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Mel Lewis and His Big Band

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Album Review

Mel Lewis & His Big Band are heard in a 1990 concert in Jerusalem, videotaped by Israeli television. The drummer and his band are on fire in this rare opportunity for him to tour overseas with a large ensemble. Much of the focus is on the tightly knit ensembles, with most of the solos coming from the all-star sax section, including Joe Lovano, Billy Drewes, Dick Oatts, Ralph Lalama, and Gary Smulyan, all of whom are featured in the closing number "Little Pixie." Pianist Phil Markowitz also shines in the spotlight, though the two standards performed by vocalist Lynn Roberts will likely leave fans of the band impatient for more instrumentals. Lewis, not one to feature himself, does solo briefly. The lighting is a bit insufficient at times and some soloists occasionally aren't picked up very well by the microphones, but the music more than makes up for any minor flaws. This is a reissue of the earlier View Video VHS, adding a few bonus features.


Born: 10 May 1929 in Buffalo, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Although he was generally reluctant to solo, Mel Lewis was considered one of the definitive big band drummers, a musician who was best at driving an orchestra, but could also play quite well with smaller units. He started playing professionally when he was 15 and worked with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn (1948), Alvino Rey, Ray Anthony, and Tex Beneke. Lewis gained a great deal of recognition in the jazz world for his work with Stan Kenton (1954-1957), making the large ensemble swing hard. In 1957,...
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Mel Lewis and His Big Band, Mel Lewis
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