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Lewis, John 1940–

John Lewis 1940

Politician, civil rights activist

Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Refused to Give Up on Nonviolent Protests

Developed Power in Congress

Selected works

Sources

A Democratic congressman from Georgia since 1986, John Lewis is perhaps best known for his prominence in the U.S. civil rights movement. As a strict follower of nonviolent social protest, Lewis was a relentless organizer and participant in numerous sit-ins, freedom rides, and protest marches throughout the South in the tumultuous years of the 1960s. There were a lot of people who pretended they were civil rights heroes, professor Roger Wilkins told Peter Applebome in the New York Times, but Lewis was a true hero, an absolute hero, a man of absolute fearlessness and total integrity. For the first half of the 1960s, Lewis served as chairman of the influential Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC) and later worked as a grass-roots organizer for the Field Foundation and ACTION. He shifted to mainstream politics in the early 1980s, first serving on Atlantas City Council and later as the representative from Georgias Fifth Congressional District. As a government official, Lewis still champions the civil rights message he once carried into the streets of the deep South. A lot of young people who came to Mississippi or Selma or the Freedom Rides thought you could come for a summer, a semester, a year, and create something new, Applebome quoted him as saying. But most of us knew this is not a struggle that lasts one day or one week or one month or one lifetime.

Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lewis was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, the son of parents who operated a cotton and peanut farm in rural Pike County. As a young boy, he displayed a religious intensity and single-mindedness that would later characterize his unswerving dedication to civil rights. With aspirations to become a minister, he regularly preached to the chickens on his parents farm and also conducted baptisms for them. By the time he was a teenagerand despite a stammering voice and shynessLewis was a regular preacher in Baptist churches throughout the area. He became inspired in his ministerial pursuits by the weekly radio sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he listened to in the mid-1950s. The first person from his family to graduate from high school, Lewis moved at the age of seventeen to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began studies at the American Baptist Seminary. Lewiss first opportunity to meet King came in the late 1950s, when Lewis enlisted the help of the civil rights leader with his plans to gain admittance to all-white, segregated Troy State College in Alabama.

When those plans failed to materialize, Lewis returned to Nashville and enrolled at Fisk University to pursue a degree in philosophy. There, influenced by theories of nonviolent forms of social protest, as well as the burgeoning efforts of blacks to protest segregation laws throughout the South, he took up the cause of civil rights. He became a student and follower of the teachings of clergyman and activist James Lawson. In 1960, Lewis and several other Nashville blacks conducted their first sit-ins in the citys lunch counters, taking their place in white-only designated areas. Despite being repeatedly arrested by police and harassed by the community, Lewis and his comrades

At a Glance

Born John Robert Lewis, February 21, 1940, in Troy, AL; son of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis; married Lillian Miles, December 21, 1968; children: John Miles. Education: Attended American Baptist Seminary, 1957-58(?); Fisk University, BA, 1967. Politics: Democrat Religion: Baptist.

Career: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), cofounder, 1960, chairman, 1963-66; Field Foundation, New York City, associate director, 1966-67, Field Foundation Southern Regional Council, Nashville, TN, director of community organization projects, beginning 1967; Field Foundation Voter Education Project, Atlanta, GA, executive director, 1970-77; ACTION, director of domestic operations, 1977-80; Atlanta City Council member, 1982-86; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congressman from Fifth District of Georgia, 1986-; chief deputy whip, 1991-; Faith and Politics Institute, co-chairman, 1997-.

Selected Memberships: Southern Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, cofounder, 1966; White House Conference on Civil Rights, member, 1966; Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, trustee; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); American Civil Liberties Union.

Selected Awards: Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, 1998; Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize; Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, 1999; John R. Lewis Monument erected at foot of Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama, 2004; John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, for lifetime achievement.

Addresses: Offices 343 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; The Equitable Building, 100 Peachtree Street, NW, Suite £ 1920, Atlanta, GA 30303.

continued their protests throughout Nashville. Eventually they joined forces with leaders of similar student groups across the South to form what became known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Lewiswith an unwavering belief in civil rights and nonviolent protest, as well as a willingness to risk his own lifesoon emerged as a foremost young leader of the civil rights movement. He was a frequent participant in the more dangerous forms of protest, including the so-called freedom rides, which challenged racial discrimination in bus facilities throughout the South. Lewis, like other freedom riders, endured vicious physical beatings, death threats, and numerous arrests for the rides, which were predominantly conducted in the summer of 1961. Lewis also led much-publicized marches against segregated movie theaters in Nashville, again prompting numerous arrests as well as physical and verbal assaults by local whites. Lewiss staunch commitment to continue with such front-line protestsdespite ever-present physical dangersdistinguished him as a role model of the early nonviolent protests. He was unanimously elected chairman of the SNCC in 1963 at the age of 23. That same year he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, D.C., protest, making a noteworthy speech that criticized the administration of President John F. Kennedy for not proceeding quickly enough with legislation ensuring civil rights.

