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If music by Jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane or Charlie Parker makes you tap your toes and pop your fingers, then “The Jazz Revue Mixed with Gospel and Negro Spirituals featuring Levi Barcourt,” a concert being presented by New Horizon Theater, Inc. is the event for you.
“The audience can expect a high energy performance with a lot of great music and a full rhythm section. There will also be two fabulous singers,” explained Pianist and producer Levi Barcourt. “We will be doing what we love doing, which is to share the talent God gave us. Hopefully the audience will be blessed.
“The band will play complete sets by themselves and there will also be some piano solos.”
“We will also include Black history information, poetry and spoken word into the show,” Barcourt added.
The show, which was written and produced by Barcourt, is a long-awaited production that focuses on bringing jazz to theater in a different way than what audiences are used to. The musicians will be performing on stage instead of in an orchestra pit.
Pittsburgh is the first stop on the “The Jazz Revue Mixed with Negro Spirituals Featuring Levi Barcourt” tour.
“Having the show mixed up keeps it moving. Some of the songs will be sang a cappella and some will have the five-piece band behind them,” Barcourt said. “I like using all aspects of sound. That changes the spectrum a lot. That’s what I wanted to bring to the spectrum: unpredictability.”
Barcourt began studying piano at the age of nine to appease his mother. By the time he was 16, Barcourt had won four competition scholarships. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art in New York, he went to the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford and then the Purchase Conservatory of Music where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and his Master of Fine Arts Degree. He has worked as musical director and pianist for Melba Moore. The versatile singer graced the New Horizon stage in 1999 and again last year. Those concerts were when Pittsburghers were first exposed to Barcourt’s unique style and talent.
“People were asking for more of him and we thought this was good timing because he is adding in the Black history facts,” explained New Horizon Chairperson Joyce Meggerson-Moore. “This has good audience appeal because there’s a little for everybody. We knew he was a good musician and we want to give him a good Pittsburgh welcome.”
Those are some of the reasons Barcourt decided to become a musician.
“The essence of why I became a musician was because my mom played piano and she had an upright in the living room and she wanted the upright played and she asked me if I wanted to play and I didn’t want to break her heart so I said yes,” recalls Barcourt. “She started showing me things and after she maxed out herself I took lessons. One day my mom was angry with me and I had a knot in my chest because she was angry with me. I sat at the piano and started playing something—I don’t remember what it was—but the knot that was in my chest was no longer there. It disappeared.
“That brought a curiosity to me and I said there’s something more there than what I’ve been doing for the last three or four years. It was like something gave me an injection,” Barcourt continued. “There was a thirst and a quest to find out what that was and it brought an incredible connection to music. No one had to ask me to practice music ever again.”
Before her death in 1997, at the age of 97, Barcourt’s mother was able to witness him making some amazing strides in music like working with Melba Moore. He was able to make his mom proud.
Musicians included the Jazz Revue include vocalist, composer, arranger dancer and actress Angel Rose.Under the direction of director Michael Bennett, Rose joined the national company of the original “Dreamgirls” as lead understudy. She was also the featured vocalist for Stevie Wonder and Dizzy Gillespie’s collaboration, “Closer to the Source,” which earned a Grammy nomination.
Singer Lou Watson will also lend his beautiful voice to the concert. Watson attended Livingston College of Rutgers University. While enrolled there, he learned about Jazz greats like Larry Ridley and Ted Dunbar. He left college to tour with singers the Manhattans and the Drifters Review as pianist and musical director.
“It was great to bask in the rewards of a hit record. The experience of playing in places like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and to be treated like a world class artists was most enjoyable,” Watson said.
New York City drummer Ryan Cavan holds a BFA in Jazz Studies from the Conservatory of Music at the State University of New York at Purchase, he has performed on the NBC Tonight Show and has worked with Melba Moore, the Healers and Funk Ensemble. He is in pursuit of an MBA at Baruch College at the City University of New York.
Tenor, alto and soprano saxophone player Don Hanson will also perform during the Jazz Revue. Hanson has led musical groups that have opened for Ray Charles, Whitney Houston and Patti LaBelle. He has experience in various musical genre’s including Doo Wop, Soul, Latin, R& B, Reggae and Gospel. The acclaimed horn player has performed with Alicia Keys, George Benson, Wyclef Jean, Melba Moore and Freddie Jackson.
“As I was formulating the show, I pondered over who would fit this role or that role,” Barcourt said. “I also had to see who was available and as I called them all I felt like Jesus choosing his disciples. When he asked them, everyone came aboard for this project.”
The show will be held on Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Each show will begin at 7:30 p.m.
General admission tickets are $20. Senior Citizens and students tickets are $15. Group tickets are also available.
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