Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight

Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight
Frank R. Hayde Foreword by Charlie Watts
March 2016
50 photos
6 x 9

Stan Levey is widely considered to be one of the most influential drummers in the history of modern jazz. During his extraordinary career, the self-taught Levey played alongside a who’s who of twentieth century jazz artists: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young, Thelonius Monk, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald—the remarkable list goes on and on, and includes dozens of the most distinguished names in the annals of jazz and popular music.

Jazz Heavyweight follows Levey’s prolific and colorful life, from his childhood days in rough-and-tumble North Philadelphia as the son of a boxing promoter and manager with ties to the mob, to his stint as a professional heavyweight boxer, to his first gig as a drummer for Dizzy Gillespie at the tender age of sixteen and his meteoric rise as one of the most sought-after sidemen in the world of bebop, to his membership in the Lighthouse All-Stars and his prominent role in the creation of West Coast Jazz.

Jazz Heavyweight is one of the few books to offer a true insider’s view of some of the most pivotal events in the history of jazz. First-hand accounts of Levey’s tenure as the backbone of what jazz critic Leonard Feather called “the first genuine all-bebop group to play on 52nd Street” provide fresh insights into that ground-breaking band. Levey’s legendary trip to California with Gillespie and Parker to introduce bebop to jazz fans in Los Angeles has passed into the realm of the mythic: Bird ended up staying behind, set fire to his hotel room, and was subsequently institutionalized in Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

Coinciding with his years anchoring the Lighthouse All-Stars, Levey recorded over two thousand tracks while doing session work with such vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Barbra Streisand. Levey ended his music career as a prolific player on literally thousands of motion picture and television show soundtracks under the direction of such legendary composers as Lalo Schifrin, Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, and Andre Previn.

Jazz aficionados will relish Jazz Heavyweight for its new, never-before-published information about such hugely influential musicians as Parker, Gillespie, and Davis, while jazz neophytes will find a fast-paced, colorful encapsulation of the entire history of modern jazz. This book is essential reading for anyone seeking an up-close-and-personal look at jazz in the latter half of the twentieth century.