He’s performed alongside such talents as Wynton Marsalis and Mel Tormé, and worked as personal assistant to jazz great Dick Hyman. He’s toured nationally and internationally, landing everywhere from Paris’ Bilboquet Jazz Club to Los Angeles’ Playboy Mansion. He’s been featured on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, and the soundtracks for The Aviator, Ghost World, and Boardwalk Empire.
But in the early 1980s, says jazz aficionado Dan Levinson, he couldn’t even convince friends to listen to the music he loved.
“I was taking records out of a library in Santa Monica,” says the 48-year-old Levinson, “and landed on a record that RCA Victor had put out called The Best of Dixieland, and the last track on it was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s recording of ‘Livery Stable Blues.’ It was the first so-called ‘jazz record’ ever issued, in 1917, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I couldn’t get enough of it. And I just assumed that when I played it for all my friends, they would feel the same way I did.
“So I played it. I said, ‘Listen to them! Listen to that sound!’ And I remember them saying, ‘Oh, God, turn that off. What is that screeching noise?’ And I said, ‘That’s the clarinet ... .’
“These were the same people who went to rock concerts and had music blasting in their ears, but they couldn’t listen to 1917 jazz. They just looked at me. ‘What happened to Dan?’”