Mel Lewis

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Mel Lewis (1979)

Mel Lewis (born May 10, 1929 in Buffalo , New York , USA as Melvin Sokoloff , † February 2, 1990 in New York , NY ) was an American jazz drummer.

life and work

Lewis began working professionally at the age of fifteen, performing with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn , Alvino Rey , Ray Anthony and Tex Beneke . From 1954 to 1957 he was a member of the Stan Kenton Ensemble . In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles , where he made his first studio recordings and worked with the big bands of Terry Gibbs and Gerald Wilson , the pianist Hampton Hawes and the trombonist Frank Rosolino , and led his own combo with Bill Holman . In the 1958 melodrama Rivals , Lewis had a small role as a member of a jazz band. Frank Sinatra , Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood were in the lead roles.

In 1960 he went to New York and played in the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band . With Dizzy Gillespie he went on a European tour in 1961 and a tour of the Soviet Union with Benny Goodman in 1962. In 1965 he founded the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra with Thad Jones , which he directed until his death after Jones unexpectedly moved to Denmark in 1978. The orchestra was an institution in the American jazz scene and has performed with musicians such as trumpeters Bill Berry , Danny Stiles , Richard Williams , Marvin Stamm , Snooky Young and Jon Faddis , trombonists Bob Brookmeyer , Jimmy Knepper , Quentin Jackson and Benny Powell , saxophonists Jerome Richardson , Jerry Dodgion , Eddie Daniels , Joe Farrell , Pepper Adams and Billy Harper , pianists Hank Jones , and Roland Hanna, and bassists Richard Davis and George Mraz ; one of the arrangers was Jorge Anders . In 2005 it celebrated its 40th anniversary as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra .

Since its inception, the orchestra has regularly given the Monday Night Gigs in the Village Vanguard , under the name of Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra , this tradition was continued under Lewis' direction. In Europe he also worked with the Joe Haider Orchestra from 1986, whose album received the German Record Prize as the best big band recording of 1988 . Lewis performed for the last time in December 1989 at the Village Vanguard with the Mel Lewis Orchestra . In early 1990 he traveled to New Orleans for a meeting of the International Association for Jazz Education and performed with his band. It was his last appearance, on February 2nd he died of cancer.

Selection discography


  • Clem DeRosa , Mel Lewis: It's Time: For the Big Band Drummer. Kendor Music, Delevan (NY) 1978.

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