Chuck Leavell – Chuck Gets Big (with The Frankfurt Radio Big Band) (2018)

FrontCover1Charles Alfred Leavell (born April 28, 1952) is an American musician. A member of the Allman Brothers Band throughout their commercial zenith in the 1970s, he subsequently became a founding member of the band Sea Level. He has served as the principal touring keyboardist and musical director of the Rolling Stones since 1982. As a session musician, Leavell has performed on every Rolling Stones studio album released since 1983 with the exception of Bridges to Babylon (1997). He has also toured and recorded with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, David Gilmour, Gov’t Mule and John Mayer. (wikipedia)

Chuck Leavell05

In the who’s who of rock & roll, Chuck Leavell is a very big someone. His piano and keyboard playing has graced the albums and/or stages of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes, George Harrison, Blues Traveler, the Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Williams Jr., and a long list of others. Leavell was born in Birmingham, AL, on April 28, 1952. At age 13 he formed his first band, the Misfitz, playing both organ and guitar. While still in high school, he played on his first local recording sessions.

Chuck Leavell04

At 15, Leavell moved to Muscle Shoals, AL, and spent the next two years in and out of the world famous studios there. His recording during that time included an appearance on Freddy North’s “Don’t Take Her, She’s All I’ve Got.” He then left for Macon, GA, and became connected with the newly formed Capricorn Records, joining Alex Taylor’s band for With Friends & Neighbours (Taylor is the brother of singer James Taylor). After a year and a half, Leavell went on the road with Dr. John, spending six months observing and soaking up all he could. Leavell was recruited by the Allman Brothers Band in 1972, shortly after the death of Duane Allman.

Chuck Leavell06

He was just 20 years old. His first Allman Brothers Band record was the Billboard chart-topper Brothers and Sisters, yielding the hits “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica.” He remained with the band for four years; after its 1976 breakup, he formed Sea Level (pun intended) with Jimmy Nalls and former Allmans Jai Johanny Johanson and Lamar Williams. They recorded four albums that were embraced by fans and critics alike, and they toured extensively for five years. The Best of Sea Level was released in 1978. Leavell’s career has been bringing him to new heights ever since, including album contributions and immense tours with the Rolling Stones (he’s often referred to as the “sixth Rolling Stone”) as well as numerous other accomplishments, the extent of which can really only be appreciated by a study of his discography. His first solo piano CD, Forever Blue, was released in 2001. It went hand in hand with his book, Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest. The book is a result of Leavell’s passion for forestry and conservation, which began developing in the late ’80s. He and his wife, Rose Lane White, developed her family’s 1,200-acre ranch near Macon, GA, into a tree farm they named Charlane Plantation. When Leavell isn’t in the studio or on the road, he can be found there with his family, horses, and the bird dogs he trains for field trials and quail hunting. Southscape was released on Mega Force Records in 2005. (by Ann Wickstrom)

Chuck Leavell07

And here is a wonderful collaboration with a German big band:

In September 2011, I had the great pleasure of playing a live concert in Germany with the incredible hr big band in the stunning setting of Wolfsgarten Castle, not far from Frankfurt, owned by the royal family of Hesse-Darmstadt. Heinrich Donatus Prince of Hesse, a fine man and the current head of the family, was our host. My good friend Christian Raupach had arranged it for me, and Hessischer Rundfunk worked with three different arrangers on a dozen songs I had chosen for it. the conductor (who was also one of the arrangers), Ed Partyka, rehearsed with the band on the arrangements without me being present beforehand, and we had only one day of rehearsals the day before the show. I was totally blown away by the quality of the arrangements, the skill and power of the players in the hr big band and Ed’s conducting skills. Everyone was on point, professional and extremely talented.

Chuck Leavell03

The next day we had sound check and a few hours later we went on stage. The audience was wonderful, the environment was surreal and invigorating, and everyone seemed to be feeling “the spirit”.

Since I had released a live recording two years earlier (Chuck Leavell: Live in Germany) of a “live in the studio” performance with a smaller five-piece band at hr studios, which included some of the same songs, I decided not to release the big band recording right away because I thought it would be too repetitive at the time. So I put the recording of the big band concert on hold for 7 years and rarely listened to it during that time. Then one day in early 2018, I decided to listen to it again. I was reminded of what a joy it was to play with all these great musicians and how the arrangements made all these songs sound so different. I was also impressed by the sound quality, the sharpness of the recording and the surprising separation of the instruments that the hr sound engineers had achieved, which made it possible to remix the concert evening. Even the audience’s applause was clearly separated from the pieces in the recordings.

