HELLO AMERICA—John Lewis’ love of the Jazz art form (the USA’s homegrown music) has not waned over the many years during which he’s participated in the music business. He continues to produce new works as a drummer, composer, pianist and entrepreneur.
John grew up in Morton, PA, which was close to the larger cities (Chester and Philadelphia). This proximity to music hubs afforded exposure to some of the biggest Jazz entertainers of the day (e.g., Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong). He also had firsthand exposure to the music through his Aunt Thelma who played the trumpet in this country’s first all-girl, integrated big band (“The International Sweethearts of Rhythm”). The music was inspiring and afforded him the opportunity to dream big.
Since his early days as a percussionist, in his own band at Swarthmore High School, to present day pursuits as a composer and pianist, John has remained true to his classic jazz roots. During much of his early career he performed as a drummer. He never, however, abandoned his interest in the piano, nor did he ignore his instinctual drive to actively participate in the music business as an entrepreneur!
John has earned the respect of professional and a personal associates and friends.
Syncopation, Jazz Club Greenwich Village, N.Y.C.
On Waverly Place in New York City’s renown center of creativity “Greenwich Village” John opened his own successfully received Jazz Club—’Syncopation.’ Syncopation, comfortably accommodated about 150 guests. John even had his own car service so that when needed, he could ensure, both guests and booked performers could travel safely and conveniently to and from the club.
The venue’s name was eventually updated to “Syncopation, Bill Cosby’s Hangout” in part because on occasion one could drop in and discover Bill Cosby sitting in on a performance (e.g., trying to play the drums) and of course providing comedic entertainment.
Whether featuring instrumental groups or singers (or a combination of the two), at different points in time Jazz music has been considered music for dancing—a form of entertainment such as that found in some of Manhattan’s best-known clubs along 50th Street (both East and West side of Manhattan). Syncopation was a swinging place, generally frequented by diverse, fashionably dressed local and international patrons.
Entertainment included…Sonny Stitt, Chico Hamilton, Eddie Heywood, Randy Weston, Cedar Walton, Max Roach, Pappa Joe Jones, Dwight Mitchell and Willie Ruff, The Louis Hayes Trio; Freddie Hubbard, Gerald Hayes Quartet and of course The John Lewis Sound…and numerous others. There were even one act plays (by successful writers like Ed Bullins) and poetry readings on Sunday afternoons featuring such notables as Judge Bruce Wright and Amiri Baraka.
The John Lewis Show
One of John’s inspirations was the legendary Dr. Billy Taylor—a prolific pianists and creative businessman. Following such a role model, John has sought to participate in all aspects of the music business.
John produced (secured advertising for) and hosted The John Lewis TV Show (featuring his long-time friend Ron Jefferson as his co-host). On these shows he interviewed nationally and internationally recognized personalities in the fields of music, sports, business, and politics.
In part due to his personal relationship with many of his guests, he was able to interview some of the biggest jazz legends as well as business and sports celebrities, including Saoul Mamby (Lightweight Boxing Champion of the World), Billy Taylor, Abbey Lincoln, Jaki Byard, Charlie Rouse, Roy Ayers, Roy Haynes and Amiri Baraka, Dakota Staton, Walter Bishop, Arthur Taylor, Louis Hayes, Roy Ayers, Chris White, Oliver Jackson, Charlie Rouse, Ron Burton; Ira Gitler, Pat Patrick, Charlie Persip, Alcione, Johnny Griffin, Gary Bartz, Harold Lovette, Freddie Freeloader about whom Miles Davis named a tune (i.e.,”Freddie Freeloader” on the classic “Kind of Blue” album), Khalilah Ali (wife of heavy weight boxing icon Muhammad Ali) and many others.
The shows relaxed style resulted in open conversations with many of the brightest stars in the business, seemingly just hanging out with their friends.
Pure Genius and Improvisational Magic!
John has always felt strongly that he not only should have the creative freedom to produce his art (his music) as he felt it, but he also wanted to ensure he controlled the fruits of his labors. This led him to establish his own recording labels, collaborating with great musicians and vocalists and produce his own music products.