As Jazz Appreciation Month (April) approaches, with his 97th birthday just around the corner (4/11), the oldest living NEA Jazz Master takes a ‘Stroll’ back in time to share thoughts and images from his personal jazz journey in a new book, Strollin’: A Jazz Life Through John Levy’s Personal Lens by Devra Hall Levy.

Join him on his first trip to Japan with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1963, and an amazing tour of Ghana in 1971 with Ike and Tina Turner, Eddie Harris and Roberta Flack, Check out historic events such as The Jackson 5 rehearsing with The Temptations in 1972 or Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae sharing the stage at the Jackie Robinson estate in 1964. See selected images from decades of attendance at the Playboy and Monterey Festivals.

Levy, the grandson of Louisiana slaves, is considered to be the first black talent manager in jazz and popular music. After playing bass in the 1940s with such great artists as Stuff Smith, Erroll Garner, Billie Holiday, and George Shearing, Levy put down his bass to begin an unparalleled career managing a “Who’s Who” of jazz luminaries and legendary superstars. He has made millions of dollars for his clients bringing them from sometimes-total anonymity to the rarefied atmosphere of success.  His client roster included: Cannonball Adderley, Brook Benton, Betty Carter, Randy Crawford, Roberta Flack, Arsenio Hall, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Harris, Johnny Hartman, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal, Henry Johnson, Etta Jones, Yusef Lateef, Ramsey Lewis, Abby Lincoln, Herbie Mann, Letta Mbulu, Les McCann, Wes Montgomery, Billy Paul, Dianne Reeves, Marlena Shaw, George Shearing, Dakota Staton, Dr. Billy Taylor, Stanley Turrentine, Sarah Vaughan, Maxine Weldon, Joe Williams, and Nancy Wilson to name just a few.

Throughout the years Levy was on the scene with his clients at clubs and festivals around the world. Strollin’: A Jazz Life Through John Levy’s Personal Lens, a high-quality soft-cover coffee table book of exquisite color photos interspersed with memories and vignettes that celebrate his journey with nearly 400 images, including a special 10-page section of exclusive shots from the 2006 NEA Jazz Master events taken by professional photographer Leroy Hamilton. The pictures from the Levys’ personal collection include never-before-seen candid shots providing a glimpse behind the scenes, in dressing rooms, backstage, on stage, in rehearsal, in the recording studios, and even a few at home. Hang out with his friends and colleagues, including Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Benny Carter, Hank Jones, the Heath Brothers, Arsenio Hall, Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan, Zoot Sims, and dozens more. Levy has been called one of the unsung heroes of jazz whose work helped define how the American public thinks of jazz.

Strollin’ is a follow up to the celebrated 2000 release, Men, Women, and Girl Singers: My Life as a Musician Turned Talent Manager (ISBN: 0931761743), Levy’s life story written for him by his wife and longtime collaborator Devra Hall Levy. Strollin’ can be ordered at for $45 (plus shipping & handling); a downloadable PDF/E-book version is also available for $25.00.

Originally posted 2009-03-08 19:46:55.