Adam Levy: A Sideman In The Spotlight

By Amelia Mason - May 29, 2014

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The curse of the sideman may be that he never gets to stand in the spotlight, but spotlight-avoidance is exactly what imbues Adam Levy’s musicianship with so much charm. As a former member of Norah Jones’ band, he may be most famous for the understated-yet-expressive guitar solo on “Come Away With Me.” He is also the author of “In the Morning,” an eerie ballad which Jones recorded on 2004’s “Feels Like Home.” Levy is, one suspects, the secret ingredient in so many projects that list him has a contributor, from Jones’ Grammy-winning breakthrough, to singer-songwriter Amos Lee’s heartfelt debut, to Ani DiFranco’s moody, expansive “Which Side Are You On?”

Levy is from Los Angeles, where, after a stint in New York City, he now resides. Educated at the now-defunct Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, he studied composition and arranging in addition to guitar, which imbued him a big-picture sense of music and invaluable practice at songwriting. Though his playing is rooted in jazz, Levy has an instinctual feel for country, soul, and all manner of pop. This has made him a natural fit for the sort of work for which he has become prized: strong, but subtle, guitar playing in popular music settings.

Since 2001, in between tours with Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones, and Ani DiFranco, as well as contributing to recording projects with them and countless other artists, Levy managed to publish six solo albums. Whether it’s in a neo-jazz idiom or with country-esque flare, Levy unfailingly writes with detail and restraint. Though his first two albums focused on instrumental compositions, he has lately been honing his songwriting skills, conjuring vivid pictures of Californian landscapes and the daily particularities of relationships.

For his Concert Window laptop show on June 2, Levy will be playing a series of covers and originals he calls the “daisy chain:” each song will contain a portion of a lyric from the last. The concept is, characteristically, both clever and subtle, standard fare from a musician who has made a career of merging those two things. And, though Levy will have the spotlight for a change, he will no doubt still play like a sideman: with sensitivity and charisma, an eye always towards minimalist perfection.

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