Ike Levin has been playing reed instruments professionally for over 40 years. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Ike was an active performer in the windy city’s vibrant jazz, blues, and new music scene before relocating to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 80s. Ike now resides in Portland, Oregon. While in Chicago, Ike studied music composition at the Roosevelt University Conservatory of Music and in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While a student, Ike performed as a regular member of the University of Illinois Jazz Orchestra and sat in with the Jazz Members Big Bandcomprised of many of the Chicago area’s top jazz musicians who used the Band as a forum for original arrangements and experimental compositions. Ike studied privately with legendary jazz saxophone master Joe Daley who helped him develop his technique and establish his neo-bop foundations.
Ike also studied with Fred Anderson, one of the co-founders of the Chicago based avant-garde jazz organization Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM). Under the tutelage of Fred Anderson Ike began to explore new musical frontiers for his improvisational work unencumbered by harmonic structures and strict time meter. As he tells it, “At first, I thought Fred was going to get me into abstract concepts of the music, but initially we used to play Charlie Parker heads over and over again together. He was getting me into Bird’s amazing concept of phrasing which is the foundation of all improvisational work.” However, his real development as a jazz musician came from listening and occasionally sitting in with the many great jazz artists who came through Chicago’s jazz clubs during the 70’s and early 80’s. Whether its “straight ahead” or freer forms of jazz, Ike is never content to rely on clichés or simply replicate past musical phrases. Instead, he is always searching for new musical ideas and sounds all the while focusing on keeping the music swinging.
Ike’s orientation to his instruments and approach to jazz improvisation has had a multitude of influences. Some of his major influences include the saxophonists John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Lyons, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Fred Anderson, Kidd Jordan, Sam Rivers, and Albert Ayler. The music of Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and William Parker have also influenced his approach and concept of improvisation. Additionally, Ike identifies such 20th century composers as Bartok, Perdercki, and Boulez as influencing the way he conceives of musical composition and tonality.