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Pianist With An Affinity for Songby George Ziskind
Copyright © 2001 George Ziskind
Early today I received an unwelcome phone call from Pinky Winters in California. The great Lou Levy died last nite, a couple hours after suffering cardiac arrest. He would have been 73 on March 5th.
If Lou had done no more than putting in a total of 25 years playing for Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee - it would have been enough to assure his place in the Hall of Great Ones. (Lou was fond of saying "I've played for every singer except Pavarotti.")
But his credits go way beyond Ella and Peggy. He was Stan Getz's pianist of choice for decades. He's played with everyone. Over the past 18 years, he had done several projects with his significant other, vocalist Pinky Winters.
His style, out of Bud but with harmonic influences of Art Tatum and Bill Evans, was marked by surgical articulation, a very acute harmonic sense, chops up the wazoo and an uncanny ability to always pick the pretty notes.
Lou had a growth removed, that was ajacent to his brain, around 20 months ago. He slowed down somewhat after that. He has been my idol since we were both 13 in Chicago. I will really miss him.
Kenny Mathieson adds: (Lou Levy worked with Georgie Auld, Sarah Vaughan, Chubby Jackson and Boyd Raeburn (among others) before joining Woody Herman in 1948-9, alongside Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Shorty Rogers. He retired from music for time in the early 1950s, but returned in 1954. He settled in California in the mid-1950s, concentrating mainly on accompanying leading jazz and pop singers like Ella Fitzgerald (including several Songbook albums), Peggy Lee, Anita O'Day, Frank Sinatra (including My Way), Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett and Nancy Wilson. He played with Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Shelly Manne and Supersax, and was also a respected teacher. Influenced by Bud Powell, he was a resourceful, sophisticated and swinging stylist in any setting.