Refused to Give Up on Nonviolent Protests

As chairman of the SNCC, Lewis maintained a path of nonviolence toward achieving the goals of civil rights. Eventually, however, more militant elements of the organizationespousing principles of Black Powerbegan to grow restless with Lewiss leadership. In 1966, he was ousted as SNCC chairman by Stokely Carmichael, and shortly thereafter resigned. Lewis went on to work for the Field Foundation, first as a director of community organization projects in the Nashville area, and eventually becoming director of the foundations Voter Education Project (VEP) based in Atlanta. As VEP director from 1970 until 1977, Lewis led grass roots efforts to organize southern black voters, to provide political education to young people, and to offer a variety of voter-assistance programs. In 1977, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be director of U.S. operations for ACTION, a federal agency that oversees various economic recovery programs on the community level. That same year, Lewis first ran for public office, finishing second in the Democratic primary for Georgias Fifth Congressional District.

Wanting a more direct involvement with community groups, and critical of the federal governments efforts to aid the poor, Lewis became more involved in mainstream politics. In 1982, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council, a position in which he became known for his close attention to the needs of the poor and elderly. Lewiss popularity and respect among constituents became apparent in 1986, when he won a special run-off election for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress. Lewiss opponent for the Democratic nomination was black Georgia state senator Julian Bond, a close SNCC ally of Lewis during the early days of the civil rights movement. Pitting two prominent civil rights figures against each other, the race captured national attention and was marked by Bonds charges of Lewiss inarticulateness, as well as Lewiss contention of Bonds drug abuse. In the end, as political observers pointed out, Lewiss reputation as a diligent listener to the needs of black, elderly, and labor groups carried him past Bond and onto victory in the general election in November of 1986.

In his role as a U.S. congressman, Lewis has maintained a position as a prominent and respected figure who fights for civil rights in the United States. Some observers in the 1990s have argued, however, that he lacks effective strategies for adapting the movement to the current needs of blacks. In particular, Lewis was been criticized for his staunch support of the 1991 civil rights bill, which some Democrats and black leaders attacked as ineffective because of its failure to address the economic needs of blacks. However, Lewis possesses, as Applebome noted, a sense of what is missing in the civil rights debate: a sense of shared purpose, of basic morality, that speaks to blacks and whites alike. In the fall of 1991, Lewis was appointed one of three chief deputy whips in the House of Representatives. According to Harold Ford, Jr., writing in Black Enterprise, The move up positions Lewisas one of the most influential members of the House.

Developed Power in Congress

Over the next decade, Lewis continued to increase his influence in Congress and worked hard to preserve civil and other rights of citizens. At a gathering on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the same spot that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous I Have a Dream speech, Lewis and other prominent civil rights leaders applauded the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of citizens whose protests helped to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lewis summed up their effort thusly: I think it is fitting and appropriate for us to pause to celebrate the distance weve come and the progress we have made. Because of the actions of hundreds of our citizens, and because of the response of the U.S. Congress, President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, we have witnessed what I like to call a nonviolent revolution, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. And I say today, we are a better nation, and we are a better people, according to his office press release. Lewis published a memoir of his work during the civil rights movement in 1998 entitled Walking with the Wind. The book recorded his personal account of this volatile time in American history.

In his work in Congress, at the Faith and Politics Institute, and at schools and gatherings around the country, Lewis continues the work he started during the nonviolent revolution of the 1960s. In 2004, Lewis introduced a bill dubbed the Civil Rights Act of 2004 by other congressmen, according to Jet. If passed, it would help to protect the civil rights of American workers. He noted in a press release in 2004 that the work of the civil rights movement is far from done, adding that There are doors that remain unopened and some that have slammed even harder shut. Lewis has committed his life to continuing the struggle for equal rights for all.

