Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Leviev, Micho (Isaacov)

Leviev, Micho (Isaacov), keyboardist, composer, educator; b. Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 19 December 1937. His mother was Nadejda Panayotova Levieva (1906-1985, Plovdiv). His brother was Yoan Isaacov Leviev (1934-1994, Plovdiv), a prominent artist (muralist, oil paintings, water colors). His wife is Deborah Rotschild (b. 1951, Los Angeles). He has a daughter from his first marriage, Yana Milcheva Levieva (b. 1967, Sofia), a prominent artist.

He graduated from Plovdiv State Music School (1955). He got his masters in composition from the National Music Academy in Sofia (Bulgaria) (1960), including the 5-year master class of professor Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978, the most prominent Bulgarian composer).

Micho is an award winning composer, arranger, performer (pianist, keyboardist, conductor) and educator of classical and jazz music. He received musical training from the earliest days of childhood, primarily from his aunt, a professional pianist, and her husband, a choir conductor. Later, his formal education in music was attained from the Bulgarian State Music Academy (in Sofia) where he graduated in 1960 with a Masters Degree in Composition. In the early 60s he was musical director for the state drama theater and the Bulgarian radio and television big band.

His early international acclaim as a jazz performer came from leading the Jazz Focus quartet from 1965 through 1969. That group was a prize winner at the first Montreux festival in 1967. In addition to piano performance, Milcho remained active as a composer, experimenting with music that was performed by both classical and jazz ensembles. Among his early compositions was Music for Big Band and Symphony Orchestra (1966). He was composer for Bulgarian Features, Animated and Documentary Films, 1963 -1968. He won the Critic's Prize at Montreaux Jazz Festival, 1967. He was leader and pianist for the jazz quartet Focus '65 from 1965-1970. He was music director and composer-in-residence at the State Drama Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and teacher, chamber music at the State Music School, Plovdiv, Bulgaria (1960-1962).

He won Second Prize, International Youth Festival Composition Competition, Vienna, Austria 1959. He was named Doctor Honois Causa from the New Bulgarian University, 1998. He has also received Order Stara Planina, the 1997 Presidential Award, Bulgaria, La Medaile d'or de l'Academie Internationale des Arts, Paris, France, and Doctor Honoris Causa, Academy of Music and Dance, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 1995. He has been a lecturer at the jazz studies department at USC in Los Angeles since 1988. He was a teacher at the Grove music school, 1974-1992. He was music director for the "Comeback In" jazz club in Venice CA, 1981-1990. In 1987, he was a "Dramalogue" winner for Best Musical Director. His arrangement of "Blue Rondo a la Turk", (Dave Brubeck), was recorded by Al Jarreau for his Grammy winning album of 1982, "Breakin' Away". He received a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Arrangement of Charlie Parker's, "Confirmation", recorded by Manhattan Transfer, 1981, on "Mecca for Moderns". He was co-leader of the jazz-classical quartet "Free Flight," named Best Combo Of The Year in 1982 by the Los Angeles Times. He has contracted compositions, arrangements and performances for The American Jazz Philharmonic, the Beverly Hills Symphony, the Sofia Philharmonic, the Bulgarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and others. He was an arranger at Hessisher Rundfunk 1970-71, music director for the big band and the pop symphony of the Bulgarian National.

While in West Germany in 1970, Milcho defected from communist Bulgaria. He worked briefly with Albert Mangelsdorff, and then in 1971 moved to Los Angeles where he ultimately became a US citizen (1977). During this period, Milcho was a key member of the highly regarded Don Ellis Orchestra. His piano virtuosity and ability to play effortlessly in odd meters -- a skill that arose from familiarity with Bulgarian folk music -- were major contributions to the fruitful association with Ellis. In addition to playing piano in the Ellis Orchestra, Milcho composed and arranged, finding considerable rapport with Ellis's imaginative use of complex time signatures and incorporation of ethnic musical concepts. He contributed two chapters to Don Ellis's The New Rhythm Book. Milcho also worked with Willie Bobo (1973-4), John Klemmer (1975-9), and recorded an album with I. Subramaniam (1979), three albums with Billy Cobham (1974-5), and worked with Airto Moreira and Roy Haynes. In 1980, he recorded in London as the leader of a bop quartet that included Art Pepper. This famous quartet regularly recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Club in London. Milcho ably mixed the odd-metered tunes of his Bulgarian background with an excellent post-bop piano technique.

