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Mel Lewis

Mel Lewis

Born: May 10, 1929
Died: February 2, 1990

Born Melvin Sokoloff in Buffalo, NY, to Russian immigrant parents, his father was a drummer and inspired his son to follow in his footsteps from an early age. Still in his mid-teens, young Lewis played with nationally known jazz musicians Harold Austin and Lenny Lewis. Early credits also include stints with Boyd Raeburn (1948), Alvina Rey (1948-9), Ray Anthony (1949-50), 1953-4), and Tex Beneke (1950-53). In 1954 he joined Stan Kenton's band, playing alongside such musicians as Jimmy Giuffre, Maynard Ferguson, Laurindo Almeida, Vido Musso, and vocalist June Christy. During his three-year tenure with Kenton, Lewis also worked and recorded with the Frank Rosolino Quintet and the Hampton Hawes Trio.

In 1957 Mel settled in Los Angeles where he led a quintet with another ex-Kenton sideman, saxophonist Bill Holman. He worked with the big bands of Gerald Wilson and Terry Gibbs, recording with the latter between 1959-62. The early 1960's found Lewis in New York with the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, in Europe with Dizzy Gillespie, and in Russia with Benny Goodman.

Lewis moved to New York in 1963 and formed a big band with trumpeter Thad Jones two years later. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra performed and recorded extensively, garnering rave reviews and awards. Their performance on the album "Live In Munich" earned them a Grammy Award in 1978.

After twelve productive years, Jones left for Europe and Lewis assumed sole leadership of the band. With the departure of Jones, the trombonist/pianist/arranger Bob Brookmeyer assisted in the musical direction of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. Lewis' residency at the prestigious Village Vanguard club spanned more than two decades; he performed there regularly until one month before his death. Today the Orchestra continues to tour and record albums, as well as perform every Monday night at the Village Vanguard under the moniker "The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra."

For more about Mel Lewis, including access to over 300 recordings, search the UMKC on-line catalog, MERLIN, using the subject heading "Mel Lewis Collection."

It's Time For The Big Band Drummer (Digital Download Only)

It's Time For The Big Band Drummer (Digital Download Only)

Product #: 21170
Credits: Mel Lewis, Derosa
Series: Percussion Methods



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