Chuck Leavell08

So I decided to put everything under a “microscope” in the studio and play with the possibilities on the spot. I went with my good friend, Gerry Hansen, who is a great drummer, producer and sound engineer, to his studio to work on the tracks. I decided to make it sound less like a typical live album and focus more on the performance itself … so I left out the audience applause to make it sound more like a studio record. I wanted it to feel like one person going into a nice room and getting a private concert played just for them. That’s exactly what we did, and here’s the result. It gives the songs a new and fresh life and I am grateful to all the players, the sound engineers, the arrangers, Maestro Partyka, my buddy Christian Raupach and all the people at hr who helped make this project a reality. This concert was one of the most memorable of my career. Many thanks to all of you! (Chuck Leavell)

Chuck LeavellIt’s 2011 and Chuck Leavell, pianist extraordinaire who has often lent himself to rock (Allman Brothers Band and, today, Rolling Stones, just to name two bands), is on tour in Europe. Arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, he is asked to play with a big band, The Frankfurt Radio Big Band, a mighty ensemble of about fifteen brass players, plus a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Chuck’s grand piano fits right in, despite having had little time to arrange the songs and play them live. Fortunately, someone decided to record (well) the concert, which Chuck then kept in his drawers for many years before listening to it again, appreciating it and finally deciding to publish it.

Chuck Leavell02

Chuck, despite such a long list of great collaborations, has not made many studio records and this is probably the best testimony to his name, despite, clearly, the decisive contribution of the German ensemble. A pianist with a southern touch, he moves nimbly between rock and jazz, with impressive fluidity, as well as having a more than good voice. A long, jammed-out, improvised, at times exhilarating disc, it features some Leavell tunes (excellent ‘Blue Rose’), along with two Stones tunes and two in the Allman Bros repertoire. The rest are standards like ‘Georgia On My Mind’ or ‘Route 66’. An exhilarating journey through American music, played with great force by the big band, which leaves just the right amount of space for Chuck to let us hear his shimmering piano. Surprisingly, one of the records of the year and the definitive example, if any were needed, that Leavell is on the same level as a Nicky Hopkins or a Bruce Hornsby, just to name two of his colleagues between rock and jazz. (by Luca Mazzocchi)

Yes … what a fine concert !

Recorded live at Schloss Wolfsgarten (near Frankfurt/Germany), September 03,  2011


Chuck Leavell (piano, vocals)
Frankfurt Radio Big Band conducted by Ed Partyka

The concert at Schloss Wolfsgarten:
Schloss Wolfsgarten01

01. Route 66 (Troup) 4:47
02. King Grand (Bramblett/Causey) 6:14
03. Losing Hand (Calhoun) 4:48
04. Honky Tonk Woman (Jagger/Richards) 4:26
05. Living In A Dream (Pearson/Causey/Bramlett) 6.38
06. Blue Rose (Leavell) 8:18
07. Southbound (Betts) 5:06
08. Tumbling Dice (Jagger/Richards) 3:45
09. Ashley (Leavell) 5:48
10. Statesboro Blues (McTell) 5:39
11. Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael/Gorrell) 5:11
12. Compared To What (McDaniels) 8:22
13. Tomato Jam (Leavell) 3:54



Ed Partyka is a bass trombonist/tubist, composer/arranger and conductor. Originally from Chicago Illinois, he received a BA degree from Northern Illinois University before moving to Germany in 1990. He completed a Masters degree in jazz trombone performance at the Conservatory of Music in Cologne, where he was also a member of the G.E.M.A. Jazz Composers Workshop, led by Bob Brookmeyer.

He was recipient of the 2000 “A.S.C.A.P. / I.A.J.E. Commission Honouring the Centenary of Louis Armstrong”. He was 1st prize-winner of the 1998 “NDR Musikpreis” (Hamburg), 1st prize winner of the Jazz Composers Alliance 1998 Julius Hemphill Composition Awards (Boston) and finalist in the 1996 HR Emerging Composers Competition (Frankfurt).

Ed has toured and recorded with the Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra, Carla Bley, WDR Big Band, NDR Big Band, Mnozil Brass, Gansch & Roses and the Roman Schwaller Nonet.

Ed Partyka01

He leads the Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra EPJO, is musical director of the Jazz Orchestra Regensburg and is Co-Leader of the Flip Philipp/Ed Partyka Dectet.

From 2000 – 2007 he was musical director of the Concert Jazz Orchestra Vienna, and 1999 – 2006 from the Sunday Night Orchestra.

Mr. Partyka has appeared as a guest conductor with the HR Big Band, NDR Big Band, RIAS Big Band, RTV Big Band Slovenia, Summit Jazz Orchestra, Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Lucerne Jazz Orchestra, West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra, Generations Festival Big Band, Zürich Jazz Orchestra, Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Klüvers Big Band, Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, Sandvika Storband, Milan Svoboda´s Prague Big Band. press release)

Ed Partyka02

More from Chuck Leavell:

The official website: