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MCG Jazz Remembers John Levy, Our Friend

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John Levy John Levy, manager to countless jazz luminaries, dies at age 99.

John Levy, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and renowned personal manager for many jazz greats, died on January 20th, less than three months shy of his 100th birthday. His wife, Devra Hall Levy said he was sleeping peacefully in her arms at home in Altadena when his heart finally gave out.

An induction into the International Jazz Hall of Fame (1997) and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Jazz Society were among the many honors Levy received during his career. His client roster read like a veritable who's who of jazz and included Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, Betty Carter
Betty Carter
Betty Carter
1930 - 1998
vocalist
, Randy Crawford
Randy Crawford
Randy Crawford
b.1952
vocalist
, Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
1934 - 2005
piano
, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
, Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
, Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis
b.1935
piano
, Herbie Mann
Herbie Mann
Herbie Mann
1930 - 2003
flute
, Les McCann
Les McCann
Les McCann
b.1935
piano
, Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
, George Shearing
George Shearing
George Shearing
1919 - 2011
piano
, Dakota Staton
Dakota Staton
Dakota Staton
1932 - 2007
vocalist
, Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
1934 - 2000
sax, tenor
, Joe Williams
Joe Williams
Joe Williams
1918 - 1999
vocalist
, and Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
b.1937
vocalist
, who remains a John Levy Enterprises client to this day.

John Levy was born in New Orleans on April 11, 1912. When he was a boy, his teacher urged him to get a job in the Post Office so he would have security in life. He didn't listen. He became known internationally as one of the top jazz managers in the world. As a personal manager who throughout the course of his career managed more than eighty-five artists, Levy made millions of dollars for his clients, who have risen from sometimes-total anonymity to the heights of success.

Like many Southern black children of his era, John Levy saw his formal education end before it had barely begun. Yet his astonishing business acumen won the respect of people at every level of the music industry—from the struggling artists to the corporate brass of the recording giants.

Even now there are few places in the world where a young person can learn the intricacies of personal management. In Levy's day there were none. John's university was the street parades in 1920s New Orleans, and the jazz musicians riding on the floats; it was the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago, and Clarence Black's house band; and the sound of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and the Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
1904 - 1944
trombone
bands; and Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
at the Sherman Hotel and Fletcher Henderson
Fletcher Henderson
Fletcher Henderson
1897 - 1952
arranger
at the Grand Terrace.

Though Levy was an accomplished bassist in his own right, it was the business aspect of the music industry to which he dedicated his life. From the time he put aside his bass to handle the business affairs of the George Shearing Quintet in 1951, he learned how to guide raw talent to polished professionalism.

Working in the dual roles of both performer and road manager, he gradually grew into a career in personal management, becoming the first African-American personal manager in the jazz field. But his drive pushed him even further, and soon he was promoting concerts and producing records. His years of success in all these areas earned him an impeccable reputation in the entertainment industry, where he was both respected and admired by other managers, booking agents, concert promoters, entertainment lawyers and accountants, record company executives, and last but not least, the artists themselves.

He is survived by his wife Devra Hall Levy of Altadena, CA, his son Michael Levy and daughter Pamela McRae both of Youngstown, OH, daughters Samara Levy of San Diego, CA, and Jole Levy of New York, NY, fifteen grandchildren, and a host of great-grandchildren.

According to Levy's wishes, there will be no funeral service. Donations may be made to the “MCG Jazz John Levy Fund" which is earmarked for the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's nationwide “Jazz Is Life" educational programs.

Click here to give a gift in John's memory.
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