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Lou Levy Dies at 72

Lou Levy, the West Coast jazz pianist best known as an accompanist to leading jazz singers, died on January 23rd after suffering a heart attack. He was 72.

Influenced by Fats Waller, Al Haig and Art Tatum, the Chicago-born Levy started on the piano at the age of 12. He wasn’t even out of his teens when he began playing professionally, appearing with artists like Sarah Vaughan, Georgie Auld, Chubby Jackson, and Flip Phillips and bands like the Boyd Raeburn Orchestra, Woody Herman’s Second Herd and Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra.

Taking a hiatus from the jazz scene in the early 50s, Levy moved to Minneapolis to work in the medical journal publishing business. In 1955 he moved to California to begin what would become an 18-year association with singer Peggy Lee. From then on he became known as a particularly sympathetic accompanist for singers. Like Lester Young, one of his idols, he believed that a musician should know the lyrics of a song he was interpreting and said that a bandleader – even if not a singer – should be considered a voice.

In addition to working with singing legends Ella Fitzgerald and Anita O’Day, Levy also made recordings under his own name for the RCA, Jubilee and Philips labels, among others. He is also to be remebered as the original pianist for Supersax, a band he played with in the 70s and again in the 90s for reunion performances.

For the last 18 years Mr. Levy worked with the singer Pinky Winters; he also lived with her for much of that time. In addition to Ms. Winters, he is survived by three daughters, Jackie Gruendyke of Solvang, Calif., Pam Levy of Oregon and Diane Levy of North Hollywood, Calif; two sons, David Levy of Mammoth, Calif., and Josh Levy of Studio City, Calif; a sister, Estelle Weil of Chicago; and two grandchildren.

Originally Published