From 1971-1979, he toured and/or recorded with: Lainie Kazan (music director ), John  Klemmer, Art Pepper, Gerald Wilson, Bill Holman, Eddie Jefferson, Mark Murphy, Ernie Andrews, Michael Franks, Willie Bobo, Roy Haynes, Billy Cobham, Carmen McRae, Airto, Flora Purim. Keyboardist, composer and arranger with the Don Ellis Orchestra (1971-1976). From 1980-83, he played and/or recorded with Charlie Haden, Joe Farrel, Eddie Harris, James Newton, and others. In the early 80s, Milcho worked with diverse groups: writing arrangements for Manhattan Transfer and recording with Al Jarreau, and founding the famous jazz quartet Free Flight. That group featured a fusion of jazz, rock, and classical music. During the Free Flight period, Milcho also performed and recorded as a member of Gerald Wilson's big band. One of Milcho Leviev's most impressive associations was formed with Charlie Haden. He continues to work frequently with many all-star jazz musicians in Los Angeles and elsewhere, playing with Ray Pizzi, Ray Brown, Buddy Collette, Oscar Brashear, and Mundell Lowe.

From 1983-1989, he did tours of Japan with bassist Dave Holland. At the L.A. Theater Center, he presented an expanded arrangement of "Rhapsody  in Blue" for Valley Master Chorale and All-Star Jazz Combo, arranger and soloist). He did European tours in 1985 and 1986. He also presented "Sympho-Jazz Sketches" (American Jazz Philharmonic) Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (composer and soloist). From 1990-1993, he went on European solo tours (France, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria) including seminars conducted at the Basel Jazz School and the Varna International Music Festival. He also composed and performed "Orpheus Rhapsody" for piano and orchestra (commissioned by the National Endowment of the Arts for the American Jazz Philharmonic). In the early 90s, Milcho did numerous solo European tours, and in 1995 received an honorary doctorate and award on merit from the Paris Academie Internationale des Arts.

In 1994 and 1995, he was president of the jury at the International TV-Music Films Festival in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. He also performed a solo piano recital at Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival, California. From 1994-1996, he did tours in Bulgaria, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. In 1997, he performed at the gala 60th anniversary concert at the National Palas of Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria, and did concert tours in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In 1998, he performed as part of the Leviev/Slon quartet, featuring Randy Brecker, Herbie Mann and Benny Golson at Vartan Jazz, Denver, CO

In 1999, he was a soloist for the Nuremberg Philharmonic. He also performed a concert of original chamber music in Sofia. He also closed the month of European Culture in Plovdiv; International jazz festival in Bansko. From 1990-2000, he was a lecturer on modern music at Elder Hostel, Desert Hot Springs, California. In 2000, he did concerts, and club appearances with trio Lesentu, Herbie Mann, Jack Sheldon, and others. In 2001, he taught a 10 days master class on "Formal, aestetical & social aspects of jazz music at NBU and performed concerts in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Brazil (with Sao Paulo Jazz Sinfonica). In 2002, he did a concert at the Big Conservatory Hall in Moscow. He was also named an honorary professor at New Bulgarian University that year.

Presently, Milcho Leviev is a lecturer on jazz composition and improvisation at the University of Southern California and frequently performs with The American Jazz Institute ensembles.