Selected works

(With Michael DOrso) Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Sources

Books

Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, November 1991.

Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 1986; September 4, 1986.

Ebony, November 1, 2003.

Jet, May 8, 2000; October 2, 2000; August 11, 2003; March 1, 2004.

New Republic, November 24, 1986; July 1, 1996.

New Yorker, October 4, 1993.

New York Times, July 6, 1991.

Parade, February, 1996.

Time, December 29, 1975; August 25, 1986.

U.S. News and World Report, September 1, 2003.

On-line

Congressman John Lewis, http://www.house.gov/johnlewis/ (July 26, 2004).

Michael E. Mueller and Sara Pendergast

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Lewis, John 1940–

John Lewis 1940

Politician, civil rights activist

At a Glance

Sources

A Democratic congressman from Georgia since 1986, John Lewis is perhaps best known for his prominence in the U.S. civil rights movement. As a strict follower of nonviolent social protest, Lewis was a relentless organizer and participant in numerous sit-ins, freedom rides, and protest marches throughout the South in the tumultuous years of the 1960s. There were a lot of people who pretended they were civil rights heroes, professor Roger Wilkins told Peter Applebome in the New York Times, but Lewis was a true hero, an absolute hero, a man of absolute fearlessness and total integrity. For the first half of the 1960s, Lewis served as chairman of the influential Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later worked as a grass-roots organizer for the Field Foundation and ACTION. He shifted to mainstream politics in the early 1980s, first serving on Atlantas City Council and later as the representative from Georgias Fifth Congressional District. As a government official, Lewis still champions the civil rights message he once carried into the streets of the deep South. A lot of young people who came to Mississippi or Selma or the Freedom Rides thought you could come for a summer, a semester, a year, and create something new, Applebome quoted him as saying. But most of us knew this is not a struggle that lasts one day or one week or one month or one lifetime.

Lewis was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, the son of parents who operated a cotton and peanut farm in rural Pike County. As a young boy, he displayed a religious intensity and single-mindedness that would later characterize his unswerving dedication to civil rights. With aspirations to become a minister, he regularly preached to the chickens on his parents farm and also conducted baptisms for them. By the time he was a teenagerand despite a stammering voice and shynessLewis was a regular preacher in Baptist churches throughout the area. He became inspired in his ministerial pursuits by the weekly radio sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he listened to in the mid-1950s. The first person from his family to graduate from high school, Lewis moved at the age of seventeen to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began studies at the American Baptist Seminary. Lewiss first opportunity to meet King came in the late 1950s, when Lewis enlisted the help of the civil rights leader with his plans to gain admittance to all-white, segregated Troy State College in Alabama.

At a Glance

Born John Robert Lewis, February 21, 1940, in Troy, AL; son of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis; married Lillian Miles, December 21, 1968; children: John Miles. Education: Attended American Baptist Seminary, c. 1957-58; Fisk University, B.A., 1967. Religion: Baptist. Politics: Democrat.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), cofounder, 1960, chairman, 1963-66; Field Foundation, New York City, associate director, 1966-67, director of community organization projects for Southern Regional Council, Nashville, TN, beginning 1967, and executive director of Voter Education Project, Atlanta, GA, 1970-77; ran for U.S. Congress, Fifth District, GA, 1977; ACTION, director of domestic operations, 1977-80; Atlanta City Council member, 1982-86; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congressman from Fifth District of Georgia, beginning 1986, chief deputy whip, 1991.

Cofounder, Southern Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, 1966; member, White House Conference on Civil Rights, 1966; trustee, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation; member, advisory committee of biracial commission, Atlanta Board of Education; member of advisory board of Black Enterprises and of Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Social Change.

Awards: Named one of most influential blacks in the United States, Ebony, 1972; selected by Time as one of 200 rising leaders in the United States, 1974.

Member: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Scholarship, Education, and Defense Fund for Racial Equality; American Civil Liberties Union; Afro-American Institute.

