DORI LEVINE has been performing in clubs and concert settings in and around New York City and abroad for a couple of decades. Her unique improvisational style lends itself to an astonishing range of material. Dori is equally at home interpreting standards and as she is singing the blues, swingin' like crazy and spontaneously creating her own "other worldly" free improvisations. She has achieved recognition for her high level of proficiency in the art of scat singing and has developed her own distinctive voice and language in this fascinating arena. She demonstrates impressive ease and freedom as an interpreter of Jazz Standards and American Popular Song by composers like Cole Porter, Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hart just to name a few.
Dori Levine has performed at the legendary Steinway Hall, The Blue Note, Birdland, The Knitting Factory and other major venues in New York City. She has sung with Kirk Nurock's "Natural Sounds Ensemble" at Carnegie Hall and Jay Clayton's "Voices". She has collaborated with renowned video artist Dara Birnbaum. Dori has also performed abroad in Sweden, Finland and at the Brighton Festival in England.
Dori released her first CD, "Koo-Koo" on New Artists Records, a duo recording with the astounding pianist Michael Levy and soon plans to release her second CD on the same label, a duo with guitarist Ed Littman. Both CDs delve into the art of spontaneously improvised music along with some very personal, often slanted interpretations of Jazz Standards. (Please see New Artists Records catalog and reviews)
Dori has written lyrics in the vocalese style to Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time". Her version is called "Procrastination Blues" and to Lester Young's blues line on "Poundcake" to be released on her upcoming CD.
Dori Levine is available for performances, recordings, private teaching, workshops and collaborations with other musicians, dancers, poets and artists.
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Here's the whole story...
Dori was born in Newark, New Jersey. Her first performance was at age six in the Memorial High School auditorium in Cedar Grove, N.J.(her home town),singing "The Eensy, Weensy Spider". After her stunning vocal debut she began showing talent as a visual artist. That talent was nurtured, and Dori was given art lessons as a child and attended the School of Visual Arts, where she earned her B.F.A. In the meantime, something was a-brewin'. Somewhere in her teenage years, along with her ravenous appetite for the girl groups and motown, she discovered "the blues". She learned to play guitar and sing some. She was particularily taken with Mississippi Delta blues and the music of Bessie Smith. Blues found it's way into her soul. When she turned eighteen someone gave her her first Billie Holiday album, and Dori's life was changed. She had never heard a voice like Holiday's.There was something about this singer who sang from the depths of her soul that drew Dori in. She proceeded to memorize all the tracks and wear out the record.
She moved into an apartment on 114th street and Broadway in Manhattan, around the corner from the West End Bar. At the West End was a young Phil Schapp (of WKCR radio) booking ex-Ellington and Basieites like Russell Procope, Jo Jones, and Paul Quinichette. Dori had found herself a home. On her meager art students budget she went in every night, ordered a cup of tea and sat for hours, enthralled by the music. She had always known that there was this music that she loved, she just didn't know what it was until she found jazz at the West End. Around this same time she also had the excitment of discovering Ella Fitzgerald Sarah Vaughn, and Carmen McRae. She was inspired to start making her transition from the blues into jazz. She started learning standards, playing some jazz on the guitar and singing in some showcases around N.Y.C. Then, one day she heard Betty Carter. She thought Betty was the hippest singer she had ever heard. She was intrigued not only by Betty's uniquely personal vibratoless sound but by the way Betty functioned as a band member, like another instrument. She had never heard another singer engage in interplay with the instrumentalists to the extent that Betty did. Betty's arrangements, stage presence and confidence as a performer were also inspiring to Dori as a young singer.
It seemed like time to get serious with her new-found passion. Having reached a crossroads in her artistic life between art and music, she decided that she wanted to be involved in a more sociable art form that involved spontaneity and performing. She sought out her first teachers, among whom were Anne Marie Moss (who taught her to breathe and started the process of opening up her voice). She put together her first band and got a steady gig at a place in Tribeca that was called "Prescott's" (now Yaffa's).This band included Bob Peck on guitar, Paul Colin on tenor sax, and Dave Hofstra on bass. The next life-changing experience for her was when a friend played her a recording of Liz Gorrill playing piano and singing. It was a jaw dropper. She was astounded and amazed, not only that Liz was playing two instruments at once and incredibly well, but she had never heard that extent of freedom, startling musicianship, and originality in a pianist/vocalist before. She was told that Liz studied with the great pianist and master teacher, Lennie Tristano. Dori knew then, that she wanted to study with Lennie. She sought Lennie out and embarked upon one of her most focused periods as a vocal student. Under Lennie's tutelage, she began an intense study of Billie Holiday's work and started learning solos by such artists as Lester Young and Charlie Parker. Lennie had his students sing along, note for note, inflection for inflection with recordings. Now she was starting to get it.
This work helped to develop her ear for creating an improvised melody line, expanded her musical vocabulary and helped to build her confidence. She studied with Lennie Tristano until his death in November of 1978. Dori went on to study singing with pianist and singer Liz Gorrill, whom she greatly admired. Around the same time (the late seventies) she started hearing about a singer named Jay Clayton who was pioneering new vocal ground and teaching workshops. One workshop explored free-improvisation. One night in this workshop Dori was combined together with singers Bob Casanova and Sally Swisher to sing an improvised piece and ... BAM!!! There was instant chemistry with this trio of singers. They went on to form the vocal trio "Over Easy". As a trio they collaboratively worked out arrangements and harmonies. Inspired by the work of the great vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross they wrote lyrics to horn solos and adapted horn arrangements for their voices.They were also intrigued with the South African singers Miriam Makeba and Thuli Dumakude (Dori also studied with Thuli) and African style accapella singing as well as the freely improvised singing they had been doing with Jay Clayton. They managed to blend traditional jazz with free jazz and African music. All in all, they created an eclectic mix of some pretty exciting music. They performed around New York City for ten years at venues such as the Blue Note, Greenwich House, St. Ann's Church, Birdland West, the Angry Squire and Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell.
In l997 Dori formed a group called "Voices From the Other Side" with vocalist/pianist/composer Carol Anthony and guitarist, Ed Littman. This group created and performed freely improvised pieces as well as some of Carol Anthony's compositions. Often, Ed Littman didn't supply rhythm or chords in a traditional fashion, but functioned as a third voice interweaving a melodic line throughout Carol and Dori's interplay helping to create the group's unusual sound. "Voices from the Other Side" has performed at the Open Center, Center Stage Theatre, and the Cornelia St. Cafe.
Currently, Dori Levine lives in New York City with her husband, pianist Giacomo Franci. In addition to her performing and recording activity, she has private teaching practice. Ms. Levine specializes in teaching Jazz and Vocal Improvisation and is available to work with most singing styles. She has developed her own "voice as an instrument" approach to teaching. She has led workshops in Vocal Performance, Vocal Improvisation and Vocal Healing and has presented her students in concert in New York City venues.
Dori has studied privately and/or attended workshops with the following artists:
Voice - Lennie Tristano, Jay Clayton, Connie Crothers, Liz Gorrill, Sheila Jordan, Jeanne Lee, Kirk Nurock, Gina Crusco, Ann-Marie Moss, Ann Ruckert, Sal Mosca and South African singer, Thuli Dumakude
Piano - Connie Crothers, Michael Kanan, Richard Sussman and Nina Sheldon
Shekere/Percussion - Baba Olatunji & Cheryl Thomas