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Mel Lewis

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Primary Instrument: Drums

Born: May 10, 1929 | Died: February 2, 1990    

Mel Lewis

Lewis, best known for his small group approach to big band drumming, was one of the first drummers to vary the ride cymbal beat, giving the music a loose and swinging feel. His commanding presence never dominated the spotlight and always stressed the interplay between the band members. “How much you stick in depends on how much you can hear,” Lewis explained, “and if you're really hearing, you'll put in only what's necessary.”

Mel Lewis was born Melvin Sokoloff in Buffalo, New York to Russian immigrant parents. His father was a drummer in the Buffalo area who inspired his son to follow in his footsteps from an early age. Still in his mid-teens, young Lewis played with nationally known jazz musicians Harold Austin and Lenny Lewis. Early credits also include stints with Bernie Burns (1946), Boyd Raeburn (1948), Alvino Rey (1948-9), Ray Anthony (1949-50, 1953-54), and Tex Beneke (1950-53). In 1954 he joined Stan Kenton's band, playing alongside such musicians as Jimmy Giuffre, Maynard Ferguson, Laurindo Almeida, Vido Musso, and vocalist June Christy. During his three-year tenure with Kenton, Lewis also worked and recorded with the Frank Rosolino quintet and the Hampton Hawes Trio....
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  • The Definitive Thad Jones

    Nimbus
    2010
    BUY
  • Mellifuous

    Telarc
    1995
    BUY
  • Keep Hot

    Telarc
    1995
    BUY
  • Featuring The Music Of Bob Brookmeyer

    Telarc
    1993
    BUY
  • Bob Brookmeyer - Composer & Arranger

    Telarc
    1991
    BUY
  • And Friends

    Telarc
    1989
    BUY
  • Got'cha

    Telarc
    1989
    BUY
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Featured recording “The Definitive Thad Jones”

The Definitive Thad Jones
Nimbus (2010)

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