Alumnus and professional jazz musician, Mike LeVan, released an original jazz album, A Different Shade of Blue, on March 26.
LeVan and his trio, made up of world class bassist David Enos and drummer John Ferraro, played at downtown Fullerton’s premier jazz club, Steamers, to celebrate the album’s release. The club was packed as friends and family enjoyed the sounds of the new album. Some drove 50 miles to support their close friend.
LeVan comes from a musical and creative family. Both of his parents are graduates of the University of Southern California; his mother was an actress and his father was a director. LeVan is one of four boys, each play classical piano or guitar.
LeVan began playing classical piano at age 9. He still remembers the exact moment he chose his instrument.
“I was walking through a mall and there was this guy playing an organ, and I pointed at him and told my mom, I said ‘hey I want to do that,’“ LeVan said.
Soon after, his parents signed him up for lessons.
He attended Cal State Fullerton and graduated with a degree in music. His focus was classical piano.
His fondest memory at CSUF was his senior recital. In preparation for it, he practiced seven hours each day and would have the recital hall opened up just to practice.
At the time, CSUF’s jazz program was not fully developed and after completing his degree he attended Fullerton College to take improvisation classes. At 23, LeVan began a difficult transition into jazz music. James Linahon, a professor at the college, noticed the talent and uniqueness LeVan put into his music.
“A lot of people sound like somebody. Like ‘he sounds like Oscar Peterson or he sounds like Dave Grusin’ or whoever, but Michael LeVan sounds like Michael LeVan,” Linahon said.
Linahon owns the recording studio, LMP Studios, and assisted in the recording and mixing of LeVan’s album.
LeVan, Ferraro and Enos were set up in the studio so that they would have good eye contact with one another. They used their talent and creativity to improvise different pieces.
Most of the album is the first recordings of the songs and was recorded over the course of two days, Linahom said.
“We have chemistry and its kinda hard to buy that,” LeVan said. “Everything just fit, everything just seemed right. Even if you have good player, if you don’t have that chemistry its never going to be as good.”
The title of the album was inspired by the blue luminous color he saw when writing his original pieces. The cover art shows a beautiful photo of New York City in different shades of blue.
“This CD is one of the greatest things I have ever done,” LeVan said.
“A Time to Remember” one of the ten tracks on the album, has a beautiful melody and is a crowd favorite.
“I really wanted to be able to have a recording to show my original material … When you have something on record, it kind of lasts for a long time. Even after you die, it is still going (to be) like a blue print.”
To hear some of Le Van’s music and to see upcoming shows, visit MichaelLevan.com.