DVD Reviews
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Stan Levey: The Original Original

In The Original Original, jazz drummer and Bebop pioneer, Stan Levey, takes you on a musical journey from the birth of bebop, through the Big Band jazz era, to the "west coast, cool school" of modern jazz music.

Stan's fascinating tales of his days with the famed Parker/Gillespie group on 52nd Street in New York and his being the driving force of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars are told along with music, film clips and photographs of many jazz greats captured by world famous photographers William Claxton and Herman Leonard, and include many never before seen photographs from Stan's own personal collection.

Along for the ride are special appearances from Stan's friends and colleagues: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Watts, Quincy Jones, Hank Jones, Bill Holman, Lee Konitz, Howard Rumsey, Terry Gibbs, Bill Henderson, Lalo Schifrin, and others, plus some special observations from Charlie "Bird" Parker himself.

REVIEW 3cups

Keltner, Watts and Levey
Jim Keltner, Charlie Watts and Stan Levey

Let me start by saying that every drum historian and enthusiast should own The Original Original! The fact that many may not know who Stan Levey is gives all the more reason to pickup a copy of this documentary video. For some reason Stan has been an unknown to many of us in the drumming community. Perhaps this is because he's not the flashy player that Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich was, who knows. But one thing is certain, Stan Levey is a musician's musician ... the choice drummer for many legendary Bebop musicians including Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie ... just to name a few.

In The Original Original DVD, Stan is a great storyteller and shares numerous anecdotes as well as rare photographs and video clips from his drumming career. Getting to see and hear Stan narrate his own life story is a real treat, and more so hearing/seeing music legends talk about Stan and his role in birthing the Bebop music genre. My only wish is that the DVD had more photos and video clips of Stan playing, but like much of the Bebop era, the music at that time was not understood and thus neglected by many reporters and historians. The good news, however, is that all that was recorded (photos/video) of Stan can be found on this DVD. That's what makes this documentary such a priceless treasure!

Stan's son, Bob Levey, has been kind enough to keep me apprised with DVD's progress over the past year or so (thanks Bob). There was a lot of time and hard work that went into this documentary DVD; I've personally seen it evolve. I'm excited to see that The Original Original is finally finished and available to the general public. I've got my own personal copy, and highly recommend that you pickup a copy of this fantastic piece of drumming history for your own drumming library.

There are a few nice surprises on this DVD, two of which are drummers Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones) and Jim Keltner (session legend) who give their own personal impressions of Stan Levey and the impact he made on their own playing careers.

April 20, 2005

I regret to inform you that I just received word from Bob Levey that his dad, the great jazz drummer Stan Levey, passed away last night after a courageous fight with cancer of the jaw. He was 79. Stan ... we love you and appreciate all that you've given to us.

May you live forever in our thoughts ... and may your music, artwork and words of wisdom continue to inspire us for generations to come. You will be missed.

"Stan Levey was one of Bebop's greatest drummers. On The Original Original, Stan has a chance to tell his own story, which is unprecedented and fascinating. On this historically informative DVD we hear from insightful and articulate musicians like Miles Davis, Jim Keltner, Charlie Watts, Hank Jones, Charlie Parker, Quincy Jones, Terry Gibbs and others. Stan Levey's DVD is required viewing for all drummers and fans of jazz" — Steve Smith

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