Lewis, John (Aaron )
- Wolfram Knauer
(b La Grange, IL, May 3, 1920; d New York, NY, March 29, 2001). American jazz pianist and composer. Growing up in Albuquerque, Lewis received piano lessons from age seven. Among his first influences were Earl Hines and Jay McShann. Lewis studied music and anthropology at the University of New Mexico but was drafted into the Army (1942–5) before he could graduate. He served in the Special Services in Europe where he met the drummer Kenny Clarke with whom he played in an army band. After his return he heard Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet on the radio and decided to move to New York in 1945. He played in clubs on 52nd Street, in bands led by Allen Eager, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Hot Lips Page, and others. Kenny Clarke recommended him to Gillespie in whose big band Lewis played from September 1946 until 1948. He also studied piano, composition, orchestration, and music theory at the Manhattan School of Music. When the Gillespie band toured Europe, Lewis stayed in Paris where he composed the jazz standard “Afternoon in Paris.” After his return to New York he recorded with Charlie Parker and collaborated with Miles Davis in writing music for and playing in the trumpeter’s nonet, later to become known as the “Birth of the Cool” band. In the early 1950s Lewis played with Lester Young’s quartet as well as with Clifford Brown, and he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald on a tour through the United States and Australia....