Sunday, November 9, 2014

Another unsing hero of the jazz guitar: Sean Levitt

My previous post was about John Schröder, a fine German guitarist few people know about. I added some tracks I found on Youtube but if you really want to hear him in hifi you should check out the album: A Taste of Jazz (1990) by the Klaus Weiss Quintet (Performance CD PE-901). A great mainstream album with excellent guitar playing. Probably the best I know of John.

Today I would like to write about another unsung of the jazz guitar: Sean Levitt. Until a week ago I had never heard of him but when I checked him out on Spotify I was really blown away by his playing. I heard a guy whose playing reminded me a lot of Doug Raney, who happens to be one of my favourite players. I did some research on the internet - very little to be found by the way - and it seems the two knew each other very well. He and Doug were pretty good friends in their teens. With Sean being a few years older, he started on guitar much younger and apparently had his playing together before Doug had. So it is likelythat Doug was more influenced by Sean than the other way around.

Here is Sean playing his original "Taller Blues." It's a live recording with so so sound.

Sean Levitt came from a family of musicians. His stepfather was Al Leavitt, a drummer who toured with Stan Getz and Tristano a.o. and his mother was a singer. Sean lived in NY till around '83, and then moved to Spain where he taught guitar and gigged. He died in 2002, in his fifties. Apparently, Sean went through a lot of drug problems over the years and was in and out of rehab.

There are a few nice clips and live vids on Youtube but a better choice to check him out would be some of his albums on Spotify. You will hear a great bebop guitarist with great tone and chops in abundance. Very much in the vein of Doug Raney but, like I said, Sean had his act together earlier than Doug so the influence may well have been the other way around. I added a playlist of a quartet album he did as a leader that I particularly dig: "Sean Levitt." And one of a live trio album "Alone Together." You will find several more albums of this great guitar talent that left us too early and is way too good not to be heard.


  1. Thanks, man. Enjoyed the tunes :)

  2. Sean was my friend. He, Eddie Diehl, and myself go back to the '70s. Sean stayed at my home in Canarsie, Brooklyn. After he left, my mother's comment was 'don't bring me any more stray cats'. We jammed sitting on my bed. Sean tried hard to get it together before he left for Europe around 1982. He was paying back people he owed and working as a dishwasher. He had been drinking hard, but seemed to have stopped. He never could give up his bad habits, though, sadly. I'm told he died while trying to get off Methadone. Very sad. He was a genuine talent...

  3. Sean O'Rourke (levitt) was my uncle, my late father's younger brother. Thanks for this tribute to him. He was a true prodigy.

    1. Do you know your uncle's birthday or the day he passed away?

  4. Hello. I met Sean in Barcelona at the end of the 90s. He gave me a few master classes (put discs, make coffee without stop, speak, speak,...). Wonderful touch and technique, great knowledge and harmonic richness and a phrasing full of melody. In BCN we love & remember Sean for ever.

  5. Hope you'll forgive some blatant advertising on your blog. Delete me if you prefer. I just wanted to let you know that I have researched Sean (with help from Joe and musicians he played with) and transcribed some of his music, and you can find the results on Lulu from today. You're the first to know! Best, John

  6. I met him once in Paris. That could have been '91 at the Duc des Lombards or Le Petit Opportun. Didn't speak English at the time.

  7. Spanish public broadcaster RTVE has just uploaded a whole "new" hour of Levitt playing as a quartet (Chano Domínguez on piano). I have blogged about Levitt here: