Alonzo Levister

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Alonzo Levister in 2007

Alonzo Hamilton Levister (November 1, 1925 in Greenwich, Connecticut – December 6, 2016 in Alcobaça) was an American Third Stream composer, arranger, music producer and jazz pianist.

Life and work[edit]

Alonzo Levister grew up in Harlem, New York City, and commenced his music studies at the late age of 21 at the Boston Conservatory (1946). In 1949, he went to Paris where he was accepted by Nadia Boulanger as a private student. Following his studies in Paris, he was a student at the Juilliard School (1951).

During the early 1950s he wrote music for several dance companies and choreographers such as Katherine Dunham and Donald McKayle. In 1955 he worked with Charles Mingus and his company Debut Records, arranging for artists such as Don Senay on The Edge of Love, Fanny and Makin' Whoopee, and with Ada Moore on A Lass From The Low Country.[1]

His suite Manhattan Monodrama appeared in 1956 also from Debut Records and included Louis Mucci, John LaPorta, and Teddy Charles. One of the tracks was Slow Dance,[2][3] later recorded by John Coltrane, with Red Garland on the album Traneing-In.[4]

In 1957 he wrote the arrangements for the album Roots featuring Prestige All-Stars.[5]

In 1958 he composed a short, jazz-flavored Chamber Opera called Blues in the Subway, promoted by The Village Voice at the Loew’s Sheriden Theater.[6]

In the early 1960s he was involved in writing commercial jingles. One of these, for Prell shampoo, gave him in 1961 the Clio Award for the best musical theme of the year.[7] In the same period, he orchestrated the Broadway Musical Kicks and Co..[8]

He also worked as an arranger and producer for Jobete, the publishing company for Motown Records, and was composer and writer for Verve Records.

In 1968 he was one of the writers for the Broadway Musical New Faces of 1968 in which his future wife of 50 years, Gloria Bleezarde, was a member of the cast.[9] They retired to Nazaré, Portugal.