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John Lewis

New Mexico JazZ Legend
JOHN LEWIS-MAY 3, 1920 - March 29, 2001

Albuquerque's own jazz legend - pianist, composer, and arranger - was celebrated in a series of events honoring him, his communitiy, his musical contemporaries, and his great achievements in American Classical Music.
John Lewis made a significant contribution to jazz, also known as American Classical Music, in a career that spanned over 55 years. He was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1937, and from the University of New Mexico in 1941. After serving his country in the Army during World War II, he followed his Army buddy, drummer Kenny Clarke, and settled in New York City to pursue a career as a jazz musician. Mr. Lewis arrived in NYC at the height of the BeBop movement - he played with, and arranged for ,colleagues such as: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, the Jazztet, becoming a jazz legend simultaneously.
As pianist, composer, arranger, and music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet, formed in 1952, Mr. Lewis became the architect of a unique sound in jazz and expanded the jazz audience to the concert hall. Simultaneously, and after the group disbanded in the mid-70s, he taught at City College of New York, and at Harvard University, and was director of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

John Lewis received honorary doctorates from the University of New Mexico, Columbia College in Chicago, and the New England Conservatory. He performed on over 120 record albums, appearing as a leader in over 100 recordings. He released his last recordings, "Evolution 1&2," in 1999.

In January of 2001, John Lewis was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, along with Jackie McClean and Randy Weston. Later that month, to great critical acclaim, Mr. Lewis played what would be his last public performance, at Lincoln Center in New York City.

"John Lewis is regarded as one of the most brilliant minds ever applied to Jazz." Leonard Feather, Encyclopedia Of Jazz

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