When those plans failed to materialize, Lewis returned to Nashville and enrolled at Fisk University to pursue a degree in philosophy. There, influenced by theories of nonviolent forms of social protest, as well as the burgeoning efforts of blacks to protest segregation laws throughout the South, he took up the cause of civil rights. He became a student and follower of the teachings of clergyman and activist James Lawson. In 1960, Lewis and several other Nashville blacks conducted their first sit-ins in the citys lunch counters, taking their place in white-only designated areas. Despite being repeatedly arrested by police and harassed by the community, Lewis and his comrades continued their protests throughout Nashville. Eventually they joined forces with leaders of similar student groups across the South to form what became known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Lewiswith an unwavering belief in civil rights and nonviolent protest, as well as a willingness to risk his own lifesoon emerged as a foremost young leader of the civil rights movement. He was a frequent participant in the more dangerous forms of protest, including the so-called freedom rides, which challenged racial discrimination in bus facilities throughout the South. Lewis, like other freedom riders, endured vicious physical beatings, death threats, and numerous arrests for the rides, which were predominantly conducted in the summer of 1961. Lewis also led much-publicized marches against segregated movie theaters in Nashville, again prompting numerous arrests as well as physical and verbal assaults by local whites. Lewiss staunch commitment to continue with such front-line protestsdespite ever-present physical dangersdistinguished him as a role model of the early nonviolent protests. He was unanimously elected chairman of the SNCC in 1963, the same year in which he made a noteworthy speech at the march for civil rights in Washington, DC, criticizing the administration of President John F. Kennedy for not proceeding quickly enough with legislation ensuring civil rights.

As chairman of the SNCC, Lewis maintained a path of nonviolence toward achieving the goals of civil rights. Eventually, however, more militant elements of the organizationespousing principles of Black Powerbegan to grow restless with Lewiss leadership. In 1966, he was ousted as SNCC chairman by Stokely Carmichael, and shortly thereafter resigned. Lewis went on to work for the Field Foundation, first as a director of community organization projects in the Nashville area, and eventually becoming director of the foundations Voter Education Project (VEP) based in Atlanta. As VEP director from 1970 until 1977, Lewis led grass roots efforts to organize southern black voters, to provide political education to young people, and to offer a variety of voter-assistance programs. In 1977, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be director of U.S. operations for ACTION, a federal agency that oversees various economic recovery programs on the community level. That same year, Lewis first ran for public office, finishing second in the Democratic primary for Georgias Fifth Congressional District.

Wanting a more direct involvement with community groups, and critical of the federal governments efforts to aid the poor, Lewis became more involved in mainstream politics. In 1982, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council, a position in which he became known for his close attention to the needs of the poor and elderly. Lewiss popularity and respect among constituents became apparent in 1986, when he won a special run-off election for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress. Lewiss opponent for the Democratic nomination was black Georgia state senator Julian Bond, a close SNCC ally of Lewis during the early days of the civil rights movement. Pitting two prominent civil rights figures against each other, the race captured national attention and was marked by Bondss charges of Lewiss inarticulateness, as well as Lewiss contention of Bondss drug abuse. In the end, as political observers pointed out, Lewiss reputation as a diligent listener to the needs of black, elderly, and labor groups carried him past Bond and onto victory in the general election in November of 1986.

In his role as a U.S. congressman, Lewis has maintained a position as a prominent and respected figure who fights for civil rights in the United States. Some observers in the 1990s have argued, however, that he lacks effective strategies for adapting the movement to the current needs of blacks. In particular, Lewis has been criticized for his staunch support of the 1991 civil rights bill, which some Democrats and black leaders have attacked as ineffective because of its failure to address the economic needs of blacks. However, Lewis does possess, as Applebome noted, a sense of what is missing in the civil rights debate: a sense of shared purpose, of basic morality, that speaks to blacks and whites alike. In the fall of 1991, Lewis was appointed one of three chief deputy whips in the House of Representatives. According to Harold Ford, Jr., writing in Black Enterprise, The move up positions Lewis as one of the most influential members of the House.

Sources

Books

Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, November 1991.

Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 1986; September 4, 1986.

New Republic, November 24, 1986.

New York Times, July 6, 1991.

Time, August 25, 1986

Michael E. Mueller

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"Lewis, John 1940–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Lewis, John

John Lewis

Pianist, composer, arranger

For The Record

Selected discography

Sources

As the musical director and primary composer of the Modern Jazz Quartet throughout the groups entire history, pianist/arranger John Lewis proved that a weakness for the classics can lead to greatness in contemporary music. Searching for an outlet for his interests in bop, the blues, and jazz, as well as the compositions of classical composers such as Bach, Lewis, in 1952, formed the enduring and highly influential quartet, consisting of a usual lineup featuring a piano, bass, drums, and vibraharp. In the December 30, 1953 issue of Down Beat magazine and quoted by Eugene Holley of Down Beat, Nat Hentoff interviewed the young pianist about his new combo. In describing the outlook he wanted to take with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis articulated, I think that the audience for jazz can be widened if we strengthen our work with structure. If there is more of a reason for whats going on, therell be more overall sense and, therefore, more interest for the listener.

