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15 Dec

Milcho Leviev, the «godfather of Balkan jazz»

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Milcho Leviev, the Thessaloniki-based «godfather of Balkan jazz» turns 76 on December 19, 2015.

The Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev was born on 19 December 1939 and shall be celebrating his 76th birthday next Saturday. He has been spending most of his time in Thessaloniki in recent years, and to this day he continues to perform and record unabated. Although he has been called the «godfather of Balkan jazz», his work has spanned with great success a number of musical genres, including classical music and Bulgarian folk.
Conservatory-trained Leviev straddles the boundaries of jazz and classical music with ease, often introducing swing rhythms and blues accents into a classical piece with unsurpassed subtlety. He combines different genres and textures with a beguiling ability to navigate through them, as if they comprise integral parts of a single theme. Leviev is equally at home in a jazz-funk setting, as in his collaboration with Billy Cobham, that was highly praised by jazz critics. Through time, Milcho Leviev has embraced many other kinds of music, including forays into haiku-inspired tunes with Don Ellis.
But first and foremost, during his long career, Milcho Leviev has been a great jazz pianist and composer. He has collaborated with many famous jazz musicians. His live performances at the Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London in 1980 with none other than Art Pepper have left a lasting legacy. The album «Blues for the Fisherman» (TAA/Mole, 1980) recorded on that occasion with Pepper is a real gem: the first video below provides a sample of the title track.
One of his most interesting collaborations was with the bassist Dave Holland, with whom he performed in Japan and recorded the album «Up and Down», that includes the track of the second video below, «Billy’s Bounce» (MA, 1993). Leviev’s discography is substantial and his numerous albums include «Blue Levis» (Dobre, 1978), that includes the track «Little John John» in the third video below.
Thessaloniki jazz fans have been fortunate to have a jazz pianist and composer of the calibre of Milcho Leviev in their midst, performing in the city’s jazz venues. Many happy returns to him and his jazz.

Mihalis Yianneskis

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 December 2015 16:26

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