Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Levy, Howard

Levy, Howard, harmonica, pianist, composer, flute, ocarina, mandolin, saxophone, and percussion; Born and raised in New York City, Howard has made Chicago his home for the past 25 years.

Howard developed a fully chromatic style on the standard 10 hole diatonic harmonica. Levy studied piano and theory at The Manhattan School of Music in N.Y. for four years, then studied pipe organ with Carl Lambert for two years. He attended Northwestern University in Evanston, IL for two years, playing in the jazz band.

In Chicago in the late 70's, he started to tour and record with singer/songwriters such as Steve Goodman, John Prine, Bonnie Koloc, Tom Paxton, to name a few. At the same time, he honed his craft in the studios, playing on thousands of jingles and composing and producing music for public television and documentary films. He formed a jazz group, The NBV Quintet, became the music director for Chevere, the leading Latin-Jazz band in the city, and co-founded The Balkan Rhythm Band, which specialized in the music of Bulgaria and Eastern Europe. In these bands (and others), Howard composed, arranged, played piano, harmonica, saxophones, mandolin, percussion- anything that the music called for. He also performed as a solo artist, opening shows for acts as diverse as Jean-Luc Ponty, Oregon, and Adrian Belew. Howard also developed a program for schools called "Music from Around the World", in which he played an array of instruments from many cultures for schools all over the Chicago area. In the mid 80's, Howard wrote and performed the music for Remains Theaters production of Brecht's "Puntila and his Hired Man", for which he won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Music for a Play. He also toured the U.S. and Europe with Paquito D'Rivera, whom he met while playing piano with Tito Puente. During this time he developed a fruitful relationship with the experimental folk group Trapezoid. This led to many recordings and the beginning of Howards association with The Augusta Heritage Arts Festival in Elkins, WV, where he taught harmonica for seven summers.

In 1988 while playing with Trapezoid at The Winnepeg Folk Festival, Howard met and played with Bela Fleck, and that was the beginning of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, with whom Howard toured and recorded from 1989 through 1992. After that came a period of many different bands, artists, styles, venues: Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton, Ken Nordine, Jerry Garcia, Laurie Anderson, Rabih Abou Khalil, Michael Riessler, Jack Bruce, Trilok Gurtu, Art Lande, Mark Murphy, Trio Globo, Glen Velez, John Tesh and too many more to list. He was prominently featured on the soundtracks of three major films, A Family Thing, Striptease, A Time To Kill, and Vietnam, A Long Time Coming. He also released an instructional video on Homespun Tapes, called "New Directions for Harmonica". Radio Bremen produced a series of concerts called "Howard Levy's Harpology Festival", and he headlined and mc'd "Harmonica Convergence" for the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

Howard's musical journeys took him all over the world, and led to a lot more composing. He also performed his own music with The Howard Levy Quartet and other groups in the US and Europe. In 1995, on a commission from The Rembrandt Chamber Players of Chicago, Howard composed his first extended classical piece, "Harmonia Mundi, Suite for Harmonica and Chamber Ensemble." He has given perfomances of this piece in the US and Europe. Recently, Howard collaborated on a musical, "Tales From Trashmania" with Bonnie Koloc, performed with the a capella female vocal group Vida, did a series of concerts with Indian Bharanatayam dancer Ranee Rawaswamy and poets Robert Bligh, Coleman Barks, (among others), toured in a trio with bassist Kai Eckhart and percussionist Ty Burhoe, with bassist Dieter Ilg and his "Folk Songs" group, and played several duo concerts with cellist Eugene Friesen from Trio Globo. This August he appeared at the Ravinia Festival with Musica Anima and Branford Marsalis playing tangos by Astor Piazzola. He continues to perform with his quartet and in 2002, he performed "On the Other Side..." (a triple concerto composed for him, a clarinetist and an accordianist) with The Bavarian State Radio Orchestra in Munich, Germany. In 2001, Howard was commissioned by The Illinois Philharmonic to compose a Harmonica Concerto, the first ever written for diatonic harmonica. Since the debut, he has performed it 9 times, with more performances scheduled. Howard is music director of Chivere, Chicago's hottest Latin-Jazz-Fusion Band, whose first cd will be released soon. He also leads a 4 piece band called "Howard Levy's Accoustic Express."

