John Lewis (pianist)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Lewis, photograph by William P. Gottlieb, ca.1947

John Aaron Lewis (born May 3, 1920 in La Grange , Illinois , † March 29, 2001 in New York City ) was an American jazz musician ( pianist and composer ).

Live and act

Lewis began playing the piano at the age of six. He studied music and anthropology at the University of New Mexico ( MA ). He also wrote arrangements (e.g. for Teddy Wilson ). In 1942 he met the drummer Kenny Clarke in the army . After his military service (until 1945) he was introduced to the Dizzy Gillespie Band, where he took the place of Thelonious Monk . But he also played with Charlie Parker ( Charlie Parker Memorial, Vol. 1 1947/48). In 1948 he wrote arrangements for the so-called Capitol Orchestra by Miles Davis , with whom he also appeared, and in whose recording of Birth of the Cool he was involved. During this time he was also touring with the band from Illinois Jacquet , then with Lester Young . Between 1951 and 1952 he played with Milt Jackson's quartet , from which the Modern Jazz Quartet , which existed until 1974 and 1993 respectively , emerged. For this quartet, which has been very successful in Europe since 1957, Lewis arranged all material as musical director.

In the mid-1970s, John Lewis performed mostly solo, but also played with other pianists, in particular with Marian McPartland and especially with Hank Jones , with whom he performed in Japan in 1976 and several times at the Nice Festival. Not only his Japanese solo LPs Statements and Sketches For Development (1977) and Point Of View received a lot of attention, but also the duo album An Evening With Two Grand Pianos , created in 1981 with Hank Jones , which was awarded the German Record Prize.

Lewis was active as a musician until shortly before his death. His compositions combined classical music with jazz in a unique way. According to Joachim E. Berendt, he masterfully balanced the relationship between composition and improvisation very early on: “Only since him and through him has it been understood that a jazz recording is a whole, that it has to be self-contained and not just a sequence beautiful solos. ”One of his favorite shapes was the fugue ; But he also worked with contrapuntal improvisations and, above all, with the principle of concerto grosso , which for him meant that there was no explained solo and no accompanying instrument, but only alternating solos and tutti embedded in the composition. Lewis also wrote music for ballet and film scores. Here, the films are particularly No Sun in Venice , Odds Against Tomorrow (German Odds Against Tomorrow ) A Milanese Story and Cities For People to name (1975). In 1963 his musical Natural Affection was created . His jazz compositions Django and Two Bass Hit are considered jazz standards . Lewis also wrote third-stream compositions from 1956 onwards and was involved in founding the Jazz and Classical Music Society, which is important for the performance of such compositions, in the mid-1950s, as well as that of the Orchestra USA between 1962 and 1966. Also at his last concert in Germany, 1992 at the “Jazzgipfel Stuttgart”, he performed with his Modern Jazz Quartet and the classical chamber orchestra “Arcata” in a third-stream context.

Lewis was also influential as a jazz educator. From the late 1950s onwards he organized the summer schools of the Lennox School of Music . In 1977 he became a professor at the City College of New York , having previously taught at Harvard .

Lewis received honorary degrees from the University of New Mexico , the New England Conservatory, and Columbia College in Chicago. In 2001 he received the Jazz Masters Fellowship from the state NEA Foundation .


  • with Bill Perkins Grand Encounter: 2 East 3 West (Pacific Jazz 1956)
  • with Sacha Distel Afternoon In Paris (Atlantic 1957)
  • European Windows (RCA Victor 1958, with Ronnie Ross , Gerry Weinkopf and the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra)
  • The John Lewis Piano (Atlantic 1958)
  • Odds Against Tomorrow (United Artists 1959)
  • Improvised Meditations & Excursions (Atlantic 1959)
  • The Golden Striker (Atlantic 1960)
  • John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions (Atlantic 1961)
  • Original Sin (Atlantic 1961)
  • The Wonderful World Of Jazz (Atlantic 1961, with Eric Dolphy , Paul Gonsalves , Jimmy Giuffre and others)
  • (with Svend Asmussen ) European Encounter (Atlantic 1962)
  • A Milanese Story (film soundtrack, Atlantic 1962, with Bobby Jaspar , René Thomas , Giovanni Tommaso and others)
  • Animal Dance (Atlantic 1962, with Albert Mangelsdorff , KT Geier , Silvije Glojnarić and the Zagreb Jazz Quartet)
  • Essence (Atlantic 1964)
  • POV (Columbia 1975)
  • John Lewis Solo / Duo With Hank Jones (Sony 1976)
  • I Remember Bebop (CBS 1977)
  • Mirjana (Ahead 1978, with Christian Escoudé )
  • (with Hank Jones ): An Evening With Two Grand Pianos (Little David 1979)
  • (with Nancy Harrow ): The John Lewis Album For Nancy Harrow (Finesse 1981)
  • Kansas City Breaks (DRG 1982)
  • JS Bach Preludes And Fugues From The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 (Philips 1984)
  • The Bridge Game (Philips 1984)
  • The Bridge Game Vol. 2 (Philips 1985)
  • The Chess Game (Philips 1986)
  • with the American Jazz Orchestra Central City Sketches (Music Masters 1987)
  • Delaunay's Delemma (EmArcy 1988)
  • Midnight In Paris (EmArcy 1989)
  • Private Concert (EmArcy 1991)
  • Evolution (Atlantic 2000)
  • Evolution II (Atlantic 2001)

Lexigraphic entries


  • Christopher Coady: John Lewis and the Challenge of "Real" Black Music . University of Michigan Press, 2016

Web links