Together with Thelonious Monk and Tadd Dameron John Lewis defined the art composition for the bop generation. Beyond that he led a jazz ensemble for many years, acted as musical director for festivals and concerts, pioneered the fusion of European classical music with jazz, served as a music educator, sponsored young, unknown musicians in their first recordings, organized a series of recordings that presented veteran jazz musicians in unusual and favorable circumstances, and accompanied horn players and singers on piano. He attained the highest level in all these activities. Because of his understated style he is often overlooked as a piano soloist, but of course he excelled there as well. Evolution II, his last record, focuses on John Lewis, recomposer of his own music and piano soloist/spontaneous composer.
As always his piano lines are fresh, inspired, and uncrowded. (The secret of Lewis' music is preparation and space.) Lewis plays gorgeous introductions (another area of mastery) and tags to many of the pieces. The repertoire is variedmostly vintage Lewis pieces in new guises. Two have new titles: "The Festivals" was recorded as "In a Crowd" and "December, Remember" is based on "Winter's Tale." There are a couple of what I believe are new tunes"Cain and Abel" with an Old World flavor and "Sammy." "Afternoon in Paris" is taken brighter than usual but retains its bittersweet feel. The march section of "Trieste" has been transplanted to "Afternoon in Paris," a piece which also includes a some piano counterpoint and a lick from "The Marseilles." "Django" is presented over a staggering tango with the blues section heavily syncopated. "The Festivals" and "What Is This Thing Called Love" are more intense as Lewis cuts loose, driven by Lewis Nash. Lewis first recorded the classic blues "Parker's Mood" with Charlie Parker in 1948. If there was ever any doubt about Lewis' blues playing this cut settles that question.
The accompanying musicians do just that. They are all capable soloists, but here they "just" play with beauty and taste. (Johnson does take some breaks on the old-time blues "Sammy.") Collins and Alden play the dreaded rhythm guitar, but it's light and musical (Barry Galbraith)not that chunky feel big bands exploit to try to get themselves swinging.
John Lewis Discography:http://www.jazclass.aust.com/lewis1.htm#03
Track Listing: The Festivals; Parker's Mood; December, Remember; Afternoon in Paris; Cain and Abel; Come Rain or Come Shine; Trieste; Django; Sammy; What Is This Thing Called Love.
Personnel: John Lewis-piano; Howard Collins or Howard Alden - guitar; Marc Johnson or George Mraz - bass; Lewis Nash - drums.
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.