Lou Levy (p), John Heard (b), Shelly Manne (d)
Reference: FSRCD 949
Bar code: 8427328609494
Issued in 1983 as “The Kid’s Got Ears”, this album is one of the best and rarest that legendary Chicago pianist Lou Levy (1928-2001) recorded during his long and successful career. “Guess I’ve been lucky in music,” he smiled. “It seems like I was in the right place at the right time all my life, getting to play with Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Terry Gibbs… And then, of course, there were the great vocalists I’ve worked with—Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra…”
Levy’s attack is rapid-fire and many-noted, while his left rumbles at the chord progressions. His playing was known for its smooth sophistication and subtle swing. “From the way I play, I suppose you could say that Bud Powell has been my biggest influence. Art Tatum’s approach to harmony certainly influenced me too. It was so… so rich. But, of course, there are many other pianists I have great admiration for. Oscar Peterson, for instance. Naturally, other instrumentalists made a great impression. Certainly, Charlie Parker. And Dizzy, Miles, and Al Cohn.”
There’s a reason I’m Old Fashioned gives title to this album. Levy admitted to have a soft spot for this tune. “I did that solo. I figured maybe I could handle that since it’s my favorite tune.” And it is a beautiful effort indeed. Be it solo, in a duet with bassist John Heard, or in a trio with drummer Shelly Manne, Levy shows his remarkable blend of lyricism and swing at each step. A model of taste, where the execution goes hand in hand with the creativity of this vastly underestimated pianist.
"A significant but largely overlooked lyrical bop pianist, Lou Levy (1928-2001) was born in Chicago and worked there and in New York in the early 1940s. In 1955 he settled in Los Angeles and became highly regarded by instrumentalists and singers. Stan Getz featured him on the albums West Coast Jazz (1956), The Steamer (1957) and The Dolphin (1981). Among the vocalists he accompanied were Peggy Lee, June Christy, Anita O’Day, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. - Levy once said that he played for “everybody except Pavarotti”. As a soloist, Levy cited his two main influences as Bud Powell and Art Tatum. After recovering from narcotic addiction, Levy ended his career playing with Herb Alpert.
I’m Old Fashioned was first issued as The Kid’s Got Ears in 1983. This reissue should go a long way to solidifying Levy’s reputation as a versatile, subtle (and supple) performer. High On You is a charming samba, with Heard and Manne (excellent throughout) setting the pace. On I Won’t Dance, Levy aimed for (and realised) a “funky groove”, while I’m Old Fashioned (his favourite tune) is played as a delicate and ruminative solo. Limehouse Blues is based on a rhythmic pattern taken from Bill Evans’ album Empathy, and ‘A’ Train is an intriguing duet with Heard – with the piano only featured on the bridge. Levy first heard You Say You Care on Coltrane’s album Soultrane, and offers his own nimble and lilting interpretation. The closing track, Ding Dong (from The Wizard Of Oz) , recorded by Levy on his first album and reprised here, is what he calls “a bravura piece” and confesses that he listened to the play-back of this version “without laughing”. Recommended."
Jazz Journal (April, 2017)
"In this present era of atonal naval gazing at the ivories, this reissue by Fresh Sound Records remind us of a time and style when the swing pulse was inherent in every tune, be it upbeat or relaxed and casual.
Lou Levy made his living as a sideman for the likes of Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and the popular Supersax, rarely putting anything out on his own name, making this 1982 Hollywood session a real delight. Mixing and matching between solo performances, duets and trios with John Heard/b and Shelly Manne/dr, Levy shows style, class and bop on a silver platter as he sensuously samba’s on “High On You,” is gracious on “I Won't Dance” and pulls a surprise ballad read of “Take the ‘A’ Train” with Heard’s bass waxing eloquent. His solo tracks are real clever, with a nocturnal “I’m Old Fashioned” and coy “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.” Textbook on how a piano should bop with brains."
George W. Harris (March 22, 2018)
"The short-lived Jazzizz label (based in Oregon) lasted long enough to come out with a couple of LPs. This set gave the talented veteran Lou Levy (always a superior bop-based pianist) a rare chance to lead his own date. He performs swinging versions of a variety of standards, plus Al Cohn's "High On You" and "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead." The latter is one of three unaccompanied piano solos, and in addition, there are three piano-bass duets with John Heard and four trio numbers that add drummer Shelly Manne. A fine if rather obscure set."
Scott Yanow -All Music Guide
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