In the five decades that followed this statement, Lewis, possessing a cool piano playing style like that of the legendary bandleader Count Basie, a technique that made every single note count, watched his single idea become a reality. Along with his partners in the Modern

For The Record

Born John Aaron Lewis on May 3, 1920 in La Grange, IL; married to Mirjana. Education: Earned Bachelors degree in music and anthropology from the University of New Mexico; earned Masters degree in music.

Started playing local gigs as a teenager in Albuquerque, NM; served in the United States Army during World War II; moved to New York City, 1945; member of Dizzy Gillespies big band, 1946-48; played with Miles Davis and others, 1948-49; incorporated the Modern Jazz Quartet, January 14, 1952; disbanded quartet, 1974; reunited quartet, 1981; co-founded and conducted Orchestra U.S.A., 1962-65; conducted the American Jazz Orchestra, 1985; headed the faculty at Lenox School of Jazz, 1957-60; taught jazz improvisation at Harvard University and City College, 1975-82; disbanded the Modern Jazz Quartet and focused on solo work, released Evolution, 1999.

Addresses: Record company Atlantic Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10104, (212) 707-2144.

Jazz Quartet, vibraharpist and featured soloist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath (who replaced original member Ray Brown soon after the quartets formation), and drummer Connie Kay (who replaced original drummer Kenny Clarke in 1955), Lewis helped jazz gain a new respectability within the classical community, but always kept each performance new and exciting. Throughout the 20th century, the quartet reigned as one of the jazz worlds most appealing and innovative small combos, attracting a world-wide audience. The Modern Jazz Quartet would have stretched their longevity even further had it not been for Jacksons passing from liver cancer on November 9, 1999. His death marked the end of the group.

While most groups lose their enthusiasm over time, the Modern Jazz Quartet, through their legendary interplay and Lewiss synthesis of American and European musical forms, was able to maintain an energy that lasted, excluding a hiatus between 1974 and 1981, nearly half a century. We enjoyed making music. When we played on stage, we played for our pleasure first, Lewis offered as an explanation for the quartets perseverance, as quoted by Eugene Holley in Down Beat. If somebody else enjoyed it, fine, but it wasnt created for that purpose. We had a responsibility for playing for the public, to let them participate by understanding and gaining pleasure from what we did. But thats not the primary thing. The primary thing for us was the interplay, which took a long time to achieve. The whole point of a composition is to make a piece that incorporates improvisation into it as seamlessly as possible, so you wont know whats improvised and whats not. It took a long time for that to happen, but that was the goal we worked toward achieving.

John Aaron Lewis was born on May 3, 1920 in La Grange, Illinois, but after his father died, he moved with his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time, Albuquerque differed from most other American cities, given the communitys unique mix of people from a variety of cultures and no real rules of segregation. In addition to blacks and whites, Albuquerque also had a large population of Mexican and Spanish Americans, as well as Indians. According to Lewis, the group that suffered the greatest hardships in New Mexico were the Hispanics, rather than the African Americans. Lewiss new multicultural environment in the Southwest also mirrored his own heritage. In my family you found everything you could imagine, he informed Holley. Cherokee, Comanche, Irish and the French part came from Martinique. My great grandmothers husband was one of the Buffalo Soldiers from the 7th Cavalry. My grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Spanish and French.

Lewis, whose mother died when he was four years old, took his first piano lesson from his aunt at the age of seven and was soon playing all the time with his cousins. We had pianos in our houses, no TVs. You had to find other was to entertain yourself. We belonged to the Methodist Church, but on some Sundays, these people from the Holy Rollers church would ask my grandmother, who raised me, if I could come and play, and they paid me 50 cents, Lewis recalled to Holley. During his teenage years, Lewis and his cousins played gigs with several older, influential musicians, including a local pianist and arranger named Eddie Carson. In addition to local musicians, the Count Basie big band, Lester Young, and Duke Ellington played in Albuquerque from time to time. One performance by Ellington, in particular, left Lewis speechless. The most incredible visual experience Ive ever had was with Duke Ellingtons orchestra in 1939, 1940. Hes still my role model.

