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Remembering pianist Mark Levine

Pianist Mark Levine studies a little piano.
Courtesy of the artist
Pianist Mark Levine studies a little piano.

Pianist and educator Mark Levine died Jan. 27 at age 83. He was very active in the Latin music scene in the Bay Area, most recently with his group The Latin Tinge. We'll hear some of Levine's music on Jazz Caliente this week.

Mark Levine started piano lessons when he was 5 and fell in love with jazz when he was 12.

Levine studied composition and arranging. He picked up and excelled on the valve trombone along the way, making his first recording with it in 1966 with saxophonist Houston Person on the album Underground Soul. He had to give up the trombone in the 1980s due to a medical condition called tension myositis syndrome, or TMS.

Levine recorded with Mongo Santamaria in 1969 and wrote a song called "Sheila" for the recording session. The composition would eventually be renamed "Linda Chicana," and it's the main reason why I fell in love with the Cuban musical style called "guajira."


Landing in the Bay Area's vigorous Latin jazz and salsa community in the 1970s, Levine fell into a long and fruitful association with vibraphonist Cal Tjader.


Establishing himself not only as a pianist and trombonist but also as an educator, Levine taught at Mills College, Antioch University and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He published a series of best-selling jazz piano and theory books.

Levine was an activist in support of Bay Area jazz artists and Latin jazz in general.

We'll hear selections from Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge albums Isla and Off and On this Saturday on Jazz Caliente.

Mark Levine & the Latin Tinge - The Making of Off & On

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

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Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.