Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Levin, Elliott (Shalom)
Levin, Elliott (Shalom), flutes, saxophones; b. (Philadelphia, PA, 23 October 1953. His father was Leon Lewis Levin, architect, poet; b. Phila. (1917-1991). His mother is Sylvia Cohen Levin, a bookkeeper; b. Phila. (1922). His sister is Barbara Jo Levin Peditto, an artist and teacher; b. Phila.(1948). His brother is Jeffrey Zelig Levin, a psychologist and political activist; b. Phila. (1949).
Studied music and creative writing at U. of Oregon (Eugene) (1971-72); composition with Monte Tubb. Studied for several years (approx. 1972-76) with Michael Guerra (former 1st. clarinetist and saxophonist with Phila. Orchestra. Studied with pianist/composer Cecil Taylor-Glassboro College (now Rowan Univ.) (1973-74). In 1986, he studied with flutist/composer Claire Polin (protege/collaborator of William Kincaid). Studied with saxophonist/composer Odean Pope (from approx. 1999 to present).
Elliott Levin grew up in the musically rich environment of Philadelphia with a background more in literary and visual arts. While in contact with many musician friends during his high school years (Central H.S.-classmates included Steve Wald (Yale Univ.), Hankus Netsky (New Eng. Conserv.), later- Robin Eubanks (Trbn.))- he entered college, only by series of coincidental events becoming a music major which began his studies with composer Monte Tubb. After a year of studies there, he returned to Philadelphia and began private studies with Mike Guerra (former Granoff teacher- of John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan,etc.). After becoming involved in many bands in the Philadelphia scene, he remained in the area, and eventually met up with Cecil Taylor who was an artist in residence at Glassboro College. While not officially enrolling there, he became a member of the ensemble Cecil formed, performing in concert, and was asked to join Cecil's Unit Core Orchestra (in NYC) which performed at Carnegie Hall (1974). A relationship with Cecil has lasted until this day- which has included 2 residencies of large ensembles at The Knitting Factory (Phthongas; Unit Core Ensemble-mid '90's; NYC); Cecil Taylor Orch. at the S.F. Jazz Fest. (1995); Total Music Meeting (Berlin, Germany, 1996); and the Skopje Jazz Fest. (Oct., 2002).
Out of the original Glassboro group emerged the Olduvai Ensemble with co-founders: Tom Rollison (guitarist-presently residing in northern Cal.) and drummer Jim Richards- who performed throughout the US until Richard's death in 1979. Many performances and recordings were done during this time (70's-80's) often specifically based at the Long March Coffeehouse (under the direction of late vibraphonist, educator- Bill Lewis), and The Painted Bride Art Center. The Interplay Ensemble also grew out of this period and still exists today with original members: Rick Iannacone(guitar); Ed Watkins (percussion); Ron Howerton (percussion); Keno Speller (percussion)- and has included guests such as Marshall Allen (alto), Tyrone Hill (trombone), Yahya Majid (sax)- all of Sun Ra Arkestra, Edgar Bateman (drummer), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass), Calvin Weston (drums), Charles Cohen (electronic improviser), Don Preston (kybds), and many others.
While continuously involved in the more improvisational music and performance poetry scene during the 1970's-80's, much of this time was also spent performing in a wide variety of groups also thriving in Philadelphia specifically in the rock and rhythm and blues area. From approx. 1983-94 he toured with Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes extensively throughout North America (US, Can., Caribbean); Europe (Germ., Eng., Belgium, Neth.), and Asia (Japan, Korea, Phillipines). He also performed and recorded with the Philadelphia-based SCRAM!; EDO; Intuitive Music Unit; Disco Biscuits; King Britt; and Josh Wink. In 1990 he was chosen as a representative of the Peace Tools Community Center for a cultural exchange in Moscow where he performed with poet/musician Aschak (Phila./Trinidad), Sergei Letov (sax, Moscow), Alexander Alexandrov (sax, bassoon-Moscow), Guy Bettini (trumpet-Italy) in a series of concerts and workshops. During the 90's he often performed with the band New Ghost (co-led by guitarist Rick Iannacone; with John Testa-drums, Steve Testa-bass) which toured Europe in 1990, and performed and Alternativa Festival in Prague (1999). During the '90's he also collaborated in ensembles with saxophonists David Murray, Fred Ho, clarinetist Gunter Hampel, vibraphonist Khan Jamaal and Barry Shuck (Phila. Composer's Orch.), Alan Silva (bassist/synthesizer), Billy Bang (violin), Bobby Zankel (sax), Simon Shaheen (violinist, oud), David Amram, and many others. He has collaborated musically and poetically with many spoken word artists- including Gloria Tropp (Talking Free Be-Bop, whose members have included drummer-Ken Yamazaki, and Billy Martin, John Medeski (kyb), Chris Wood (bass)); Miguel Algarin (founder of Nuyorican Cafe); Reg E. Gaines; Frank Messina (recording "Biting The Tongue", tours- including Lollapalooza (1993), Crossing Borders Fest (The Hague, 1999)); Wil Perkins; and Aschak.
