Howard Levy

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Not to be confused with Howard Levi.
For the US Army Captain dermatologist and Vietnam War resister, see Charles Morgan, Jr., his legal representative.
Howard Levy
Howard Levy.jpg
Howard Levy in concert.
Background information
Born (1951-07-31) July 31, 1951 (age 65)
Origin Brooklyn, New York City
Genres Jazz, classical, world, Latin, indian, folk, eastern, middle eastern, baroque, swing, bebop, funk, rock, celtic, country, R&B, fusion
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Harmonica, piano, ocarina, mandolin, flute, jaw harp, saxophone, percussion
Associated acts Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Trio Globo, Reissler/Levy/Matinier, Chévere, Molinero/Levy Project, Acoustic Express

Howard Levy (born July 31, 1951) is an American harmonicist, pianist, composer, and producer.

He is probably best known as a founding member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones,[1] with whom he won a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for their live recording of their 1991 song "The Sinister Minister". Levy more recently won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 2012 for "Life in Eleven", a song which he co-wrote with Bela Fleck, featured on the Flecktones' 2011 release "Rocket Science".


Levy was born in Brooklyn, New York City. He attended Poly Prep Country Day School and graduated in 1969. He attended Northwestern University in Evanston, IL from 1969–1971.

He discovered the overblow and overdraw techniques for chromatic playing on the diatonic harmonica in 1970.[citation needed] These allow a harmonica player to obtain all the missing chromatic notes in the Richter-tuned diatonic harmonica.

In the 1970s and 80's Howard was very active in the Chicago music and recording scene, playing in many bands and on thousands of radio and TV commercials. In the mid 1980s he toured and recorded with Paquito D'Rivera, Trapezoid, Bonnie Koloc, and also released a now out of print cassette album, "Harmonica Jazz", that spread his reputation as the first person to really play Jazz on a diatonic harmonica. In 1986 he won a Joseph Jefferson Award for composing music for Remains Theater's production of Brecht's "Puntila and his Hired Man", starring Dennis Arndt, William Peterson, and Amy Morton.

In 1988, Levy co-founded the Flecktones, leaving the group in 1993. After that he toured and recorded with oud player/composer Rabih Abou Khalil, as well as Trio Globo and Kenny Loggins. He has appeared on over 250 albums [1] and has played on several movie soundtracks. In 2001, he composed the second concerto written for the diatonic harmonica (the first being William Russo's Concerto for Blues Band and Orchestra). He has performed it many times with orchestras in the United States and Europe. As of 2009 Levy has rejoined the Flecktones as a touring member of the band, as well as for the band's 2011 album, Rocket Science.

He is music director of the Latin/jazz group Chévere de Chicago whose first album was Secret Dream. Currently he also plays solo concerts, tours with Trio Globo, leads the band Acoustic Express, plays duo concerts with pianist Anthony Molinaro and guitarist Chris Siebold, and tours Europe with Michael Riessler and Jean-Louis Matinier. Levy has also recorded or toured with Donald Fagen, Bobby McFerrin, Dolly Parton, Dennis DeYoung, Paquito D'Rivera, and Ben Sidran.

He is the founder of Balkan Samba Records, which features the music of Howard Levy and Friends, including Fox Fehling, Chévere de Chicago, Alberto Mizrahi and Trio Globo and Norman Savitt.

He continues to make frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor's acclaimed radio program Prairie Home Companion.

In December 2009 he launched the Online Harmonica School with Howard Levy.

Since 2005, Howard has collaborated with the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Glencoe, IL for their High Holiday services.

Partial discography of recent CDs under Howard's name or featuring him as a co-leader[edit]

  • "The Old Country" (with Miroslav Tadic and Mark Nauseef) (1996) M.A.
  • "Stranger's Hand" (with Jerry Goodman, Oteil Burbridge and Steve Smith) (1999) Tone Center)
  • "Cappuccino" (with Fox Fehling) (2004) Balkan Samba
  • "Howard Levy & Paul Sprawl" (2005) out of print
  • "Secret Dream" (with Chévere de Chicago) (2006) Balkan Samba
  • "Time Capsules" (with Acoustic Express) (2009) Balkan Samba
  • "Alone and Together" (2010) Balkan Samba
  • "Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra" (2010) Balkan Samba
  • "Tonight and Tomorrow" (2010) Chicago Sessions
  • "Steering by the Stars" (Trio Globo) (2010) Stonecutter
  • "From Matzah to Menorah" (with Alberto Mizrahi and Trio Globo) (2012) Balkan Samba
  • "First Takes" (with Larry Gray and Miles Levy) (2014) Balkan Samba


  1. ^ Newsom, Jim. "Stranger's Hand". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 

External links[edit]