Milcho Leviev (1964); Quartet Focus '65 (1965); Blugarian Radio and TV Variety Orchestra (1966); Quartet Jazz Focus '65 (1967); Jazz Focus '65 (1968); Piano Lesson (1977); Blue Levi's (1978); Milcho Leviev Plays the Music of Irving Berlin (1980); True Blues (with Art Pepper) (1980); Blues for the Fisherman (with Art Pepper) (1980); What's New (with Ray Brown and Peter Erskine) (1981); Music for Big Big Band and Symphony Orchestra (1981); Free Flight: Free Flight (1981); The Classical/Jazz Union (1982), Soaring (1983); Destination (1984); Lingua Franca (1984); Milcho Leviev & Dave Holland: First Meeting (1985); The Oracle (1986), Up and Down (1987); Alive in Venice; In Memoriam/A. Tokatlian (1991); Milcho & Theodossii Live (1990); Gourbet Mohabet (1990); Bulgarian Piano Blues (1990); Easter Parade (1990); Rhapsody in Blue (1990); Milcho Leviev/Katoomi quartet (1991); Man from Plovdiv (1991); Nocturne (1992); Chickpeas - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1993); For Emil (1994); Concert By The Black Sea (1995); E.B. Blues (1995); Zarska Stupka (Royal Step) (1996); Basel Blues (1996); Sad A Little bit (1996); Live at Vartan Jazz (1996); Rismiles (1997); Focus '65: Anti Waltz (Forbidden Songs ) (1998); Jive Sambas - Live at Vartan Jazz (1998); When  I'm 64 (featuring Herbie Mann) (1999); Les Trois Michel (2000); Trio Lesentu (2000)
As sideperson:
Eddie Harris: Artist's choice, The Versatile; Art Pepper: Live in Japan, vol.1 "Ophelia", vol. 2 "The Summer Knows",Not a Through Street, Atlanta Concert, Laurie's Choice, My Laurie,The Summer Knows; Adam del Monte: Mi camino flamenco- journey to a  new  world; Lonnie Shether: Saturnian Salutations, Time Sketches; Big  Band for the National Bulgarian Radio; Ognian Videv & Friends; John Leitham: Southpaw; Wofgang Lackerschmid: One More Life; Karen Briggs: Karen; Gene Aitken: Hot VII; Jazz Ensemble Des Hessischen Rundfunks: Atmospheric Conditions Permitting; Gerald Wilson Orchestra of the 80's: Calafia, Jessica; L.A. Jazz Choir: From All Sides; Al Jarreau: Breakin' Away; Manhattan Transfer: Mecca for Moderns; Burt Bacharach: Woman; Lainie Kazan: The Chanteuse is Loose; Roy Haynes: Thank You Thank You, Vistalite; Jack Sheldon: Angel Wings; Joao Gilberto: Brasil; L. Subramaniam: Fantasy Without Limits; Herman Riley: Herman; Sacbe: Aztlan; Arco Iris: Blue Pheasant; Hubert Laws: Make It Last; Tim Weisberg: Travelin' Light; John Kelmmer: Lifestyle, Mosaic, Straight From the Heart; Billy Cobham: A Funky Thide of Sings, Shabazz, Total Eclipse; Airto: Virginland; Don Ellis: Haiku, Soaring, New Rhythms, Connection, Tears of Joy; Bulgarian Radio & TV Big Band; Emil Georgiev: The Sofia Variety Orchestra
Classical recordings:
Chamber Music by Milcho Leviev; Terry King, cello, and Milcho Leviev, piano
Film Scores:
1963 - 1969 Men, Tiny Secrets, Autumn Sun, The Eighth, Monday Morning (Shown at L. A. Film Expo after being banned by Communist regime for 25 years), Dangerous Flight, A Hot Noon, Detour (First Prize at International Film Festival, Moscow), Iconostasis (Shown at the Museum of Modern Art (N.Y.) Numerous cartoons and documentaries. Satirical serial FOCUS'.
1992 Chickpeas - Directed and Produced by Nigol Bezjian (USA)
1999-2000 Letter to America (international production -Bulgaria, Holland, Hungary)
Television scores:
1973 Doctor's Hospital (Co-writer with D. Ellis) serial;
1962-1968 Numerous Bulgarian documentaries and shorts.
Major Compositions:
Letter To America  (Suite From The Motion Picture) for Choir & Chamber Orchestra (2000)
Chickpeas  (Suite From The Motion Picture) for Jazz And String Quartets (1992)
The Green House Cantata for Twelve Voices And Jazz Trio (1991)
Orpheus Rhapsody for Piano Jazz Trio And Symphony Orchestra (1988)
The Golden Fleece for Piano And Big Band (1984)
Sympho-Jazz Sketches for Jazz Combo And Symphony Orchestra (1982)
Eleven Inventions for Instruments, Or Voices (1978)
A Child's Day Suite for Piano (1976)-Arrangements For Woodwind Quintet  And String Quartet
Issac's Touchstone for Piano And Symphony Orchestra (1975)
Moody Modes for Jazz Orchestra (1974)
Wolfgang For All Seasons for French Horn, Tuba, And Jazz Orchestra (1972)
Sladka Pitka for Jazz Orchestra (1970)
Nestinare Suite for Big Band (1970)
Balkan Cowboy Suite for Sympho-Pop Orchestra (1969)
Anti Waltz for Big Band (1966)
Music for Big Band And Symphony Orchestra (1966)
Concerto for Jazz Combo And Strings (1965)
Blues In 9 for Big Band (1963 )
Study for Big Band
The Roses Musical (1962)
String Quartet (1960)
A Little Old Time Music for Symphony Orchestra (1959)
Sonata for Violin And Piano (1957) Orchestral Version (1988)
Variations On A Theme By Corelli for Piano And Symphony Orchestra (1956)
Piano Sonatina (1955)
Major arrangements and orchestration:
Sheherazade (2001), after Rimsky Korsakoff, a jazz suite; American Songbook (1987) for choir and orchestra; Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin, 1986) for choir and jazz combo; General Lavine-Eccentric (C. Debussy) and Foxtrot (Vladigerov) for symphony orchestra (1969); Fantasy On Porgy And Bess (Gershwin, 1964)
Milcho Leviev at 60; Festival Symphony * Big Band (1998); Milcho Leviev with the National Radio Symphony (1994);Milcho Leviev & Anatoly Vapirov in concert (1993); Milcho Leviev - a life in 33/16 (1993); Playboy Jazz Festival 1982, Vol. 2 (1983); Art Pepper: Notes Of A Jazz Survivor (1981)