After high school, Lewis enrolled at the University of New Mexico, graduating in 1942 with a Bachelors degree in music and anthropology. Then, he served in the United States Army during World War II. While stationed in Europe, he played in a special services band with an innovative drummer from Pittsburgh named Kenny Klook Clarke, an original member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Following his military discharge in 1945, Lewis relocated to New York City in order to pursue a career in music. He was especially intrigued by the emergence of several small groups, the most well-known led by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, that were adding classically-inspired melodies to their music instead of simply taking lines from the days popular songs, a trend that had dominated jazz up to that time.

Thus, from 1946 until 1948, Lewis played with the Dizzy Gillespie big band as a member of the rhythm section, which also included Clarke, Jackson, and Brown. His earliest memories of blending jazz and classical music occurred during a September 1947 appearance with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall, for which Lewis had contributed two arrangements, Emanon and Two Bass Hit, and debuted his Toca-cata for Trumpet. That same year he toured with Gillespie in Paris, then returned to the United States to work as a sideman with Illinois Jacket, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker, for whom he recorded an important solo on Parkers Mood. After leaving Gillespies orchestra, Lewis from 1948 to 1949 played with a group of other young, forward-thinking musicians, including Davis, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, drummer Max Roach, and composers John Carsi, George Russell, and Gil Evans. Their musical efforts resulted in Daviss influential Birth of the Cool recordings.

Continuing to broaden the possibilities of jazz, Lewis, Jackson, Clarke, and Heath, who replaced Brown, who left in order to work with his wife Ella Fitzgerald, began recording together in the early-1950s and officially incorporated the Modern Jazz Quartet on January 14, 1952. After Lewis earned his Masters degree in music in 1953, the quartet worked steadily in New York, performing in clubs and recording for the Prestige label. In spite of some early criticism that they werent playing true jazz, the group pressed on. However, Clarke left in 1955 and moved to Paris, where he lived until his death in 1985. His replacement was a versatile drummer named Connie Kay, already known for his sessions work for Atlantic Records.

Just one year later in 1956, the Modern Jazz Quartet received a significant boost when they embarked on the historic Birdland tour to Paris with Davis, Lester Young, and Bud Powell. By the time they returned to America, the members of the quartet had become major stars, as audiences marveled at the groups telepathic interplay and regal stage clothes. From the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s, the quartet enabled Lewis to explore a wide range of musical concepts. He wrote and arranged over 100 compositionsmost of which were released by Atlantic Recordsduring this 20-year period, including blues numbers, ballads, tone poems, soundtracks, concertos, and orchestral works.

Some of the quartets most acclaimed recordings included the soulful Pyramid released in 1959, the Latin-tinged Collaboration released in 1964, the swinging The European Concert released in 1960, and Blues on Bach released in 1973. However, years of constant touring had taken a toll on the Modern Jazz Quartet as the 1970s got underway. Thus, the group called it quits in 1974. Jackson cited financial frustrations as his reason for wanting to break up the quartet, but Lewis called attention to more personal reasons: I didnt have an opportunity to know my children, he explained to Holley.

Following the split, Lewis continued to work on outside projects, interests he had started pursuing long before the groups so-called retirement. He released his first orchestral album, European Windows, in 1958, followed by Improvised Meditations & Excursions and Wonderful World of Jazz, two of his early piano-based albums. Around this time, Lewis also served as director for the Monterey Jazz Festival, and went on to co-found and conduct Orchestra U.S.A., from 1962 through 1965, and the American Jazz Orchestra in 1985. Also a strong believer in the value of music education, Lewis headed the faculty at the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts from 1957 to 1960 and taught jazz improvisation at Harvard University and City College from 1975 to 1982.

Although officially disbanded, the Modern Jazz Quartet continued to play occasional gigs. Then in 1981, after an offer came to tour Japan, the group decided to get back together. Some highlights from their comeback years included 1988s For Ellington, 1991s MJQAt40, a four-CD retrospective, and MJQ and Friends, recorded with the late Harry Sweets Edison. After the death of longtime drummer Kay on November 30, 1994, the quartet operated on a semi-active basis until Jacksons death in late-1999.

Throughout most of his career, Lewiss exceptional work with the Modern Jazz Quartet tended to take precedence over his solo aspirations. However, the late-1990s saw a renewed interest in Lewis as a pianist. He started performing solo recitals and conducting orchestras, and several of his early recordings have been reissued. In 1999, he released an acclaimed piano solo CD entitled Evolution that included a haunting version of his classic ballad Django, an elegy for the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Lewis resides with his Croation-born wife, Mirjana, in New York on Manhattans East Side. A humble, soft-spoken man, Lewis say he doesnt dwell to much over his accomplishments as a composer and pianist. I dont even think about that, he said to Holley. Im to busy trying to make music and be with my family. Now, I have one grandchild, Samuel. And I have time to spend with him.

Selected discography

John Lewis

Modern Jazz Society, Verve, 1955.

Grand Encounter, Pacific Jazz, 1956.

The John Lewis Piano, Atlantic, 1956.

Afternoon in Paris, Atlantic, 1956.

European Windows, RCA, 1958.

Improvised Meditations & Excursions, Atlantic, 1959.

Odds Against Tomorrow, United Artists, 1959.

Wonderful World of Jazz, Atlantic, 1960.

John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions, Atlantic, 1960.

Original Sin, Atlantic, 1961.

A Milanese Story, Atlantic, 1962

Essence, Atlantic, 1962.

European Encounter, Atlantic, 1962.

Animal Dance, Atlantic, 1962.

P.O. V, Columbia, 1975.

Bach Preludes and Fugues, Verve, 1984.

The Bridge Game, Philips, 1984.

The Chess Game, Vol. 1, Verve, 1987.

Delaunays Delemma, EmArcy, 1987.

The Chess Game, Vol. 2, Verve, 1988.

Midnight in Paris, EmArcy, 1988.

The American Jazz Orchestra, East-West, 1989.

Evolution, Atlantic, 1999.

Modern Jazz Quartet

Modern Jazz Quartet, Original Jazz Classics, 1951.

The Modern Jazz Quartet Plays Jazz Classics, Prestige, 1952.

The Modern Jazz Quartet Plays for Lovers, Prestige, 1952.

The Modern Jazz Quartet, Fantasy, 1952.

The Artistry of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Prestige, 1952.

Django, Original Jazz Classics, 1953.

Modern Jazz Quartet, Vol. 2, Prestige, 1954.

Concorde, Original Jazz Classics, 1955.

Fontessa, Atlantic, 1956.

Modern Jazz Quartet at the Music Inn, Vol. 1, Atlantic, 1956.

One Never Knows, Atlantic, 1957.

No Sun in Venice, Atlantic, 1957.

Third Stream Music, Atlantic, 1957.

Modern Jazz Quartet at the Music Inn, Vol. 2, Atlantic, 1958.

Pyramid, Atlantic, 1959.

Odds Against Tomorrow, Blue Note, 1959.

European Concert, Vol. 1, Atlantic, 1960.

European Concert, Vol. 2, Atlantic, 1960.

Dedicated to Connie, Atlantic, 1960.

The Comedy, Atlantic, 1960.

Patterns, United Artists, 1960.

Lonely Woman, Atlantic, 1962.

A Quartet Is a Quartet Is a Quartet, Atlantic, 1963.

The Sheriff, Atlantic, 1963.

Jazz Dialogue, Atlantic, 1965.

Blues at Carnegie Hall, Atlantic, 1966.

Under the Jasmine Tree, Apple, 1967.

Space, Apple, 1969.

Plastic Dreams, Atlantic, 1971.

Blues on Bach, Atlantic, 1973.

The Last Concert, Atlantic, 1974.

More from the Last Concert, Atlantic, 1974.

The Complete Last Concert, Atlantic, 1974.

Together Again at Montreux Jazz, Pablo, 1982.

Echoes, Pablo, 1984.

Topsy: This Ones for Basie, Pablo, 1985.

Three Windows, Atlantic, 1987.

For Ellington, East West, 1988.

Rose of the Rio Grande, Capitol, 1989.

Celebration, Atlantic, 1992.

Night at the Opera, Jazz Anthology, 1994.

In Concert, Prelude, 1996.

Sources

Books

Swenson, John, editor, Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide, Random House, 1999.

Periodicals

American Visions, February/March 2000.

Commentary, January 2000.

Down Beat, October 1997; April 2000.

New York Times, September 7, 1997.

Online

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (June 22, 2000).

Laura Hightower

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