multi-reed musician from Paterson, New Jersey, who was a member of Tommy
Dorsey’s orchestra, Benny Goodman’s orchestra, and The Glenn
One of his earliest
recordings with Tommy Dorsey is on the Cole Porter anthology, It’s De Lovely – The
Authentic Cole Porter Collection.
You can also catch him and Tommy in the act on the compilation, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You. He also appears on a series of
recordings titled The Golden Age of
Light Music, on which he is billed as Walter Leslie.
In 1959, he
joined The Glenn Miller Singers for their Reunion in Hi-Fi and was in the reeds
section on the anthology, More Live
Echoes of the Swinging Bands:
The Big 18.
Likewise, you could find him in the reeds on Manny Albam’s album, More Double Exposure, Judy Holliday’s Holliday with Mulligan, Rahsaan:
The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk, Mundell Lowe’s soundtrack to Satan in High Heels, and Anita O’Day’s
All the Sad Young Men, all
recorded or released in 1961.
Walter encouraged people to Listen to
Art Farmer and the Orchestra,
and jammed with Stan Getz on Big Band
Bossa Nova and Don Lamond
on Off Beat Percussion. He played alto saxophone on Urbie Green & His 6-Tet and saxophone
on Quincy Jones Plays Hip Hits
and recorded Jump for Joy with
Joe Williams in 1963. In 1964,
he was an erstwhile member of The Light Brigade on Enoch Light’s Dimension 3. He recorded with Quincy Jones
throughout the 1960s and many of these tracks appear on Strike up the Band. In 1968, he rang in the Yuletide
with Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album. Then he joined guitarist Gene Bertoncini for 1969’s Evolution!.
In 1974, he
blew alto sax on Bill Evans’ and Claus Ogerman’s
Symbiosis and was initiated as an
honorary member of Iota Kappa.
He and Jonathan Charles were credited with composing the simply
titled “Jon’s – Walt’s” for The Dick Cavett
Show, which ran from 1969 to 1975.
mid-‘70s, Walter played flute on the Lenny White album, Big City. He was also responsible for the
special music arrangements at The 29th Annual Emmy Awards, which
aired on 11th September 1977. In 1978, he composed the music for
the made-for-TV movie Breaking Up,
performed on the soundtrack of The
Wiz, and, along with Kermit Levinsky, wrote
the theme song for the NBC daytime reruns of The Loretta Young Show.
Then he collaborated with Frank Sinatra on his 1979 boxed set, Trilogy.
In 1980, he
orchestrated the music for the film, Just
Tell Me What You Want. He
was a member of The Glenn Miller Orchestra on the 1983 album, In the Digital Mood. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, he
served in the capacity of Music Recording Supervisor on a number of Woody
Allen films, including Bullets over
Broadway, Everyone Says I Love
You, Mighty Aphrodite, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Radio Days, Sweet and Lowdown, and Zelig. He
also appeared on screen as a member of the jazz band in 1989’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.
His film work
does not end there: He
conducted the music for 1984’s Garbo Talks, played soprano sax on 1987’s The Glass Menagerie, and again served as Music Recording
Supervisor on 1990’s The Lemon
Sisters and 1992’s Alan
& Naomi. In 1992, along
with Richard Lieb, he adapted traditional songs
for Alan Menken’s soundtrack of Lincoln.
The last album
on which he appeared seems to be A
Trip to Brazil Vol. 2: Bossa & Beyond, released eight days before his
death. His music lives on,
however. As recently as 2001, he
was billed as the composer of the music for the Science Times episode, “Kiliminjaro’s
In 2003, a
posthumous live recording was released with the title, Walt Levinsky in Concert: As He Wanted to Be Remembered.
Frank Sinatra recordings
That's What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan
49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)