He is currently performing in various of his own ensembles- including Interplay; a quartet co-led by Tyrone Hill; as a member of Calvin Weston's ensemble-Big Tree; Odean Pope's Sax Choir, and Collective Voices Ensemble; Cecil Taylor's Sound/Vision Orch.; the world fusion music ensemble Animus, and many others. He performed and recorded with poets Bob Holman and John Sinclair (late '90's-2002). During mid-90's, he did a series of workshops and performances around US of Jewish/Arabic roots and fusion music (including- Phila., Bethlehem, Pa., Lexington, Ky., NYC- including performance at Israeli/Arab Peace Summit at UN). Guest artists included Simon Shaheen, and David Amram. He's performed with Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir since 1999 including Sexial (Portugal) Jazz Fest, Lincoln Center Jazz Fest (2002). He's toured (US) and recorded with Cee Knowledge and the Cosmic Funk Orchestra (artist from Digable Planets, one of first fusions of jazz/hip-hop) in 2000. He's currently performing and recording with Bobby Zankel and The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound.
He has been with partner Ruth Jean Lewis since 1993.
Olduvai Music (1978); Iltar (1979); New Ghost: A Taste of Philadelphia (1989), Live Upstair's At Nick's (1998); The Motion Of Emotion (1998); Wil Perkins/Elliott Levin: Scat!/does it swing? (1998); Charles Cohen/Elliott Levin: Live at the Transonic Fest (1999); A Fine Intensity (1999); Soul-Etude (2000); Elliott Levin/Bobby Bradford/Don Preston Trio: Asymetrical Construct (2000); Steve Buchanan and Dirk Bruinsma with Elliott Levin: Double Tonguing (2000); Robert Getz/Elliott Levin: Sassafras Hello (2002); On In Onondaga (2003)
Taka-I-Ki; NYGong; Iris Lord: The Divine Monochord (1988); Various Artists: Poetry In Philadelphia (1989), Music From Philadelphia (1990), New American Radio: A Gift of Ghosts (1990), Postcards from The Edge (1992); Atzilut: Souls On Fire (1992); SCRAM!: Kingsessing Trials; Temple Of Bon Matin: Bullet in 2 Mesmer's Brain; Cecil Taylor Ensemble: The Light of Corona (1996); Juan Avila: Sleeping Giant (1996); Disco Biscuits: Encephalous Crime (1996); Frank Messina: Biting the Tongue (1997); King Britt/Sylk 130: When The Funk Hits The Fan (1997); Alan Silva's Vision Orchestra (CD and video); Animus: Live at The Tin Angel (1999); Josh Wink: HearHere-(1997); Jackson Krall Quintet: Live at Fire In The Valley Fest (1997); Temple of Bon Matin: Bullet in2 Mesmer's Brain (mid 90's); Out Of Philadelphia (Volumes 1 and 2) (mid 90's); Devil's Breakfast; Muse Mob; Last Temptation of the Mark Boyce Combo (1998); Elliot Diamond and 4 Winds Society: The Dance of the 7 Chakras; Nitche Tai Tai (1998); Various artists: Put Your Tongue To The Rail (with New Ghost and Dawn Morpurgo) (1999); Project Logic: Live at TLA (1999); CooCooHandlers: Collagen (1999); Cee Knowledge and the Cosmic Funk Orchestra (2000); Philadelphia City Paper Compilation (with New Ghost) (2000); P.M. and The New Breed: Groovalicious (2000); Don Preston's Akashic Ensemble: The Inner Realities of Evolution (2000); Like Wow: Burn, World, Burn (2000); Calvin Weston and Big Tree: When We Were Young (2001); Metagroove: Send Us Your children (2001); Alan Silva and The Visions Orchestra (2001); Philadelphia City Paper Compilation (with Animus) (2001); Burlap Palace (Tribute to Muscle Shoals) (2001); Fractal Ark (vol. 2) (2001); Andrew Peklar: Station To Station (2002); Akash: Private Sessions (2002); Capt. Beefheart Tribute (with Trio Interplay and Nou Ra) (2002); Robert Getz: Duet (2002); Live recordings with Project Logic (1999-2001); Various Artists: If It Dropped In Your Neighborhood You'd Look Up Too, Manifestations (Vols.1-7)
Radio and television broadcasts:
Has performed and been interviewed on numerous radio and TV stations, incl.- WXPN-FM, WRTI-FM, WHYY-FM; DUTV, WYBE, WUHY-in Phila.; WKCR-FM, WBGO-FM-NYC; KCLN-FM (Toronto); Pacifica Radio-(LA); New American Radio (world wide syndication).
Publications: "does it swing?" (book of poetry- Heat Press, 1996); Intervals (Poems of Musicians)-Beehive & Sisyphus Press -2000;
Published in periodicals-LA Weekly (LA); Blue Beat Jacket (Japan); Painted Word (Phila.); Vital Pulse (NYC); Po' Fly (Ky.); Poets & Prophets (Phila.); Collages; Bricollages (Pa.). Articles: Phila. Legends (Interview)- Phila. City Paper, Apr.10, 1997.
Fusing Jazz and Hip-Hop- Phila. Inquirer, Jan.12, 2001
New American Radio Grants (NYC)- 1990, 92; Pa. Council for the Arts (media performance)-1993; LA Cultural Affairs (workshops/performance at Watts Towers Arts Ctr.)-1993;
Cal. Endowment for the Humanities (Ruse Gallery in San Diego/tour of Cal.-with reed player-Zopilote, and poet Gerardo Navarro);
Meet The Composer- with vocalist/poet Gloria Tropp, percussionist-Ken Yamazaki-1995, with vocalist/poet Wil Perkins -1998.