In Celebration of Black History Month, The Jeff Levine Organ Trio will be performing “The American Songbook of The Greats” such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Gladis Knight, Aretha Franklin, and more, including special guests vocalists like Ms.Blu, J.T. Bowen, Beverly Crosby, Layonne Holmes, and Tommy McDonnell and also featuring percussionist Richard Blackwell, drummer Lee Finkelstein, bass player Jeff Lopez and guitar player George Naha, happening at the 10 PRL Event Space located at 515 Bath Ave, in Long Branch, NJ (Intersection Bath Ave/10 Pearl St.) on Tuesday night, Feb. 28th. $25.00 ticket sales at the door. At 7 p.m., the doors open, and 7:30 is Showtime. For more information, call 732-483-6664 or info@Oprl.com
In an interview for Business Innovators Magazine, Internationally known blues, rock, and funk keyboardist Jeff Levine shares his story; he has recorded and toured with everyone from Joe Cocker to Hall and Oates, Clarence Clemons, The Chambers Brothers, and John Fogerty. Jeff also talks about how he has started a new project called JEFF LEVINE & FRIENDS, bringing together some of the greatest players for a Jam fueled night of music.
Since 1966 when Jeff got started playing Hammond B-3 organ in his high school years in Newton, Massachusetts, the Boston-raised Levine has split his time between tours with the likes of Cocker, Hall & Oates, Willy DeVille, the Chambers Brothers, the late Clemons, and The Red Bank Rockers and time in the recording studio.
Jeff shares, “My exposure to the blues happened because I used to hang out at this record store in Newton Center, and they were playing Paul Butterfield, the Electric Flag, Buddy Miles Express, and The British Invasion bands who were doing covers of the great bluesman. So I heard Boom, Boom, Boom by The Animals before John Lee Hooker.” His father was an accountant, and his mother was a piano player. His first few piano lessons came from his mother when he was eight. Shortly after getting into the blues revival that was underway in the mid-’60s, he began forming his first few bands in junior high school.
In 1966, Levine’s father, who worked for Suffolk Downs, the racetrack in Boston where the Beatles were scheduled to perform, got tickets for the family to see the Fab Four. “That was the day I decided to go into my mom’s business instead of my dad’s.
“Like thousands of other kids from the suburbs, seeing the Beatles when he did make a huge impact on the young Levine – almost as much of an impact “as when, a little while later, I snuck into a club in Boston to hear Howlin’ Wolf when I was maybe 15.”
After participating in and leading a procession of blues-rock bands through high school, Levine said one first big break he had to pass up was the chance to join a touring band that would have necessitated he quit high school. He didn’t join Swallow on the road and instead stuck around for a year after high school, opening for national acts at colleges throughout New England.
“I was in an 8-piece band up there doing original music, and we were lucky to have a manager/agent who booked every college in New England, and we got many of these gigs because, in many cases, the headliners needed a Hammond B-3 for their show which I provided. We opened for Aerosmith, the Guess Who, for the J Geils Band, Canned Heat, and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days Band (when David Sanborn first joined them).”
“Back then, we were making between a grand and two grand a show,” he recalled; it was good money for an unsigned act in those days.” Levine’s horn-heavy R&B, soul, and blues band opened for the Chambers Brothers at The Deer Island Prison in Boston Harbor, and they were impressed. “Joe Chambers called me two weeks later, and I drove down to Stamford to audition,” he recalled. He put aside his plans to attend Berklee College of Music that fall when Joe, Lester, Willie & George Chambers took him on the road.
“My first gig with them was flying to L.A. to play the ‘Midnight Special’ TV show with Wolfman Jack, and I remember Dr. John was on that gig, too,” he said, guessing the year was 1973.
While living with the Chambers Brothers in Stamford, Connecticut, Johnny Winter was a frequent visitor. Meanwhile, the Chambers Brothers had a well-equipped basement recording studio with lots of Ampex tape machines. After graduating, Levine furthered his sound engineer education and taught audio at Berklee.
After spending time on the road and in the studio with Clarence Clemons, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry in 1987, Levine was ready to go on tour with Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band. Unfortunately, the record label funding for that tour fell apart, “but before I returned to Boston to rehearse with Peter, I recorded the ‘Unchain My Heart’ album with Joe Cocker. He asked me to direct a new band for him musically, but I’m not one to jump ship.” After a short time, Levine joined Cocker on tour, as did renowned bassist T.M. Stevens, who coincidentally were neighbors in NYC, and each eventually migrated to Long Branch, NJ.
When asked what’s next? He introduces THE JEFF LEVINE & FRIENDS PROJECT – A Jammed-Fueled Night of Music. Jeff says, “I’m excited about this project and thrilled to bring this live session to audiences everywhere. “People can expect to be at a very spontaneous show with guys and gals who know how to play!”
At each date, Jeff will be joined by prominent players like Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herington, drummer Alex Phayme, who has performed with Faith Evans and Denise Williams, and bassist Dave Jones, whose credits include J.T. Taylor and Lenny White. Also, on his list of potential players tapped to share the groove will be drummer Shawn Pelton (SNL, Sheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Pink}, Andy Hess (Gov’t Mule, Black Crows, Joan Osborne, John Scofield}, legendary drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Connecticut-based blues-soul vocalist D.A. Foster, and Boston harmonica wiz James Montgomery among many others.
Jeff can also be seen on dates with Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers. Jeff has been playing with the band for the last few years and is also supporting Joe, playing piano for a new theatre project called “East Carson Street,” which features Grushecky’s songs throughout the play. The project is in development now as the cast readies the show for audiences, perhaps by the fall of 2023.
To learn more about his journey, visit https://jefflevinemusic.com