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Arthur Pritz and Stan Levey:
"I thought, 'Wow, how did this guy
know Miles Davis?" says Pritz.
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Former Detroiter Arthur Pritz pays tribute
to jazz great Stan Levey.
Special to the Jewish News
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hen a Jewish photographer
named Stan Levey died of
cancer at 79 in Los Angeles
last April, there was scant notice of it
in the news media. Levey was a quiet,
humble man who owned a photogra-
phy business for more than 30 years,
and was survived by his wife, Angela,
and three adult sons.
Levey had befriended former
Detroiter Arthur Pritz, who had
moved to Hollywood in 1975 to start
a video production business. They
shot weddings and bar mitzvahs
together and became close friends,
attending Dodgers baseball games,
socializing and just having fun.
Barry Roth of Huntington Woods,
one of Pritz's former classmates at
Detroit Henry Ford High School,
points out that "one of the most
touching things in Arthur's career was
his friendship with Levey. Then Stan
mentioned to Arthur that he used to
be a jazz drummer."
That modest description wasn't
quite accurate. It turns out Levey had
been a giant in the music business —
one of the greatest bebop drummers of
all time. He was the first white drum-
mer to make sense of the intricacies of
bebop in the 1940s. The colorful
Levey also was a boxer who once
appeared on the same bill as Detroit
heavyweight champion Joe Louis.
"One day, Stan just happened to
mention to me that he used to live
with Miles Davis, who was a famous
[jazz] instrumentalist," recalls Pritz,
who graduated from Michigan State
University and worked in TV broad-
casting in Cadillac, Mich., before
heading to California to launch the
Tubeworks Video Co. "I thought,
`Wow, how did this guy know Miles
Davis? I have to dig into this further
and find out more about Stan."'
Using his video prowess, Pritz pro-
duced and directed a DVD about
Levey's life, titled Stan Levey: "The
Original Original" — The Jazz Bop
Pioneer Tells His Story.
"It's a documentary for aficionados
of bebop music, the modern jazz era
and for anyone who just loves a good
story," said Pritz.
The DVD includes appearances by
Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Watts,
Quincy Jones, Bill Holman and Lalo
Schifrin, plus observations by Charlie
Levey began his career with Gillespie
at the age of 17 for $18 per week.
(Gillespie dubbed him "the Original
Original.") He also played with Stan
Kenton, Benny Goodman (who fired
him for being "too young"), Woody
Herman, Art Tatum, George Shearing,
Stan Getz, Errol Garner, Billy May and
Nelson Riddle, among others.
Levey took part in about 2,000
recording sessions, accompanying
Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella
Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand,
Vic Damone, King Cole, Sarah
Vaughn and the Supremes. He per-
formed in orchestras for more than
300 movie soundtracks and about
3,000 TV shows, including Batman,
Mission Impossible, Mannix, The
Munsters and The Addams Family. A set
of his drums is in the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington, D.C.
Levey narrates most of the 1 hour 53
minute DVD that took Pritz a year
and half to produce. The drummer
grew up in Philadelphia, where his
father sold cars and promoted boxing
matches. Levey dropped out of school,
cleaned his father's cars and boxed
semiprofessionally, while experiment-
on page 49