John Aaron Lewis stands among the giants of modern jazz, and the talented musician, composer and educator will be honored with an evening of music and memories on Thursday, July 14 at 7pm at the South Broadway Cultural Center.
The event is co-presented by the City of Albuquerque's Cultural Services Department, South Broadway Cultural Center, the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs, the New Mexico Jazz Festival and Outpost Performance Space. The evening will feature a video production focused on Lewis' life and music interspersed with live entertainment by the Douglas Caldwell Trio, featuring Caldwell on drums, Michael Anthony on guitar, and Colin Deuble on bass. Popular local songstress Tracey Whitney will bring powerful vocals, and pianist/vocalist Daniel Cummings will perform music from the era of John's early life here in Albuquerque.
Raised by his grandmother, Edith English, after losing both of his parents as a very young child, John Lewis grew up in the South Broadway neighborhood and graduated from Albuquerque High School, then enrolled in the music program at UNM, where he studied under Dr. Walter Keller, for whom UNM's Keller Hall is named.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, he served three years in Europe before returning to Albuquerque, where he was advised to move to New York City and enroll in the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. He earned his Bachelor's and Masters' degrees and later he was elected to the school's Board of Directors. John Lewis established the Lenox School of Jazz, the first school devoted exclusively to the study of jazz, at the school. The Manhattan School of Music awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 1996. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from UNM in 1980.
John was co-founder and music director for the world-famous Modern Jazz Quartet, a prolific composer, including creating score for films, and Musical Director for the prestigious Monterrey Jazz Festival for 23 years. After MJQ ended its 22-year reign in the world of jazz, John Lewis formed the American Jazz Orchestra, performing the music of America throughout the country and celebrating the music of the man who helped inspire him to choose jazz, Duke Ellington.
Even with his worldwide touring schedule, Lewis returned often to Albuquerque to visit family. The Modern Jazz Quartet performed here several times, including a performance with the Albuquerque Symphony (later known as the New Mexico Symphony).
The celebratory event is being held as a prelude to the 2016 New Mexico Jazz Festival. Tom Guralnick, Executive Director of the Outpost Productions and organizer of the Jazz Festival said of this year's John Lewis Celebration, "What better way to kick off this year's 11th Annual New Mexico Jazz Festival than with a celebration of one of the true icons of jazz, the great John Aaron Lewis, who spent his years from childhood through college in our city. It is an honor to celebrate him as part of our festival and to do so with the music of some of Albuquerque's finest jazz musicians, the Douglas Cardwell Trio with guest vocalist, Tracey Whitney."
Guralnick added, "As an organization which has been involved in the City's John Lewis Celebrations since they began-starting with the naming of the John Lewis Theater at South Broadway Cultural Center and accompanying symposium in 2002, and then joining the City of Albuquerque as a co-producer of the inaugural celebration of John Lewis' birthday in May of 2014. Lewis was also honored with a concert by John Lewis' nephew, Eric Bibb, at the Outpost on June 1, 2015, it made complete sense this year for Outpost to roll this important 3rd Annual celebration into our two week, two-city, New Mexico Jazz Festival."
Please join us for a family-friendly evening of music and celebration. A reception honoring John Lewis will be held following the program, offering an opportunity to meet members of the Lewis family and the performers.
Tickets are $10 per person and are available online now at www.southbroadwaytickets.com.
Special pricing for groups of 10 or more are $6 each. Children 12 and under are free. For more information on the event, please visit cabq.gov/south-broadway-cultural-center.