Fredrick Levore Shares His Music With “Woman Of Jazz”

Tune in as Jai Jai Jackson,, Las Vegas, NV dives into the life, times and music of vocalist Fredrick Levore on Tuesday, November 8, 2005. Mr. Levore will share five of his favorite music selections from his new CD, Skindiver (Grafica Records) and highlights from years of honing his craft and his many musical experiences as an avowed independent musician. His vast collection includes many of his favorites such as Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and Carmen McCrae, and yet, crosses many categories, from Brahms to James Brown, and from Audra McDonald to Michael McDonald. On his kitchen table is a copy of Jazz Times, open to an article on the 10 Most Underrated Guitarists, which he’s been reading with a yellow highlighter, underscoring passages on their styles and their musical origins.

Fredrick turns the volume down on the late Canadian songstress, Eve Cassidy, to reflect on his own burgeoning career as a singer. A performer who has graced such New York City clubs as Cleopatra’s Needle, The Blue Note and Don’t Tell Mama’s, he’s been honing his craft for more than a decade and tends toward standards that tell stories. “It’s like painting a picture for someone, ” he says. Unlike a song whose strongest feature is its hook, he adds, “A story has a destination; you’re not just repeating something.” In 1991, he began studying his craft with Metropolitan Opera singer John Albert Harris, and from 1993 the consummate technician, George Axiltree, who passed away in late 2004. It’s not enough to simply know how the voice works or even to train it, Fredrick notes. One must explore and mine the terrain of the material and ask themselves such questions as, “What’s going on in this song? What are the emotional transitions?” Always striving for fresh interpretations of familiar songs.

When he was just starting out, he took advantage of “open mikes” at clubs around the city, and then graduated to scheduled engagements, where he hires the musings, selects the songs and customizes the arrangements. In 1997, the growth he’s achieved was evident and led to a weekly gig at the Café’ San Marco in New York City’s famed Greenwich Village. A CD he recorded the following year drew judges’ raves in the Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition. Though he was raised in the church, the son of a Baptist minister, the artist recalls, “I didn’t grow up singing in the church.” Sometimes, though, he would lend his voice to the choir. Contrary to his vast current music collection, as a child, Fredrick and family only listened to gospel and other sacred music. But they are a musical bunch; his father often sang in church, while one brother played drums, another piano and bass and, early on, Fredrick studied saxophone and piano. At five years old, he performed at Carnegie Hall with older girl cousins, together, they were Guy & Dolls.

It was not until Fredrick was a teenager that he bought his first two albums, both by bands – Tower of Power, famous for their burning horn section and Earth, Wind & Fire, who married driving grooves with metaphysical lyrics. He also began to play sax in local bands, which didn’t go over great at home, but gave him his first taste of the joy of sharing music with an audience. In recent years, Fredrick has taken up the guitar, in part for its portability. “It’s self-contained, ” he explains, and then adds, “you can be closer to the audience”. It also gives him another handy tool on which to compose.

As he looks ahead, Fredrick ponders moving away, if only a short distance, from the standards, to explore more modern-day storytellers like James Taylor, Carole King and Brenda Russell. He points to Cassandra Wilson taking a ‘70’s pop, mid-tempo groove, “Children of the Night, ” by the Jones Girls, and shifting the pacing of the songs, bringing more Mediterranean spice to it.

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