John Levy & Freddie Hubbard to Receive NEA Award at IAJE
“ Levy: Hubbard is an important artist, a real contributor to the world of jazz and its history ”
The relationship between Levy and Hubbard has been like family. Both men have had tremendous musical careers that have established them as phenomenal artists in their own rights. The Jackie Robinson of personal management was John Levy. Freddie Hubbard has played with every milestone artist in post bop history and secured his own uncontested niche in jazz.
Levy's career began at the age of six, when his father gave him a violin; he taught himself. Believing the bass was a big violin strung backwards, Levy's career as bassist began with Errol Garner and was inspired by Eddie Cole, Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown and Milt Hinton. He later performed with Art Tatum, Billie Holiday and George Shearing.
Levy recalls how he met Shearing. "We first met at the Turf Club on Broadway in 1949. George asked me to replace Bill Goodall until he returned. I was included in a new group---the Shearing-Buddy DeFranco Group that included vibraphonist Margie Hyams and guitarist Chuck Wayne. The group had a new, unique, sound. The quintet played melody lines in octaves; guitar, piano, vibes all playing the same note in a different range. We became the top group in the country."
But in 1951, he gave up his career (with Shearing's support) to became his personal manager, making him the first man of color managing a white artist. Shearing gave him an opportunity at a time when all other doors were closed. Segregation in America was at its highest. George took great personal risk and bucked the system when others who could have done so would not. "George's trust was a compelling statement that enhanced my own sense of self," Levy reminisced. "It also made others take notice as well. Trust between people was difficult enough to come by, but for a white man to empower a black man even as early as l950 was news."
Ernie Andrews became his first new client. He later managed Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Billy Taylor, Sarah Vaughan, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine, Roberta Flack, Les McCann, Joe Williams, Herbie Mann, Randy Crawford, Shirley Scott, Betty Carter, and Johnny Watson---all maintaining long, tenured relationships with him.
Hubbard left Indianapolis after playing with groups that included Slide Hampton, the Montgomery Brothers and J.J. Johnson, moving to New York---the eclectic Madison Square Garden of jazz. He played with Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turpentine, Oliver Nelson, George Benson, and Sonny Rollins. At 20 years old, Freddie recorded a legendary performance on Nelson's Stolen Moments and Coltrane's Ole; he was phenomenal on "Dahomey Dance," and played soulfully on "Society Red" from Gordon's 1961 release, Doin' Alright.
Hubbard shared music director duties in the Blakey band, writing the memorable classics "Children of the Night," "Down Under," and "Crisis."
"Hubcap," as Hubbard was called, won Grammys for magnificent performances on "First Light" and "Sky Dive," later recorded with conga player Poncho Sanchez. He collaborated with Stanley Turrentine on SugarTurrentine's all-time masterpiece, solidifying their musical friendship for many years.
Levy said he took Hubbard on as a client because he respected his talent and thought he was, "an important artist, a real contributor to the world of jazz and its history." Levy's management has been unsurpassed, and his relationship with Hubbard has evolved into a long-lasting friendship. Hubbard swept away and married Levy's long-time personal secretary Briggie, a lady who Levy said was like a daughter.
John Levy and Freddie Hubbard are truly deserving of recognition as Jazz Masters---Masters in Management and classic jazz music