EXCERPTS FROM THE 2018 & 2019 NEW MEXICO JAZZ FESTIVAL JOHN LEWIS CELEBRATIONS
Sponsored by and presented in partnership with the John Aaron Lewis Legacy Project
AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING HERE MONDAY, MAY 3 – MAY 31, 2021
Produced by Reinhard Lorenz of First Eye Films, Tom Guralnick, Outpost Founder & Executive Director; and Bill & Christina Houston— the John Aaron Lewis Legacy Project.
Outpost, in partnership with the John Aaron Lewis Legacy Project, is pleased to present another in our series of New Mexico Jazz Festival Online Presentations – The 2021 John Lewis Birthday Celebration – featuring footage from the 2018 and 2019 New Mexico Jazz Festival’s John Aaron Lewis Celebrations. We began our New Mexico Jazz Festival Revisited series in December 2020 with the 7th Annual New Mexico Jazz Festival Revisited presentation featuring recorded material culled from the 2012 New Mexico Jazz Festival which was followed by NEA Jazz Master, drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath and retired NEA Chairman, A.B. Spellman in a Meet The NEA Jazz Master virtual event this past February. Our third New Mexico Jazz Festival Online Presentation – The John Lewis Birthday Celebration –honors the legacy of jazz legend, pianist, composer and educator, John Aaron Lewis, founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet, who grew up in the South Broadway neighborhood of Albuquerque. Lewis was born on May 3, 1920 and died in 2001. That same year, the South Broadway Cultural Center auditorium was named the John Lewis Theatre in his honor. In 2014, the first annual John Lewis Celebration was held and became part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival in 2015. The annual community-wide event recognizes Lewis’ immense talents and contributions, while honoring his life here is Albuquerque.
The John Lewis Virtual Birthday Celebration will highlight footage from the John Aaron Lewis Celebration concerts, which were held in the John Lewis Theater at the South Broadway Cultural Center during the 2018 and 2019 New Mexico Jazz Festivals as well as footage from the wonderful John Lewis Celebration Youth Clinics. The 2018 John Lewis Celebration featured Grammy nominated Blues guitarist, singer-songwriter, Eric Bibb (John Lewis’s nephew) accompanied by multi-instrumentalist, roots music master, Michael Jerome Browne as well as a performance of Bibb’s compositions and work by John Lewis arranged for String Quartet and piano by Santa Fe pianist/composer/arranger John Rangel. The string quartet, organized by John Lewis’ cousin, violinist and Santa Fe resident, William “Bill” Houston, also features violinist David Felberg; violist Shanti Randall; and cellist Joel Becktell. The son of folk musician Leon Bibb, and nephew of John Lewis, Eric Bibb was raised in New York in a household filled with music and family friends that included Pete Seeger, Odetta, Bob Dylan, and Paul Robeson (Bibb’s godfather). He has recorded and performed with Taj Mahal, Pops and Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Mamadou Diabate, Rory Block, Habib Koite and many others. The recipient of nine W.C. Handy Blues Music Awards, he was also named the 2013 Memphis Blues Foundation’s Artist of the Year. The 2019 John Lewis Celebration featured classically trained pianist and composer Aaron Diehl and his quartet with vibraphonist Warren Wolf plus bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Pete Van Nostrand (thus replicating the instrumentation of John Lewis’ world renowned Modern Jazz Quartet). Diehl has made an indelible mark on the jazz world over the last 17 years, showing a rare affinity for early jazz and mid-20th century “third-stream” music. He became the youngest ever Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist in 2014, performing his composition, “Three Streams of Expression,” which was dedicated to John Lewis. Warren Wolf shares Diehl’s deep appreciation for both jazz and classical music and has played and/or recorded with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Christian McBride’s Inside Straight, the SFJAZZ Collective, Joey DeFrancesco, Terri Lyne Carrington, and many others. Both of these JALC concerts were truly memorable, as were the JALC Youth Clinics, and we are happy to be able to share some of the highlights with you in this special virtual celebration!
Also included in this New Mexico Jazz Festival Revisited event will be recently recorded zoom interviews hosted by Bill Houston, with Aaron Diehl who will speak about the music of John Lewis and his connection to it, as well as with Eric Bibb who will focus more on the large and very talented Lewis family of which both Bibb and Houston are a part.
John Lewis grew up in Albuquerque and graduated from Albuquerque High after which he attended the University of New Mexico majoring in Music and Anthropology. He went on to international renown as a performer, composer, and educator, and as a founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet. A pioneer in arranging and composing music that fused the disparate styles of classical and jazz, he recorded with leading artists and ensembles and served as the director and musical consultant of the Monterrey Jazz Festival for 35 years. In 1980, he received an Honorary Doctorate from UNM. The John Aaron Lewis Legacy Project (JALLP) celebrates the life and legacy of one of Albuquerque’s most renowned residents, African-American pianist, composer and educator, John Aaron Lewis. Its endeavors include raising awareness of his legacy and the importance of jazz in American culture and establishing Albuquerque as the home for John Lewis’ legacy. JALLP work falls under three major areas of focus: performance, education, and the legacy.