Mel Lewis Day
May 10, 1929 – February 2, 1990
Drummer and bandleader Mel Lewis was born on May 10, 1929 in Buffalo, NY.
The son of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, he started playing professionally as a teen and his first big break came with a spot with Stan Kenton in his early twenties.
What started as an informal jam session lead to a 20+ year run of Monday nights at the Village Vanguard.
In 1954 he joined Stan Kenton’s Orchestra before moving to L.A. in 1957 where he found work in the big bands of Terry Gibbs and Gerald Wilson.
Lewis returned to New York in 1960 accepting a position with Gerry Mulligan’s “Concert Jazz Band.”
During the mid-1960s he began leading informal big band jam sessions featuring top New York musicians which gave birth to the “Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.”
This group would eventually land a regular Monday night gig at the renowned jazz club Village Vanguard and after Jones sudden departure to Europe Lewis assumed sole control of the band.
First recording as a leader for San Fransico Jazz Records in 1950, Mel Lewis released the album “Mel Lewis and Friends” in 1976 featuring a sextet.
Mel Lewis is featured on Swiss TV’s “Jazz-in” in 1984.
Mel Lewis, drums
“Toots” Thielemans, harmonica
Mads Vinding, bass
Horst Jankowski, piano
Pierre Cavalli, guitar