At most times Friday the 13th would be considered a day to cautiously proceed through; avoiding any pitfalls or obstacles that could bring a negative outcome to the day. For OJATA there was no such omens to deal with, but the complete opposite took place when they could acquire the services of highly respected producer and blues guitarist virtuoso, Barry Levenson.
Mr. Levenson has a long successful history in the music industry, beginning with when he landed a job doing studio work, which he still does to this day. His musical journey has taken him to Boston to study arranging at the Berklee School of Music. While in Boston, he became the house guitarist at Boston’s premier rhythm and blues hot spot, the Sugar Shack, backing up numerous R&B and soul greats. Looking for a better climate, both musically and weather-wise, Levenson next moved to the sunny climes of Southern California, where he immediately began working with such blues greats as Big Mama Thornton, Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson and J.D. Nicholson. Of this exciting and fruitful period, Levenson says, “I was lucky to get in on the tail end of the incredible L.A. blues scene because within a few years, most of these great artists had passed on.” Levenson then formed his own group called the Automatics, which landed a recording contract with famed Kent Records where he was the house producer.
The guitarist’s next step was to land a deal with the prestigious European jazz and blues label, Storyville Records under his own name. Levenson’s first release, Heart to Hand, received critical raves and was one of the most popular instrumental releases of the decade. At this juncture in Levenson’s career he was hired as a producer and A&R man for Storyville, finding undiscovered and overlooked talent, then producing and recording them. This was then followed by the Closer to the Blues release which garnered an invitation to the prestigious Blues Estafette Festival in Holland. Levenson’s latest release for Storyville, Hard Times Won, earned him a Handy Award nomination for Blues Song of the Year. He was also included on 2 Delta Laserlight compilations, Blues Guitar Heaven along with Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and Mike Bloomfield to name a few; and Blues for a Rainy Day with T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy and Bobby Bland. Other highlights of Levenson’s career include work on William Clarke’s Groove Time CD, numerous blues festivals in Europe and the United States.
Mr. Levenson resides in Las Vegas today, but still travels to Southern California and is an in-demand studio guitarist whose work has appeared in many movies, television and commercials. He gigs regularly around Vegas and Southern California, and has played and toured with one of America’s greatest and most loved bands, Canned Heat; for which he has produced for as well. Currently he is in the studio finishing up the soon to be released album by Boston Violinist Illana Katz.
OJATA is very excited and honored to be going into the studio; in the Spring of 2017, with record producer Mr. Barry Levenson, as they create their debut album that will be released later this year.