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Victor Lewis: The Drummer's Spirit

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: Woody Shaw notwithstanding, you're describing a meditative state. When you're at your best, you're immersed in the here-and-now. Do you practice meditation? Do you practice religion?

VL: Religion? Not any longer. I've studied many different things. I grew up in an Episcopalian family. I was an altar boy. At the end of Communion, we kids would try to get the priest drunk on the wine. [Laughter.] So I started believin.' I've been doing transcendental meditation since I was 21. I believe in aliens. Once, my friend and I saw what we really believe was a UFO. It was 1976, and I was in Florida doing a record with David Sanborn. My friend and I were driving over to a restaurant to get something to eat, and we see these blinking lights to the far right of the horizon, with no sound or movement. Then it started moving from the far right to the far left of the horizon in a few seconds. There's nothing known to man that could cover that distance that fast, and so silently. So we were positive it was a UFO.

AAJ: That wasn't a UFO. That was my ex-girlfriend. [Laughter.] She lived down there and she could do things like that. [Laughter.] There is life out there somewhere, we're pretty sure of that. Sounds like you're an explorer.

New Gigs

AAJ: So, what are you workin' on right now, and what's comin' up?

VL: I recently played at Dizzy's with Bobby Watson and the Horizon band. We're celebrating our thirtieth anniversary of Horizon. Bobby and I go way back, and we're like best friends. His wife Pam is a fantastic singer and composer. I also did a live recording at Smoke with Cyrus Chestnut and Curtis Lundy. I've been working a lot with George Cables in the past few years, and we have a new trio record entitled George Cables: Icons & Influences (High Note, 2014). And we're working on George's "Songbook" project which includes vocals.

I'm in my eleventh year teaching at Rutgers in New Brunswick. A couple of years ago, we lost a great trumpet professor, Bill Fielder, who fathered a whole series of great trumpet players, from Terence Blanchard to Wynton Marsalis to Terell Stafford to Sean Jones. Teaching helps me keep in mind the concepts and ideas I've accumulated over the years.

AAJ: Any thoughts about the business end of jazz?

VL: I am interested in how we're going to be affected by the change from CDs and record stores to digital downloads. Quincy Jones recently said in an interview that in 10 to 20 years, there will no longer be any record companies. Recently, one of my students had an on-line CD release party! Everything is going to be done on the internet, on computers. I wonder how all that will affect musicians' attitudes, their relationship to the audience, the music itself.

AAJ: A lot of the technology makes things more efficient but harder for people to connect on a visceral, gut level.

VL: You're probably like me. You like to browse the record stores. I used to love to shop and read the liner notes and look at the covers. I miss that. But ultimately, the music will prevail. I'm enthused about the younger generation of musicians. I believe the continuation of the music is guaranteed. The conditions—how you get air play, selling your trade, collection of royalties—all that's going to change. I'm a dinosaur when it comes to technology. But I'm very excited about where the music is going and how well the younger guys are stepping up.

Photo Credit: Susan Gatschet-Reese



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