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Ice Cream Truck
by Milcho Leviev
Milcho Leviev (1937 to 2019) was a Bulgarian 'jazz' pianist and teacher. Milcho Leviev was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on December 19th 1937. He graduated from the Bulgarian State Academy of Music in 1960, majoring in composition under Pancho Vladigerov and in piano under Andrei Stoyanov. His professional development as a composer began at the Drama Theatre in Plovdiv, and he then fulfilled the position of conductor of the big band of Bulgarian National Radio for four years after Emil Georgiev left office in 1962. His ideas were deemed innovative - pieces like "Studia", "Blues in 9" and "Anti-waltz" combined both folklore and 'jazz' into a fusion. From 1963 to 1968, he worked as soloist and conductor of the Sofia and Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 1965 founded 'Jazz Focus '65', with whom he toured until 1970 while successfully winning prizes at 'jazz' festivals in Montreux, Sofia and Prague. In that same year, Leviev left Bulgaria for political reasons and moved to Los Angeles, California, USA (he only felt safe enough to return to Bulgaria after 1980). During his career, he worked as composer, arranger and pianist for the 'Don Ellis Orchestra' (1970 to 1975) and the 'Billy Cobham Band' (1971 to 1977). He also toured the US and Europe, and was music director for Lainie Kazan from 1977 to 1980. He performed 'live' and recorded with the likes of John Klemmer, Art Pepper and Roy Haynes (he also toured Europe for two years with Pepper from 1980, and was one of the founders of the 'fusion' band 'Free Flight'). In 1983, he became music director of the Jazz Sessions at the Comeback Inn in Venice, California, and began travelling again to give concerts in Japan with bassist Dave Holland from 1983 to 1986, and solo 'jazz' recitals in Europe for a year from 1985. Leviev also taught jazz composition at the University of South California and gave master classes at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia. Across his lifetime, he composed many symphony and chamber works, as well as 'big band' music and 'jazz' orchestra music, while in the 1960s he concentrated more on writing film music. He was a winner of second prize at the International Competition in Vienna for his "Toccatina for piano", and in 1987 won the "Drama-Logue Award" for 'Best Music Director' (given by the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts). He once won a prize at the National Jazz Educational Congress, as well as a "Grammy" award for his arranging skills. He also received the Honorary Gold Medal of the Academie Internationale des Arts in Paris in 1995, and was awarded an honorary Doctor Honoris Causa by the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv in 1995 (he received a similar accolade from the New Bulgarian University). Milcho Leviev died in Thessaloniki, Greece, on October 12th 2019, aged 81.
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Posted: 14th November 2019
Hundreds of very talented musicians pass away each year, some without much recognition at all. On "Rest In Peace", I aim to give them a fitting 'send-off', with a decent Tribute. I hope you will join me in marking their passing.....
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