Playlist: Get to Know

Listen to a playlist featuring some of John Lewis's greatest music!

News | Mar, 9th 2017

In a career that spanned six decades, pianist, composer, and bandleader John Lewis set the standard for sophisticated swing. As co-founder and music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet, he guided the pathbreaking group's efforts to popularize their elegant, highly arranged take on bebop and blues forms, and many of his compositions—like "Afternoon in Paris," "Django," and "Two Bass Hit"—went on to become jazz standards. He also enjoyed a lengthy and successful solo career, and his performances and lectures at Jazz at Lincoln Center played an important role in this organization's earlier years. 

To honor that extensive legacy, Blue Engine Records is releasing The Music of John Lewis this March 24th. The live recording captures a 2013 performance by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis featuring Jon Batiste in Rose Theater that featured some of Lewis’s most iconic tunes. For a sampling of his canon, listen to our hand-picked John Lewis playlist, which also features many of the original versions of the songs included on the new JLCO album:


Lewis's music was particularly important to Batiste, the bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.In the liner notes for The Music of John Lewis, Batiste discusses the master's influence on his own life and playing.

John Lewis is undoubtedly a seminal figure in jazz history. To join this venerable federation of musicians, one must clearly be born with an innate musical talent. But that natural ability must be matched or surpassed with the militaristic discipline to develop the technical skills to play an instrument with a recognizable sound, the distinct rhythmic feeling required for deep swing, the ability to hear intention and communicate emotional intensity, and the intellectual curiosity to enrich your playing with an historical perspective. A select few have been able to climb this artistic Mount Everest and still possess the energy and wherewithal to become prolific composers and bandleaders. These musicians are a special breed...

...As music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet, his genius was clearly evidenced. During a time when most jazz groups were focused on the charisma of individual soloists, Mr. Lewis created a collective conception that incorporated the fundamentals of jazz in a most sophisticated manner. This uncommon approach, as well as their elegant dress and presentation, garnered quite a bit of opposition, but John Lewis responded with music. He was not a flamboyant, flashy player, choosing instead to display virtuosity with the gravitas and clarity of his sound and the thematic consistency and cogency of his solos. The same can be said of his composing and arranging styles. He was all music, all the time...

...Having the opportunity to internalize Mr. Lewis's densely constructed arrangements was intellectually exhilarating and intrinsically rewarding. The study of his artistic philosophy and of the spirit of his era added a deeper dimension to my understanding of what it means to be prepared. His personal experiences and beliefs permeate every composition represented on this recording. My own related experience as a pianist, bandleader, and composer provided a great deal of insight into Mr. Lewis’s approach. There is much imagery in his music and so much personality. The depth of his belief makes his music timeless. For artists, what remains impactful and meaningful in one’s art depends on the accuracy and intensity of your insights. Mr. Lewis's music is still with us, and it is an honor to place my artistry in the tradition of serving it...

Preorder The Music of John Lewis on Amazon or iTunes today!

read more

In honor of Black History Month and the upcoming release of The Abyssinian Mass album, we look back at the inspiration for Wynton Marsalis' sweeping suite of spiritual jazz and the reception it received.

read more

JLCO bassist Carlos Henriquez has assembled a prodigiously talented group to explore the "Latin Side of Dizzy" this Jan. 27-28 in the Appel Room. Listen to the Dizzy songs they'll be performing!


Study up on jazz piano history!

Playlist: Get Ready for Handful of Keys with the Evolution of Jazz Piano!

Study up for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis's new album Handful of Keys, featuring special guests Joey Alexander, Dick Hyman, Myra Melford, and more!

read more
Listen to a playlist featuring some of John Lewis's greatest music!

Playlist: Get to Know

Enrich your listening experience of "The Music of John Lewis," the new album from the JLCO with Wynton Marsalis ft. Jon Batiste, with an excerpt from its liner notes and a playlist exploring Lewis's oeuvre!

read more
Ingrid Jensen in RECOLLECT

Crate-dig with Jimmy Cobb, Sheila Jordan & more in RECOLLECT

Our new original video series RECOLLECT takes you record shopping with some of the world's greatest jazz artists, including Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Sheila Jordan, and many more!

read more
Chick Corea - photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Chick Corea: Five Essential Albums

Chick Corea is one of the most influential figures in jazz and one of the greatest living jazz pianists. In advance of his trio’s July 4 performance in Highland Park, IL, at the Ravinia Festival alongside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, here are five essential albums from his discography.

read more
Wynton Marsalis performs on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Celebrating Spaces and The Abyssinian Mass with Colbert on The Late Show

Wynton Marsalis appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to perform with Jon Batiste, Stay Human, and acclaimed dancer Lil Buck. Check out video and behind-the-scenes content from their performance.

read more

10 Essential Jazz Albums

New to jazz and don't know where to start? With many artists and extensive catalogues of music, a new jazz listener can feel intimidated. We're here to help! Check out our list of 10 albums to get you started on your jazz journey and introduce yourself to some of jazz's great artists.

read more

A Visit to Clark Terry

On December 7, 2014 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drove 8 hours on an off day to play for Clark Terry on his 94th birthday. Victor Goines, James Chirillo, Ted Nash, Vincent Gardner, and Walter Blanding recall the day and the impact that Clark had on jazz.

read more


Watch Helen Sung and Isaiah J. Thompson perform Handful of Keys live!

To celebrate the latest release from Blue Engine records, two world-class jazz pianists showed off their chops live from Paste Magazine's NYC studios.

read more
Grassella Oliphant

Lessons from Our Masters: Grassella Oliphant on Keeping Jazz's Legacy Alive

Grassella Oliphant kicks off the Lessons from Our Masters series on his 88th birthday, opening our Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival. Oliphant played with Ahmad Jamal in 1952, Sarah Vaughan through the late 1950s, and released acclaimed albums featuring heavyweights like Bobby Hutcherson, Clark Terry, and Grant Green. It’ll be a festive evening of music as we celebrate Oliphant’s birthday and launch our 2017 Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival!

read more
Buddy Rich

So the Story Goes: Buddy Rich on Music and Magic

In the latest installment of So the Story Goes, Buddy Rich—sometimes regarded as "the world's greatest drummer"—gets rhapsodic about the power of music and recounts that one time he played for the Queen of England.

read more
Joe Temperley, by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Notes from the Road: Remembering Joe Temperley

Before his passing in May, Joe Temperley spent 29 unforgettable years as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's baritone saxophonist and its beloved elder statesman. Between performances on their recent mini-tour of Canada, several JLCO members shared their memories of Temperley, who left behind an indelible legacy and a whole lot of stories.

read more

6 Underappreciated Jazz Artists You Should Check Out

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the careers of a handful of underappreciated jazz artists. Explore the careers of six musicians who deserve more accolades and learn the best places to start with their discographies.

read more