Unorthodox rhythms: Victor Lewis.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Keeping in step with Sonny and Cannonball, the next slot of the current Hot Jazz
series features the work of iconic saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Cannonball
Adderley, who plied their trade through the prism of the bebop and hard bop jazz
styles. Both played with some of the leaders of the jazz community in the
1940s, 1950s and 1960s, including the likes of Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine,
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
The band that will present the
tribute to the great reedmen includes saxophonist Jesse Davis and drummer Victor
Lewis, both from the US, with bassist Gilad Abro and pianist Yonatan Riklis
providing local support. The quartet will perform around the country between
January 16 and January 21.
Even though 61-year-old Lewis opted for drums,
he has played with many of the leading jazz saxophonist of the last four decades
and, in fact, heard quite a lot of sax at home, too. His father was a
horn player, and Lewis’s CV to date includes highly fruitful synergies with many
titans of the sax, including Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon.
Lewis says that
when he was growing up, he listened to quite a lot of Stitt’s work and even had
the honor and pleasure of meeting the great man. “Both Stitt and Cannonball had
a strong influence on me,” says the drummer, “so it’s great to be coming to
Israel to play some of their music.”
Lewis grew up with a well-rounded
musical background. “My father played all sorts of instruments, including the
tenor saxophone, and the alto and baritone and French horn, and my mother was a
classical and jazz piano player. So I grew up with everything from Duke
Ellington to Stravinsky to [legendary jazz saxophonist] Lester Young and lots of
different things. There was always music going around in my house.”
actually began taking an active interest in the world of music on the cello at
the age of 10 because he was too small at the time for acoustic bass, but he
switched to drums by the time he was 12.
“I was in a drum corps when I
was a kid. That was a great experience and it kept me out of trouble,” Lewis
laughs, adding that it was also a formative experience in several
ways. "It gave me a feeling for rhythm and also for teamwork and
coordination, not just for playing the drums but also for moving while you’re
playing,” he recounts.
There have been marching bands for more than 100
years, but Lewis says that he arrived on that particular scene at an opportune
time, which affected more than just the way he pounded the skins.
was when a lot of black drum corps were starting to put their own style on
marching; they had a sort of swing lean to it. That was not only with the
[playing] rhythms but also with the way we marched. We didn’t march in an even
way – right, left, right, left. We used to march with the left leg leading and
the right leg kind of dragging behind. We had a kind of bob and weaving
movement. It was almost like a dance.”
That ability to adapt to
unorthodox rhythms stood Lewis in good stead many years later when he teamed up
with Dexter Gordon. “I learned a lot from Dexter,” he recalls. “I started
playing with him more as a swing musician rather than as a post-bebop player.
When I figured that out, I moved to another level because Dexter
There was also a learning curve to be negotiated during his
time with Getz. “Stan wanted the music to be driving but not quite as loud. When
I talk about the music we made with Stan, I use the cooking term ‘to simmer.’
You know, it’s like everything is hot and just on the edge of
boiling. Stan used to like to have that simmering
Lewis also had the good fortune to work with some of the
older guys, including one of the founding fathers of modern jazz, Max Roach, and
Philly Joe Jones, who kept time for Miles Davis in the 1950s.
sort of gave me a link to some of the older generations of jazz players. It’s
about keeping the legacy alive, the legacy that goes down through the
generations. But it was never about paying tribute to the history of jazz. You
had to know about the legacy, but you always had to bring something of your own
and your own generation,” Lewis adds. “All those older guys had
Compared with the younger crowd, now Lewis is one of
the “older guys” and says he enjoys working with musicians with less experience.
“They keep me on my toes,” he notes. “They know it all. In my generation
if you wanted to hear someone’s playing, you had to either go to a gig or find
their records. We had to jump in a car and go and find a record store. But now,
in the age of the Internet, these young guys have the edge because they can
access all that stuff so easily. All they have to do is to go to YouTube or
something like that. They have the edge because they can access the
Lewis accessed the “legacy” of the likes of Stitt and Adderley
personally on the bandstand when he was starting out, and that should come
through loud and clear with Davis, Riklis and Abro next week.The quartet
will perform at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem on January 16 at 9 p.m;
Zappa Club in Herzliya on January 17 at 8:15 p.m; Einan Hall in Modi’in on
January 18 at 9 p.m; Tel Aviv Museum of Art on January 19 and 20 at 9 p.m. and
9:30 p.m., respectively; and Abba Hushi House in Haifa on January 21 at 9 p.m.