John Lewis (1920-2001)

When I was first learning to play jazz, my teachers recommended that I transcribe Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark. Now that I am teaching jazz many years later, I’m wondering why no one told me to check out John Lewis. His playing is so economical, melodic, and tasteful.

I had never really delved into his work, aside from his wildly successfuly, classically influenced Modern Jazz Quartet. So it was such a pleasant surprise to take a look at his early bebop solos. For a beginning jazz learner, they are accessible and not as intimidating as the breakneck sixteenth-note runs of Bud Powell. They tend to use a lot of space and eighth notes.

I regret that I never saw the great John Lewis live. Anyway, here are a couple solos of his that I’ve been transcribing for a beginning jazz pianist. Maybe you might learn something from them too!

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