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Hank Levy

ABOUT HANK LEVY Hank came of age in the 1940s, when big bands crisscrossed the country playing one-nighters, and when people in Baltimore and other cities regularly went out dancing in nightclubs and ballrooms. There were many excellent bands in the area staffed by musicians in the armed forces and musicians and ideas circulated freely among these groups. Levy was part of this milieu (he attended the Navy School of Music during his three-year hitch) and took full advantage of it in his later career as a teacher, composer, and bandleader.

A Baltimore native, Hank graduated from Baltimore City College, where he led his first band, then attended several colleges, including an unhappy year at the Peabody Conservatory. Hank didn't receive a university degree until he arrived at Towson State College in 1968, where he was forced to earn one in order to teach there. He was mostly a musical autodidact, schooled in experience. In 1953, Hank played baritone saxophone in the legendary Stan Kenton Orchestra for six months, which led to a lifelong friendship with Kenton.

Dave Brubeck's Time Out album, featuring “Take Five” in 5/4 time and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” in 9/8 time, came out in 1959, but other than that, jazz seldom ventured outside the customary 4/4 time, or occasional 3/4 waltz time. Hank composed in time signatures that ventured way outside--to 7/4, 9/4, 11/4. But it wasn't just numbers. The music, while difficult to learn, swung hard. The Kenton band started using his arrangements.

The 1960s were a critical decade for Hank Levy. Out on the West Coast, trumpeter/bandleader Don Ellis was also experimenting with new rhythms, experimenting with time signatures as high as 19/4. One of the tunes that helped the Ellis band tear up the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 was Hank Levy's “Passacaglia and Fugue.” Two years later, after the death of his father, Levy sold the family beef business and became the jazz program director at Towson State College.

In 1972, with the help of Stan Kenton's Creative World production company, the ensemble put out their first of several albums, with all material written and arranged by Levy and the album still sounds relevant to this day. The compositions were of sufficient quality that several of them were recorded by the Ellis and Kenton bands. The Towson group lacked the soloist depth of these professional organizations but compensated with a crisp, powerhouse delivery. Many of the Towson players later ended up in the pro bands of Kenton, Ellis and others, beneficiaries not just of Levy's writing talent but of an offhand teaching style that charmed his students.

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Album Review

The Hank Levy Alumni Band: An 'Odd-Time' Was Had by All

Read "An 'Odd-Time' Was Had by All" reviewed by Jack Bowers

As a rule, a big-band album's song titles are followed by the name(s) of composer and arranger, playing time, and perhaps the names of the various soloists, if there are any. It's rare that one sees time signatures as well, but the late Hank Levy wasn't your garden variety, four-beats-to-the-measure writer. To Levy, who wrote for such musical pacesetters as Stan Kenton and Don Ellis, time was an elastic ingredient, to be expanded, compressed and otherwise adapted to suit the ...

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TV / Film

New Recording Of Hank Levy's "Whiplash" Releases October 6 With Original Performers

New Recording Of Hank Levy's "Whiplash"  Releases October 6 With Original Performers

Source: Michael Ricci

Nephew Stewart Levy leads the estate with two new versions of the classic jazz hit Los Angeles, CA: The jazz classic hit, Whiplash by Hank Levy, will see two new versions released on October 6th, 2014, headed by the Hank Levy Estate CEO, Stewart Levy. The new tracks were recorded Sunday, July 27th at Sheffield Recordings Ltd. in Phoenix, Maryland and Roeder Studio in Monkton, Maryland. The recordings were engineered and produced by Richard Roeder and features many of the ...


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