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Walt Levinsky: 1919-1999
Walt Levinsky
Clarinet, arranger, composer

Born: 1919
Died: December 14, 1999 in Sarasota, Florida

Preserving the Goodman Legacy

Copyright © 1999 

The Scotsman, 1999

Levinsky, Walt Walt Levinsky combined the role of playing swing clarinet with an active career in composition. His credits in the latter activity included writing theme tunes for a number of well-known American television news and sports programmes, most famously the music which heralded the CBS evening news under its famous anchorman, Dan Rather.

He also wrote most of the arrangements featured by Bobby Rosengarden when the drummer was musical director of Dick Cavett's late-night talk show in the 1970s, and acted as musical director for the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremonies for twelve years.

Levinsky was born in 1919, and played clarinet in bands led by several famous leaders of the swing era, including Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, and later formed his own band, which featured a number of former Goodman sidemen. He regarded the classic arrangements of the swing era as timeless rather than nostalgic, and likened it to a classical ensemble playing Mozart, but with the difference that a jazz band was able to add their own distinctive touches to the written material, and to play it with what he called "a more modern conception".

By his own estimation, he played on over 5,000 recording sessions, and was equally active as an arranger. In addition to working with his own and other bands, he arranged songs for both jazz and popular singers and musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Richard Harris and Doc Severinsen. In addition, he worked with Dick Hyman on the recording of soundtracks for several of the scores which Hyman composed for the films of Woody Allen.

He had been suffering from brain cancer, and had been in a coma for two months prior to his death. He is survived by his wife and three children, one of whom, Ken Levinsky, is also a musician.

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