howard levy 4

Howard Levy, a two-time Grammy Award-winning pianist, harmonica player and composer, is set for a May appearance in Durham, N.C., with his new band.

He’s been playing the diatonic harmonica since the age of 19, developing groundbreaking techniques that allowed him to play it as a fully chromatic instrument. The multi-instrumentalist was soon going far beyond the folk and blues music that the harmonica is usually associated with, as he explored jazz, classical and Middle Eastern music.

“My first realization about the harmonica is that it doesn’t have all the notes,” Levy said in an interview with Independent Newspapers. “In fact, I was the first person to get a full harmonic scale out of a harmonica. I didn’t realize I was the first person to do it!”

Now, he’s bringing the Howard Levy 4 to the Blue Note Grill on Washington Street in Durham. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Tickets are $25 for seats and $20 for standing.

Levy rose to wider fame as a member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and is now in his second tenure with the band following a stint in 1988-93. But he’s appeared on hundreds of albums and movie soundtracks – including sessions with Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton, Styx, Paul Simon and Donald Fagen, among others. “These were all great experiences with major musical forces,” Levy told the Hendersonville Times-News. “I feel fortunate to have played both of my main instruments [piano and harmonica] on so many cool recordings.”

He also released nearly 20 albums as a band leader, including Alone and Together, Tonight and Tomorrow and Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra, among many others.

Not bad for a former welder, punch press operator and plumber’s assistant. “I was in my early 20s before I realized I can’t stand doing anything but music,” Levy later admitted.

Despite the relatively late start, Levy brought a boundless curiosity that propelled his career – and an unusual approach that shaped his playing style.

“I always visualize playing the keyboard when I’m doing harmonica solos,” Levy told the Nashville City Paper. “People tell me sometimes that it seems like they’re hearing a saxophone or a violin rather than a harmonica, and part of that comes from the fact that I can play those other instruments. With the harmonica, it’s really driven by your imagination in terms of what you can play. You can’t really see anything else, and what you play is all up to what you can do with your mouth.”

The Howard Levy 4 is rounded out by the guitarist Chris Siebold, upright and electric bassist Joshua Ramos, and the Brazilian drummer Luiz Ewerling.

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