Dr. Brian Levy is a jazz saxophonist and a musicologist with a PhD in musicology from Brandeis University and a DMA in Jazz Performance from New England Conservatory of Music. Levy is a full-time member of the faculty at New England Conservatory of Music (since 2013, serving a joint appointment in the Department of Jazz Studies as the Assistant Chair and the Department of Music History and Musicology. Levy teaches classes in jazz improvisation, jazz history, jazz theory and analysis, philosophy and aesthetics of music, and musicological research. He is also an ensemble coach and heads the jazz ensemble program at NEC. Levy was the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Louis and Adrienne Krasner Teaching Excellence Award at NEC.
Levy is part of a jazz quartet based in Europe, The Rick Hollander Quartet Featuring Brian Levy. The ensemble has performed nine European tours since 2016. The quartet has two albums released on Laika Records, The Best Is Yet to Come (2019) and On the Up and Up (2016). The ensemble will be on tour in Europe (November, 2021 and February 2022), as well as in Japan (June and July, 2022).
In his research, Levy is focused on original transcription-analysis of model solos, accompaniments by the classic rhythm sections, and the interaction between them and underlying structures. Levy has developed an original approach of applying and creatively transforming melodic and rhythmic ideas gleaned from solo transcription. Levy’s research interests have culminated in an improvisation textbook collaboration between Levy and scholar-author Keith Waters (Professor of Music Theory at the University of Colorado at Boulder). The textbook, Acquiring a Jazz Vocabulary: Traditions and Techniques, will be published with Oxford University Press in the 2022 calendar year. One of the reviewers wrote “Frankly, the book already has me reimagining my approach to teaching and practicing jazz improvisation.” Waters and Levy are also working on an anthology of jazz. In 2020, Levy’s article “Harmonic and Rhythmic Oppositions in Jazz: The Special Case of John Coltrane and His Classic Quartet” was published in Jazz Perspectives.
Levy resides in Wayland, Massachusetts with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Louise and Cole.
B.M. in Jazz Performance summa cum laude, William Paterson University; M.M. in Jazz Performance, Manhattan School of Music, D.M.A. in Jazz Studies, New England Conservatory of Music; Ph.D. in Musicology, Brandeis University.
- The Best Is Yet to Come by “The Rick Hollander Group Featuring Brian Levy” was released on Laika Records (September, 2019)
- On the Up and Up by “The Rick Hollander Group Featuring Brian Levy” was released on Laika Records (October, 2016)
- Levy, Brian and Keith Waters. Acquiring a Jazz Vocabulary: Traditions and Techniques – (Jazz improvisation textbook). New York: Oxford University Press, (completed manuscript and under contract; scheduled for 2023 publication).
- Levy, Brian. “Harmonic and Rhythmic Oppositions in Jazz: The Special Case of John Coltrane and His Classic Quartet.” Jazz Perspectives 12 (2020): 51-91.
- Levy, Brian. “Harmonic and Rhythmic Interaction in the Music of John Coltrane.” PhD diss., Brandeis University, 2012.
- Levy, Brian “Polyrhythmic Superimposition in Jazz: An Overview of Elvin Jones’ and Jazz Artists’ Use of Hemiola and Implied Meters Before 1965.” Sonus (Fall, 2006).
Courses Taught at NEC
- Jazz Ensemble
- Jazz Styles: Improvisation
- Introduction to Jazz Improvisation
- Language of Bebop
- Jazz Improvisation Techniques
- Great Solos: Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, and Freddie Hubbard
- Harmonic and Rhythmic Structures in Jazz
Academic - Theory and Analysis
- Undergraduate Jazz Theory
- Graduate Topics in Jazz Theory and Analysis: Charlie Parker and Miles Davis
- Graduate Topics in Jazz Theory and Analysis: Coltrane and Tyner
- Graduate Tyner Topics in Jazz Theory and Analysis: Parker and Powell
Academic - Jazz History and Musicology
- Philosophy of Music: Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche
- Graduate Topics in Jazz History: Parker and Davis
- DMA Seminar in Musicology
- Graduate Topics in Jazz History: John Coltrane
- Selected Readings in Jazz History
- Jazz History for Non-majors
- Early Jazz: 1917-1955
- Form and Freedom in Jazz: 1956-1974
- DMA Advising