George Lewis
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Chicago's trombonist George Lewis (1952), who graduated in Philosophy from Yale University, was emblematic of the second generation of AACM musicians. He pushed the boundaries not only of jazz music but of music in general, experimenting with interactive computer music and becoming a multimedia artist. His groundbreaking Solo Trombone Record (november 1976) contained the 20-minute dissonant and overdubbing tour de force of Piece For Three Trombones Simultaneously, a journey inside the soul and the history of the instrument, and pioneered on the trombone the kind of extended techniques that had been applied mainly to the saxophone. Shadowgraph (november 1977) ventured into chamber jazz with the 13-minute Monads for trombone, piano (Anthony Davis), bass clarinet (Douglas Ewart), violin (Leroy Jenkins), soprano saxophone (Roscoe Mitchell) and cello (Adbul Wadud) and no bass or percussion, the nine-minute Triple Slow Mix for a trio of sousaphone (Lewis) and two pianos (Davis and Muhal Richard Abrams) that were recorded in separate stereo channels, and the eleven-minute Shadowgraph 5 - Sextet for trombone, piano (Abrams), flutes (Ewart), violin (Jenkins), saxophones (Mitchell) and cello (Wadud). The fifth was only one of the Shadowgraph Series (1977) for "creative orchestra". Number 1, 2 and 3 were only recorded in october 1999. These "rhythmless" pieces sounded oneiric and otherworldly, because Lewis sacrificed emotion and dynamics to foster textural and subliminal trance. The live in the studio 44-minute piece of Chicago Slow Dance (1977) for a quartet with Lewis (on electronics, trombone), Ewart (on bassoon, tenor saxophone, flute, bass clarinet), JD Parran (baritone saxophone, piccolo, Indian nagaswaram reed instrument) and Teitelbaum (synthesizer), released only four years later, presented an eerie landscape of short repetitive horn phrases, insect-like percussive noises, sirene-like drones, sparse slow dirges, warped psychedelic timbres, pastoral flute melodies. The side-long Imaginary Suite on George Lewis Douglas Ewart (october 1978), a duo with Ewart on flutes, was Lewis' first attempt at incorporating electronic instruments and electronically-modified instruments into the grammar of jazz music. Homage to Charles Parker (1979) contained two side-long compositions performed by the same quartet of Lewis, Davis, Ewart and RIchard Teitelbaum on synthesizers. The extremely techinal structure of Blues contrasted with Homage to Charles Parker, a "tribute" to the jazz master only in spirit (highlighted by a poignant Ewart alto solo). In practice, they were both studies on how to create impressionistic soundscapes.

But Lewis was devoting more and more of his intelligence to multimedia installations such as Voyager (1981), his first major computer interactive composition, in which the computer manipulates the performance of the improvisors in real time.

From Saxophone & Trombone (may 1980) documents a collaboration between Evan Parker and George Lewis.

He recorded very little as a trombonist after 1981. Two lengthy improvisations by Derek Bailey (guitar), Joelle Leandre (double bass), Evan Parker (tenor and soprano saxes) and George Lewis (trombone) were collected on 28 Rue Dunois Juillet 1982 (july 1982). The 25-minute Changing With the Times on Changing With the Times (march 1993), his first album with vocals, was a postmodernist exercise in deconstructing the history of jazz music. Slideride (august 1994) was a trombone quartet with Ray Anderson, Craig Harris and Gary Valente. Triangulation (september 1996) was a trio with reed player Vinny Golia and bassist Bertram Turetzky. The Usual Turmoil and Other Duets (1997) were duets with kotoist Miya Masaoka. Conversations (november 1997) were duets with bassist Bertham Turetzky.

Lewis' most ambitious compositions were: Virtual Discourse (1993) for infrared-controlled "virtual percussion" and four classically-trained percussionists, Endless Shout (1994) for piano, Collage (1995) for poet and chamber orchestra, North Star Boogaloo (1996) for percussionist and computer, Ring Shout Ramble (1998) for saxophone quartet, Signifying Riffs (1998) for string quartet and percussion.

Streaming (january 2005) documents a session by Muhal Richard Abrams (on piano, percussion, flute), George Lewis (on trombone and laptop) and Roscoe Mitchell (on saxophones).

Transatlantic Visions (june 2008) documents a live duet with Joelle Leandre on double bass.

The trio of Bertram Turetzky (on double bass), Vinny Golia (on woodwinds) and George Lewis recorded Triangulation II (december 2003).

Les Exercices Spirituels collects Les Exercices Spirituels (composed in 2010), that combines notated music, improvisation and computer music, Hello Mary Lou for large ensemble and electronics, and Ikons for acoustic octet. Interactive Trio features two pianos: Amina Claudine Myers and a second piano played by a computer.

In december 2012 GIO (Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra) premiered the electroacoustic work Artificial Life 2007 (rerecorded in december 2012).

Sonic Rivers (december 2013) was a collaboration among George Lewis on trombone and electronics, John Zorn on alto sax and Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.

Creative Construction Set (november 2015) was a collaboration with the Berlin-based 24-member ensemble Splitter Orchester that includes Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and Axel Dorner (trumpet), plus nine reedists, cello, violin, percussion, guitar, two pianos, several constructed instruments, and six computer and electronics.

Shift (july 2016) collects duos, trios and quartets, with Australian saxophonist Rob Burke (here on tenor & soprano), Paul Grabowsky on piano & snare drum and Mark Helias on acoustic bass.

The opera Afterword (2017) debuted in Berkeley.

The 45-minute four-movement suite of Metamorphic Rock (december 2007) was performed by the 18-member Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (guitar, four reeds, three brass, two guitars, piano, cello, three double basses, two drums, shakuhachi, laptop and voice.

Assemblage (august 2016) contains four compositions performed by the collective Ensemble Dal Niente, including Emma Hospelhorn (flutes), Katie Schoepflin (clarinets), Taimur Sullivan (saxophone), Tarn Travers and Minghuan Xu (violins), Ammie Brod (viola), Chris Wild (cello), Ben Melsky (harp), Winston Choi and Mabel Kwan (piano), John Corkill and Gregory Beyer (percussion): the 14-minute Mnemosis (2012), the 13-minute Hexis (2013), the 15-minute Assemblage (2013) and the 13-minute The Mangle of Practice (2014).

Voyage And Homecoming (february 2018) was a live collaboration between Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino, alto and soprano saxes) and George Lewis (laptop and trombone), including the 25-minute Voyager.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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