In the dance world, Howard collaborated with Indian dancer Ranee Ramaswamy in "Where the Hands Go, The Eyes Follow", a fusion of photography, poetry, dance, and music, all live, with poets Robert Bligh and Coleman Barks. In 2004 he performed with members of The Hubbard St. and Joffrey dance companies in "Moody Hollow", choreographed by Lauri Stallings. As a music educator, Howard has taught hundreds of students privately, and has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Berklee, Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Francis Parker School, given jazz clinics at high schools, and has given hundreds performances of "Music from around the World," a program of international music for children and adults. He also taught harmonica for 7 summers at The Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, WV, and World Music in 1984 at The Omega Institute in New York.

Harmonica Jazz (1986); The Trio Globo: Trio Globo (1994), Carnival of Souls (1995); Stranger's Hand (1999); The Old Country (1996); Anthony Molinaro/Howard Levy: Live (2003)
As sideperson: (in alphabetical order): Rabih Abou Khalil: Sultan's Picnic (1994), Odd Times (1997); April Aloisio: Brazilian Heart (1994), Footprints (1996); Jenny Armstrong: Dancing in the Circle (1995); The Balkan Rhythm Band: The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around (1984); Stefan Bauer/Larry Roy: Summer's Embrace (1999); Paul Berliner And Kudu: The Sun Rises Late Here (1979); Bryan Bowers: The View from Home (1977), Home, Home on the Road (1982); Dick Boyell: Mood Goddess (1991); David Bromberg: Sideman Serenade (1990); Jerry Butler: It All Comes Out In My Song (1977); Andrew Calhoun: The Gates Of Love (1984); Terry Callier: Timepeace (1998); The Chenille Sisters: True to Life (1994); Holly Cole: Don't Smoke in Bed (1993), Temptation (1995), Collection (1998), Temptation [Japan] (1999); James Conway: Mouth Box (2002); Ralph Covert: Eat at Godot's (1993), Popscape: The Best of Ralph Covert (1996); Randy Crafton: Duologue (1996); Brendan Croker: Great Indoors (1992); Carmen Cuesta: One Kiss (1996); John Darnall: Brazilian Dreams; Douglas Day: Jackson's Kite (1993); Dennis DeYoung: Back to the World (1986), Boomchild (1988); Pat Donohue: Back Roads (1996); Paquito D'Rivera: Explosion (1986); Lorraine Duisit: Hawks & Herons; Lorraine Duisit and Tom Espinola: Songs for Little Country People (2001); Freyda Epstein: Globalullabies (1995); Luis Ewerling & A Cor do Brasil: Our Earth (2002); Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer: Pillow Full of Wishes (2000); Bila Fleck &The Flecktones: Bela Fleck & The Flecktones (1990), Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (1991), Live Art (1991), UFO Tofu (1992), Greatest Hits of the 20th Century; Eugene Friesen: The Song of Rivers (1997); Freyda & Acoustic Atta Tude: Midnight at Cabell Hall (1999); Bruce Gaitsch: Aphasia (1997); Bob Gibson: Uptown Saturday Night (1984); Paul Glasse: Paul Glasse (1991), Road to Home (1993), One More Night (1995); Steve Goodman: Unfinished Business (1987); Anne Hills with Shinobu Sato: On This Day Earth Shall Ring:... (1992); Larry Howard: Brighter Side of The Blues (1994); Jadranka: Baby Universe (1996); Cory Jamison: Here's to Hoagy (1997); Jamie Janover: Realms (1998); The Freddy Jones Band: North Ave. Wake Up Call (1995); Si Kahn: I'll Be There: Songs for Jobs with Justice (1989), Doing My Job (1982), Unfinished Portraits (1984), Home (1979); Larry Karush: Piano Crossroads (1985); Peter Kater: Pursuit of Happiness (1994); Kiltartin Road: Joy to the Morning (1995), In the Deep Heart's Core (1995); King of Hearts: My Desire (1995); Jeff Klepper: In This Place (1997); Bonnie Koloc: Visual Voice (1999), With You on My Side (1987); Frank Vinge/Gaucho Batuta (2002); Don Lange: Natural Born Heathen; Lisa Lauren: What Comes Around (1998); Tina