Mel Lewis


Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis

Mel Lewis (1978)
photo by Bogdan Nastula
Background information
Birth name Melvin Sokoloff
Born May 10, 1929(1929-05-10)
Buffalo, New York
Died February 2, 1990(1990-02-02) (aged 60)
New York, New York
Genres Jazz
Occupations Musician
Instruments Drums
Labels VSOP, Blue Note, Max Cat
Associated acts Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Thad Jones

Mel Lewis (May 10, 1929 – February 2, 1990) was an American drummer, jazz musician and band leader. He was born Melvin Sokoloff in Buffalo, New York to Russian immigrant parents.

He had fourteen Grammy nominations, authored a drumming book, and taught at the William Patterson State College in New Jersey.

Contents

Biography

He started playing professionally as a teen, eventually joining Stan Kenton in 1954. His musical career brought him to Los Angeles in 1957 and New York in 1963.

In 1966 in New York, he teamed up with Thad Jones to lead the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. The group started as informal jam sessions with the top studio and jazz musicians of the city, but eventually began performing regularly on Monday nights at the famed Village Vanguard. In 1979 the band won a Grammy for their album Live in Munich.[1] Like all of the musicians in the band, it was only a side line. In 1976, he released an album titled "Mel Lewis and Friends" that featured him leading a smaller sextet that allowed freedom and improvisation.

The band became the Mel Lewis and The Jazz Orchestra in 1978, when Thad moved to Denmark. Lewis continued to lead the band, recording and performing every Monday night at the Village Vanguard until shortly before his death from cancer at age 60. The band still performs on most Monday nights at the Village Vanguard; today it's known as The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and has released several CDs.

Lewis's cymbal work was unique and added qualities to his groups that are hard to describe, but that are recognized immediately and virtually impossible to emulate (Buddy Rich once said that "Mel Lewis doesn't sound like anybody except himself"). He insisted on playing genuine Turkish-made cymbals, switching from the Zildjian brand later in his career to the Istanbul brand. His setup included a 21-inch ride on his right, an 19-inch crash-ride on his left, and his signature sound, a 22-inch swish "knocker" with rivets on his far right. The dark, overtone-rich sound of these rather lightweight cymbals, combined with the rich, warm sound of his wood-shell drums (he almost exclusively played Gretsch drums, although in later years was playing Slingerland drums) equipped with natural calfskin top heads (again, Lewis was a purist), using regular mylar heads on the bottom, exuded a veritable treasure trove of sound. Lewis once described his playing philosophy of not "pushing or pulling" but "supporting." "If you watch me, it doesn't look like I'm doing much," he said in an interview, describing his subtle but highly musical style. He could play at a break-neck tempo for lengthy periods and hardly break a sweat. He wasn't flashy or loud—just tasteful, and highly musical.[citation needed]

In the late 1980s, Lewis was diagnosed with melanoma. It started in his arm, then surfaced in his lungs, and ultimately went to his brain. He died on February 2, 1990, just days before his band was to celebrate its 24th anniversary at the Village Vanguard.

Discography

Mel Lewis and the Orchestra

  • Naturally, 1979, Telarc
  • Live in Montreux: Mel Lewis Plays Herbie Hancock, 1980, MPS Records/ Pausa
  • Live at the Village Vanguard, ...Featuring the Music of Bob Brookmeyer, 1980
  • Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra, 1982, Finesse
  • 20 Years at the Village Vanguard, 1985, Atlantic
  • Definitive Thad Jones, Vol. 1, 1988, Music Masters Jazz
  • Definitive Thad Jones, Vol. 2, 1988, Music Masters Jazz
  • Soft Lights and Hot Music, 1988, Music Masters Jazz
  • To You: A Tribute to Mel Lewis, 1990, Music Masters Jazz

As sideman

With Joe Lovano

  • Tones, Shapes & Colors (Soul Note, 1985)

With Gary McFarland

  • Point of Departure (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Tijuana Jazz (Impulse!, 1965)

With Chico O'Farrill

With Shirley Scott

  • Latin Shadows (Impulse!, 1965)

Filmography

Concert performances

  • 1999 Jazz at the Smithsonian (Kultur Video)
  • 2003 Jazz Casual - Thad Jones & Mel Lewis and Woody Herman (Jazz Casual)
  • 2005 Jazz Masters Series - Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra (Shanachie)
  • 2007 Mel Lewis and His Big Band (VIEW)[2]

References

  1. ^ LA Times, "The Envelope" awards database. (link) Accessed 2008 April 30.
  2. ^ Artist: Lewis, Mel. "VIEW DVD Listing". View.com. http://www.view.com/mel_lewis_and_his_big_band_dvd.aspx. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 

External links



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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mel Lewis — Datos generales Nombre real Melvin Sokoloff Nacimiento 10 de mayo de 1929 Origen Buffalo, New York (EEUU) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Mel Lewis — Melvin Sokoloff (* 10. Mai 1929 in Buffalo, New York, USA; † 2. Februar 1990 in New York, NY) war ein US amerikanischer Jazz Schlagzeuger. Leben und Werk Lewis begann im Alter von fünfzehn Jahren professionell zu arbeiten und trat mit den Big… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mel Lewis — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Lewis. Mel Lewis (Melvin Sokoloff) est un batteur et chef d orchestre de jazz américain né le 10 mai 1929 à Buffalo (New York) et décédé le 2 février 1990 à New York. Biographie Mel Lewis commence sa carrière… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra — The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra was a jazz big band formed by trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis around 1965. The band performed for twelve years in its original incarnation, and included a 1972 tour of the Soviet Union during… …   Wikipedia

  • The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra — The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra was a jazz big band formed by trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis around 1965. The band performed for twelve years in its original incarnation, and included a tour of the Soviet Union during the… …   Wikipedia

  • Jazz Casual - Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra and Woody Herman and his Swinging Herd — Infobox Album | Name = Ralph Gleason s Jazz Casual (Jones/Lewis Herman) Type = album Artist = Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Woody Herman and his Swinging Herd Released = Recorded = 1963 (Herman) and 1968 April 22 (Jones / Lewis), KQED TV …   Wikipedia

  • Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, The Jazz Orchestra — Infobox Album | Name = Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, The Jazz Orchestra Type = Album Artist = Joe Williams, Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra Released = Recorded = 1966 September, New York City Genre = Jazz Length =… …   Wikipedia

  • Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and Manuel De Sica — Infobox Album | Name = Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and Manuel De Sica and the Jazz Orchestra Type = album Artist = Manuel De Sica, Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra Released = Recorded = 1973 September, London and 1974 July, Perugia Genre = Jazz… …   Wikipedia

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