Playlist: Get to Know the Music of John Lewis

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!

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