RIP Tony Levin, Jazz Drumming Legend and Inspiration, aged 71 (1940-2011)

There is a formal obituary written over at JazzWise, but I thought I’d also share my own thoughts on Tony Levin. I knew jazz drumming hero Tony Levin through my playing with Shropshire Youth Jazz Ensemble (SYJE) which was run by his wife, Chris Bolton, and I was instantly drawn to his phenomenal talent and gentle character. Our families became good friends during that time and I was lucky enough to watch him play on numerous occasions (especially at Leasowe’s Bank), play alongside him during SYJE rehearsals at Church Stretton, and he also offered me some golden nuggets of advice about drumming generally, including an absolute masterclass on the six stroke role. His graceful, effortless style was as fascinating to watch as it was beautiful to listen to, and he really loved the music.

Tony Levin had been battling illness for years and years before succumbing on February 3rd 2011. During all of that time he was still playing, still gigging in his Birmingham Jazz Club, and he even toured the UK recently with Mujician, a free jazz band including fellow jazz greats and his good friends, Keith Tippett on piano, Paul Dunmall on saxophones and Paul Rogers on double bass.

I counted Tony Levin as one of my key inspirations as a musician and as a drummer. Although I feel sure his influence will live on through his music and the passion for jazz he sparked in younger players, he will be sorely missed.

Tony’s wife Chris left this note online at The London Drum Jazz Cafe:

“Thank you to you all for giving Tony so many happy times on the bandstand through music. Tony lived for his music and his family and has inspired so many people including myself in his lifetime in so many ways. He loved teaching at the conservertoire, it meant a lot to him. He would have said just keep on doing it! His motto in life was just make every note count on or off the bandstand.

I will love him always. x x”

If you’re on facebook, be sure to visit The Tony Levin Memorial Page, where there are some great videos and memories being shared. You may also like to explore his website In the meantime, here’s a video of Tony playing with Mujician last year:


2 Replies to “RIP Tony Levin, Jazz Drumming Legend and Inspiration, aged 71 (1940-2011)”

  1. The Family have asked me to pass on the following information.

    The Funeral of the late Tony Levin will take place on the 22nd Feb, 2011 at 3:20 at the Emstrey Crematorium, London Road, Shrewsbury, SY2 6PS.

    Phone 01743 281 181, 01743 256221

    Emstrey Crematorium is located on the London Road on the eastern edge of Shrewsbury.
    A map showing the location of the crematorium is here:

    And afterwards from 5:00 onwards at the
    Mytton and Mermaid Hotel
    Nr. Shrewsbury
    SY5 6QG
    Tel: 01743 761220

    If anyone would like to make a donation, they may do so by sending it to Blue Chairs:
    Shropshire Blood Trust Fund or see

    You can now post messages and photos etc. on The Tony Levin Memorial Page to share with family, friends and colleagues.

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