[Dixielandjazz] George Lewis

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 13 14:30:29 PDT 2009

On Oct 13, 2009, at 3:00 PM, dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com  

> <richard.flecknell at ntlworld.com> wrote (polite snip)
> Hello folks,
> this is for the Americans (North that is). . . .
> My question is this, what was the reaction, good/bad, when the  
> George Lewis Band was unleased to you. Collegiate/Ice Cream, I was  
> gobsmacked and swept away, still trying to catch my breath.
> Being younger than some here (guesswork and deduction) I and others  
> back in the Homeland have, often, no idea what went in your culture  
> other than jazz books. First hand accounts please.

Dear Richard:

George Lewis took New York City by storm. I think he was with Bunk  
Johnson in the 40s at the Stuyvesant Casino, but I did not see/hear  
him then. I saw/heard him in the 1950s with his own band.

He was the subject of an article, with photos, in either Life (or  
Look?) Magazine circa 1950 and that helped him gain enormous  
popularity in NYC. Especially since the New Orleans Revival was in  
full flower there. He also got a lot of favorable press from NYC  
writers like Heywood Hale Broun. He was viewed as one of the original  
New Orleans Jazz players, self taught with some rough edges, but  

I saw him a time of two at Child's Paramount in NYC and loved the  
band. He played to packed houses whenever he was there. He also  
started touring, most notably in Japan where he bowled them over. He  
spawned a plethora of Japanese "Lewis clone" clarinet players and  
bands. Even today, he is enormously popular in Japan, according to the  
trumpet player in my band who spent 10 years there with a US Army band..

I loved his tone and the band always swung. Others thought him a bit  
unschooled as a player, but that didn't matter to me. As a young  
wannabe, I thought that's what New Orleans Jazz was.

Today, he still has quite a few followers. They run the gamut from  
Woody Allen to Dr. Michael White here in the USA, and I guess, many  
more in the UK and Japan.

Steve Barbone

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