 years of stellar performances with many different musicians. This cd is available at www.bonniekoloc.com, is her first real album since “With You on my Side” in 1987, and is a must for all her fans.

Another beautiful cd is “Vis-a-Vis” from Siora, a very eclectic band co-led by keyboardist Dan Kleiman and vocalist Phyllis Chappel. Howard appears on 3 tracks on harmonica, bamboo flute, and double ocarina.You can find this fine cd at www.SioraJazz.com.

Another interesting cd is “Elephant Hotel” from Glen Velez and Lori Cotler. Howard is featured on 2 tracks. One of these, “Sixfold” , is originally from “Border States”, a duo album that Howard and Glen recorded in the 1990’s. Lori composed and sang a vocalese Jazz solo with lyrics to Howard’s harmonica solo on this tune. It is pretty amazing. www.glenvelez.com.

Molinaro-Levy Project in Downbeat

The Molinaro-Levy Project in DownBeat. Look for a story on the duo in the February issue.

Trio Globo new management

Trio Globo has new representation. Margie Farmer (www.classactsontour.com) will be booking the band. The Trio will be playing showcases at the APAP convention at The New York Hilton on W. 54 St on Jan. 11 and 12, sharing the space with Margie’s roster of artists. Anthony Molinaro will play showcases there as well, both as a soloist and as a duo with Howard Levy.

Acoustic Express

Howard announces new project-Howard Levy’s Acoustic Express

New CD with Anthony Molinaro

The New CD featuring Howard Levy and Anthony Molinaro is now available on nineteeneight recordsmore info…

Upcoming tours and concerts

A dose of good dates are coming up for 2002, including tours with Rabih Abou-Khalil, and Michael Riessler and JL Matinier, and another performance of Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica

Concert announcements

Howard has some new concerts posted, including a concert of Indian music with Howard, John Wubbenhorst, bansuri, Homayun Khan, vocalist, and Anil Datar, tabla, on November 30th. Howard performs his Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra on December 16th. calendar

September 13, 2001

The remainder of the tour with Sandip and Friends has been cancelled due to the tragedy in our country. The shows had been going very well, but the transportation shutdown and the general mood required the cancellations to occur. We apologize to those who didn’t get to see the remainder of the shows. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who suffered from this attack.

Classical Howard and a little more

Classical Howard and a little more-Hard to find Howard clips and clips from never before released material debuts here on Levyland.com. Audio clips include exerpts from Harmonia Mundi, Concerto for Harmonica, Aitz Hayim services, and rare jewels from hard to find recordings. Take a listen

Texas concert and workshop

Howard will be headed to Texas for a concert with long time friends Glen Velez and Steve Gorn. The three of them will give workshops earlier in the day.

Tour announcement

We announce the tour dates for Howard’s outing with Sandip Burman, Jerry Goodman, Victor Bailey, Steve Smith, and David Pietro, Randy Brecker and Paul Bollenback. For more info see the calendar

Recent projects

Recent recording projects include: Two tracks on a cd of Stevie Wonder tunes by Chicago bandleader Ken Arlen. A session in Milwaukee with sitarist Debu Chaudhury and tabla player Sandip Burman. Howard recorded 4 tunes with the wonderful Jazz vocalist/bass player Eldee Young. They were produced and arranged by Marshall Vente for two separate projects of Brasilian music and Jazz. Howard recorded with Christian R&B artist Nicole Mullin. The session was produced by Justin Niebank at Hinge Studios in Chicago. During his trip to Montreal, Howard recorded 5 tunes for the CBC with guitarist Greg Amirault and his trio. These will be broadcast sometime soon by the CBC in Canada. Also, Howard played piano, harmonica, percussion, and ocarina on a CD by eclectic musician/composer and logtime friend Willy Schwarz, now living in Bremen, Germany. The sessions were at Rax Trax Studio in Chicago, will be mixed at Studio Zerkall in Germany, and the resulting CD will be released on a German label later this year. Howard is recording a CD this week (May 22) in Galena, Illinois with legendary singer/songwriter Jim Post, of music from Jim’s one man show about Mark Twain.

Aytz Hayim Services

Projects page updated with information on Howard’s participation in Aytz Hayim Services in the Chicago area.

Song of Rivers

Schedule updated, information on the Neon Street Programs for Homeless Youth

Now available – Song of Rivers, with Trio Globo and special guest Chuck Loeb on guitar.

This cd features the compositions of Eugene Friesen, and is dedicated to preserving our nation’s rivers. For those of you who want to hear new Trio Globo material, order this cd from Eugene by going to www.celloman.com.

The new Website!

The launching of Levyland.com is official. It’s been a lot of fun working with Chris Sampson on the site. There will be tons of things coming in the next few months including detailed information on new projects, audio clips for as many recordings as we can possibly fit in. In time there will be interactive teaching files that will show more about my approach to the diatonic harmonica.



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