Publications: Milcho Leviev/, piano music in 2 volumes (VEDA SLOVENA, Bulgaria, 2002)
Pavane For A True Musical Prince (Don's Song), and For Frederick & Bill (In Time) for jazz choir (UNC Press, Colorado 1991 )
Travelers for voice & piano ( lyrics ), ( Union of the Bulgarian Composers, 1990 )
Milcho Leviev/38 Jazz Themes ( Muzika, Bulgaria - 1990)
A Child's Day and Eight 2 Voice Inventions for piano (Muzika, Bulgaria 1990)
A Two Voice Invention And Keyboard Etude In Bass Cleff for piano  ("Keyboard" magazine, 1985 ) 
Milcho Leviev/  Fake Book (Dick Grove Publications, 1982)              
The New Rhythm Book - 2 chapters, by Don Ellis (EME 1974 )
Milcho Leviev/ Eight Jazz Pieces,(Art & Science, Sofia, Bulgaria 1968)
Sonata For Violin & Piano (Arts & Science, Sofia, Bulgaria 1968)
Toccatina For Piano (Art & Science, 1960)
12 Jazz Pieces (In Love again, Maybe, All Youth is New, Bossa Nova, Blues in 10, Monday Morning, Anti Waltz, From 6 to 8, Autumn Sun, Deviation, Tiny Secrets, Passacaglia ), Union of the Bulgarian Composers, 1964 - 1968 )
Study, Blues 9, and Blues in 9 ( Moderne Rhythmen, Lied der Zeit, Berlin, 1967).
Compositions, arrangements and articles in Down Beat, Keyboard, The Piano Stylist, and other magazines worldwide.
2000 Outstanding Musicians Of The 20th Century-1st Edition (IBC - International Biografical Center, Cambridge, England, 2002)
Dictionary Of International Biography 27th edition (IBC,Cambridge 1999)
The Grove Dictionary Of Jazz ( The New Grove, London, 1999 )
Five Thousand Personalities Of The World ( ABI 1996 )
Rough Guide To Jazz (UK - 1995)
International Who's Who In Music, Volume 2-Popular Music (International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England, 1996)
The Guinness Who's Who Of Jazz (Guinness Publishing, LTD, 1995)
Jazz Lexicon (Handbuch 6317, Germany 1991)
Reclams Jazzfuehrer (Stuttgart 1990)
The New Grove Dictionary Of Jazz ( The New Grove, London, UK, 1989)
People In Jazz- keyboard improvisers of the 19th&20th centuries, by Bill Lee (Columbia Pictures Publications, 1984)
Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia Of Jazz in the seventies (Horizon Press, New York, 1976)

Contact information:
MILCHO LEVIEV 12027 Califa Street
North Hollywood, CA 91607-1201
Tel. (818) 761-903
Fax (818) 761-9032
e-mail: MLeviev@aol.com

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