Pianist’s fingers tell tale of sound
Posted March 16, 2007
Leah Heagy
Jazz pianist Milcho Leviev captivated the audience on March 8 with his performance in Founders Auditorium. Leviev graduated from the Bulgarian State Music Academy in 1960, with a composition major. After years of touring, Leviev now teaches jazz composition and improvisation at the University of Southern California.

Music comes with a story. Each song created has its own
history and its own purpose.

On the night of March 8 in Founders Auditorium, Milcho Leviev, an accomplished composer, arranger and performer made his stories come alive on the piano.

Leviev played his passionate jazz music for the small 40 person audience.
Leviev left his native Bulgaria in 1970 and has since become world renowned for his colorful, Eastern influenced improvised jazz.

He has won various prestigious awards and worked with artists such as Don Ellis, Art Pepper, Billy Cobham, Albert Mangelsdorff and others.

Leviev currently teaches jazz composition at the University of Southern California and has taught master classes at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, where he will continue teaching this November.

He has also composed numerous works, ranging from symphony and chamber works to big band and jazz orchestra music.

Leviev draws from his roots in Bulgarian folklore music and blends them with jazz to create his innovative sound.

After a brief introduction, Leviev sat down and very lightly, began to play the piano.

Barely touching the keys, Leviev tapped out a light, vibrant melody.

His fingers tip-toed across the piano keys, bringing to mind ethereal,
heavenly images.

Eventually, his piece evolved into a louder, more bluesy song.

The rich, colorful tones of his music outlined a story, telling a tale of passion and intrigue to the audience.

It was almost as if gypsies, maidens and kings began to walk the aisles of Founders.

Each song weaved its way into the mind and created beautiful colorful characters to act out the emotions felt through the music.

In the next few songs, his music began to quicken.

Leviev chased the notes, almost jumping on the piano keys.

Even when he deliberately pounded the keys he still showed masterful skill.

Leviev does not play the piano so much as tell a story.

His songs grew, shaped and shifted into something much more than just a piano composition.

Between his seven-minute songs, Leviev spoke softly to the audience.

He looked very picturesque seated at the beautiful piano on the stage in Founders.

He resembled a painting come to life, and when his accent was heard, it only reinforced the worldly effect his music created.

Jumpy and quirky, Leviev said a few jokes and then dove into his next piece.

Rolling up his sleeves, he hammered into the next song, a much bolder piece with a quick, fast tempo.

Although Leviev only played five or six pieces, his songs were a long and creative mix of classical music and improvised jazz.

His ability to transport the listener to another place made audience members, including the accomplished musicians, forget about their problems and become lost in the beauty of Leviev’s compositions.

The dips and highs in each song resonated with the audience.

The music melted away the small red seats in the auditorium and put each listener in their own world or dream.

Leviev knows how to play the piano, he is a master at improvising any chord of music and he is a natural born story teller, relating to the audience each emotion he feels through his works.

Although the songs can be lengthy, they are well worth every moment.
In watching Leviev speak to the piano, it brings out the divine muse in each person, connecting them to an inner passion for love, music and art.

Listeners were enchanted by the beauty in his music and it was easy to see that Leviev himself was wrapped up in the magic that his music created.

From the earnest applause Leviev received at the end of his performance, it is hoped that he will come back to ULV and grace other jazz fans with his improvised classical works.

For more information, visit www.milcholeviev.net.

Lilia Cabello can be reached at lcabello@ulv.edu.

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