David Geist starring in
An Oscar Levant Tribute:
Remembering George Gershwin and Friends
Pianist and raconteur, David Geist, performs the life and music of Oscar Levant
Concerto in F
“Oscar Levant is a character who, if he did not exist, could not be imagined.” Author and screen-writer, S.N. Berhman, so described his dear friend, Oscar Levant.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1906, Oscar Levant was the youngest of four boys.
In his lifetime, Oscar Levant flourished as a gifted composer, concert pianist, radio personality, movie star, successful recording artist, best-selling author, talk-show host, and quiz show panelist. Levant’s talent as a world-class wit assured him lasting fame.
Levant earned his place in The Great American Songbook with “Blame It On My Youth.” The song was recorded by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Gordon MacRae, Rosemary Clooney and Michael Feinstein, among others.
An astonishingly gifted concert pianist, in his hey-day, the 1940s and early 1950s, he earned more money than any other pianist in America. About his concert career, Levant quipped, “I’m a concert pianist, that’s a pretentious way of saying, ‘I’m unemployed at the moment!’”
His three autobiographical books all made the non-fiction best seller’s list. The books are wildly funny, frank and full of anecdotes about his experiences on the concert stage, radio, television and films as well as the many famous people he became acquainted with over his wild roller coaster ride of a life: George Gershwin, Harpo Marx, Judy Garland, Louis B. Mayer, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire, Mary Martin, Gene Kelley, Toscanini, Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg, Ira Gershwin… the list goes on and on…
Oscar Levant was a featured player in 13 movies. ‘An American in Paris’ won 10 Oscars, including “Best Picture.” He was the technical consultant for “Rhapsody in Blue”- his hands were featured during all the Gershwin piano solos.
Oscar Levant co-starred with Hollywood’s biggest and best… About co-starring with Doris Day, Levant remarked: “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin!”
Oscar Levant’s friendship and musical relationship with George Gershwin was multi-faceted and deeply profound. Throughout his books, Levant provided a revealing, first-hand glimpse of Gershwin.
“George Gershwin was multitalented. He was an autodidact- with little formal education. But he had great ability. He also had an instinct for good manners, and he was thoroughly original in everything he did. He was the toast of the elegant society; they loved him and he, in turn, adored them. He was at every socially significant event… “ Oscar Levant.
“ When Gershwin’s Piano Concerto was first performed in 1925 in Carnegie Hall, all Broadway was agog. George was a ‘Great White Way’ personality. It was the first time in musical history that Broadway and Carnegie Hall met. At rehearsals, George would sit down and play with his derby on, smoking a cigar and handing out cigars to the orchestra. They thought he was brash. They resisted him because he was a Broadway composer, and American music was rarely featured by symphony orchestras. In a short time, they grew to love him and later when he played at the Lewisohn Stadium Concerts, he still handed out cigars to the whole orchestra. They relished it and expected it by then...” Oscar Levant
David Geist has had an illustrious twenty-year Broadway career as a conductor, pianist and vocal coach for such record-breaking shows as Cats, Les Miserables, The Lion King, The Producers, Wicked, Miss Saigon, Fosse and The Last Five Years. He also coached and performed with such world renowned singers as Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, Betty Buckley, Rita Moreno, Hugh Jackman, Linda Eder, Cassandra Wilson and Deborah Gibson. Legendary composers Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber have requested David to perform their music in concert and theater settings.
In the summer of 2005 David moved to Santa Fe, and along with owner Michael O'Reilly, created the nationally acclaimed GEIST CABARET at PRANZO. Born in
San Diego, David is graduate of Berklee College of Music, and a member of American Federation of Musicians, Local 802.
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