Lear: Red Hat (2000); Kenny Loggins: Outside: From the Redwoods (1993), Return to Pooh Corner (1994); Larry Long: Run for Freedom, Sweet Thunder (1997); Lynette: Anywhere But Here (2000); Dayna Malow: Look for the Silver Lining (2002); Chuck Mangione: Save Tonight for Me (1984); Martin, Bogan And Armstrong: That Old Gang Of Mine (1978); Vicki McCrone: Blessed with a Curse (1998); John McCutcheon: Winter Solstice (1984), Howjadoo (1985), Gonna Rise Again (1987), Mail Myself To You (1988), Water from Another Time (1989); Ellen Mcilwaine: Everybody Needs It (1980); Abra Moore: Sing (1995); Lee Murdock: Safe in The Harbor (1993), Freshwater Highway (1995); Ken Nordine: Devout Catalyst (1992), Upper Limbo (1993), Triple Talk (1990), Grandson Of Word Jazz (1988); Maura O'Connell: Helpless Heart (1989); Joanie Pallatto: Who Wrote This Song? (1994); Tom Paxton: Bulletin (1983), One Million Lawyers & Other Disasters (1985), And Loving You (1986), Love Songs (1986); Dean Peer: It's All Good (1999); Ricky Peterson: Tear Can Tell (1995); Jim Post: Jim Post & Friends (1987); John Prine: Bruised Orange (1978), Pink Cadillac (1979), Great Days: John Prine Anthology (1993); Nelson Rangell: Turning Night into Day (1997); Michael Reissler: Momentum Mobile (1994); Sally Rogers: Generations (1989); Rosanna and Zelia: Coisario (1999); Claudia Schmidt: Midwestern Heart (1981), New Goodbyes, Old Hellos (1983), Out of the Dark (1985); Willie Schwarz: Live for the Moment; Pete Seeger: Pete (1996); Henry Shapiro: Whatever Swings (1994); June Shellene: The Lost Art of Love (1996); Ben Sidran: Mr. P's Shuffle (1996), Life's a Lesson (1993); Corky Siegel: Solo Flight 1975-1980 (1999); Fred Small: I Will Stand Fast (1988); Sones de Mexico Ensemble: Que Florenzca! (1996); Spyro Gyra: Dreams Beyond Control (1993); Styx: Turn of the Century (1990); The Subdudes: Annunciation (1994); Alan Taylor: Forever Dance (1994); John Tesh Project: Discovery (1996); Darryl Tookes: Rendezvous (1994), Travels of an Ordinary Man (1996); Trapezoid: Cool of the Day (1983), Remembered Ways (1994), Long Time Down This Road (1995); Happy and Artie Traum: The Test of Time (1993); Glen Velez: Assyrian Rose (1989), Border States (1993); Ramana (1985); Marshall Vente: Marshall Law (2001), Mic up to the Step (2002); Lois Walden: Traveller (1998); Jon Weber: Jazz Wagon (1993); Paul Wertico: Yin and the Yout (1993); Hal Willner: Closed on Account of Rabies: Tales of Edgar Allen Poe (1997); Joe Wolfe/Burt Wolf: Dream a Little Dream; Wunderlich: Herz Reise (1995)
Original Soundtracks: Straight Talk (1991), Time to Kill (1996), Family Thing (1996), Vietnam: Long Time Coming (1999)
Various Artists: Rainbow Sign (1992), Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus (1992), Cmpler 2 (1992), Best of Mountain Stage Live, Vol. 7 (1994), Rounder Christmas Album: Must Be Santa! (1995), Winter Celebration (1995), Silverwolf Homeless Project (1995), Singing Singles (1996), Festival of Light (1996), Celebration of Blues: Great Slide Guitar (1997), Light Jazz Christmas Eve (1997), Visions of Christmas: An Instrumental Holiday Collection (1997), Go Bullistic (1998), Peregrina World (1999), Visions of Music: World Jazz (1999), Horizons: Cross Cultural Jazz Sampler (1992), Tribute to Steve Goodman (1989)

Howard Reich, The Chicago Tribune , Dec. 1996
Geoff Dyer, The London Observer , March 1994
Kim Field, Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers , Simon & Schuster 1993

Awards: Levy won a Grammy (1997) and won a Joseph Jefferson Award (1986) for Best Original Music for a Play.

Contact information:
Howard Levy
PO Box 5010
Evanston, IL 60204


For Accoustic Express and all Chicago Area Bookings please contact:
David Koppel Artist management (773) 338-3888
For Trio Globo Margie Farmer
(410) 374-9059

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