The cover of the August 1998 issue of The Mississippi Rag refers to Dan Levinson as the "in-demand reedman." Indeed, during an active career that began in the 1980s, he has enjoyed working with such jazz luminaries as Dick Hyman, Mel Tormé and Wynton Marsalis. A specialist in the music of the 1920s and '30s, Dan functions as both a leader and sideman, often performing alongside such prominent musicians as Howard Alden, Joe Ascione, Dan Barrett, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Randy Sandke, and Mark Shane.
Originally from the Los Angeles area, Dan moved to New York in 1983. The following year he met veteran reedman James "Rosy" McHargue, then 82 years old, who became Dan's friend and mentor. Over the next fifteen years Rosy influenced and inspired Dan, teaching him most of what he now knows about music and life. During that period Dan also studied with world-class clarinet instructor Leon Russianoff and saxophone virtuoso Al Gallodoro.
Dan's "rags-to-riches" career began modestly enough on the streets of Paris, performing with a quartet led by American cornetist Dick Miller that featured a fifteen-year-old up-and-coming vocalist named Madeleine Peyroux. His wander lust soon took him across Europe, through seventeen countries, where he earned a living for year playing clarinet and C-melody saxophone on the street. Following his European excursion, Dan lived in New Orleans for half a year, where he performed nightly at the prestigious Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street and at such jazz meccas as Fritzel's, Mahogany Hall, and on the steamboat Natchez.
Since 1993 Dan has been firmly based in New York, but his busy schedule often takes him around the world. He has performed in Brazil with the Bunk Project, a band organized by Woody Allen and banjoist Eddy Davis, in Italy with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, in Scotland with the Gully Low Jazz Band, in Germany with the Barrelhouse Jazz Band, in Paris at the Bilboquet Jazz Club, in Japan with the New York Ragtime Orchestra, and in Los Angeles at the Playboy Mansion. His countless music festival appearances include the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Sweet and Hot Music Festival in Los Angeles, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the Orange County Classic Jazz Festival, the Sedalia Ragtime Festival, the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival in Essex, Connecticut, the Edinburgh Festival and Nairn Jazz Festival in Scotland, and the Brecon Festival in Wales. From 1992-2004 Dan was a regular guest at Dick Hyman's annual Jazz in July Festival in New York. In 2004 Dan organized and was featured in a centennial tribute to bandleader Jimmy Dorsey presented at New York City's Birdland by the JVC Jazz Festival.
As a member of the Flying Neutrinos, a New Orleans-influenced band popular during the Nouveau Swing craze of the '90s, Dan performed in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, as well as at clubs throughout New York City. From 1990-2002 Dan toured frequently with singer/guitarist Leon Redbone, with whom he appeared on national television and at the renowned jazz club Pizza Express in London. Since 1993, Dan has been a member of Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, and has been featured with them on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio program and at Carnegie Hall, in addition to the band's bi-weekly appearances at Charley O's Times Square Grill in Manhattan. Dan has also performed or continues to perform in bands led by Johnny Crawford, Banu Gibson, Janet Klein, David Ostwald, Ed Polcer, the Reynolds Brothers, Cynthia Sayer, Terry Waldo, and Steve Yocum.
An ardent Benny Goodman devotee, Dan's periodic tributes to the clarinet legend have brought him many accolades over the years. In 1996 he gave a televised concert in Reykjavík for the president of Iceland and the prime minister of Italy. He has been involved in numerous recreations of Goodman's famous Carnegie Hall jazz concert on both sides of the Atlantic. On January 16, 1998, the 60th anniversary of the concert, Dan performed to a standing-room-only crowd in New York with the Stan Rubin Orchestra. The success of that engagement has spawned a number of repeat performances over the years. In addition, Dan tours Germany periodically with Andrej Hermlin's Swing Dance Orchestra, performing in the country's most prestigious concert halls. With Mr. Hermlin's band, Dan has performed the Carnegie Hall concert in Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Potsdam, Nürnberg, Dissen, and twice to a sold out house of 1700 people at the world-famous Konzerthaus Berlin.
With Emmy Award-winning actor/singer/dancer André DeShields, Dan was a member of the on-stage band in several productions of "Ambassador Satch: The Life and Times of Louis Armstrong" between 1994 and 2002, including performances at the Queens Theatre in the Park in New York and the Criterion Theatre in London.
Dan also performs periodically with his own Roof Garden Jass Band, a five-piece ensemble he formed in 1987. The band is devoted exclusively to rag-a-jazz, a captivating but seldom heard brand of hot dance music that existed from the mid teens through the early twenties, while ragtime was evolving into jazz. The band's repertoire includes the music of such jazz pioneers as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the Original Memphis Five, the Louisiana Five, the Frisco Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the Georgians, and the Bucktown Five. The Roof Garden Jass Band's debut CD, Salutes the ODJB and the Beginning of Recorded Jazz, was released in 1998 on the Loup-garous label, followed by Blue Roses of Far and Near in 2000 and Echoes in the Wax in 2003, both on the Stomp Off label.
Dan has produced three other CDs in addition to those by the Roof Garden Jass Band: Dan Levinson's Eleven Sons of Rosy: Where the Morning Glories Glow-A Centennial Remembrance of Rosy McHargue, released in 2002 on the Loup-garous label; The Bix Centennial All Stars: Celebrating Bix, released in 2003 on the Arbors label; and Dan Levinson and his Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra: Crinoline Days, released earlier this year on the Stomp Off label.
As a sideman, Dan has appeared on over forty CDs, including: Friends with Pleasure (Audiophile) and Stardust Melody- Beloved and Rare Songs of Hoagy Carmichael (Challenge) with Dick Sudhalter; Just Imagine-The Music of DeSylva, Brown and Henderson (Stomp Off) and Keep a Song in Your Soul (Jazzology) with Marty Grosz; I'd Rather be in New Orleans and Hotel Child (Artist Only Records) with the Flying Neutrinos; and and Any Time (UNI/Blue Thumb Records) and Christmas Island (August Records) with Leon Redbone. He can also be heard on the soundtracks to the films Ghost World, The Cat's Meow, and most recently Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.