Victor Lewis

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Victor Lewis
Born (1950-05-20) May 20, 1950 (age 73)
Omaha, Nebraska
Years active1974–present

Victor Lewis (born May 20, 1950) is an American jazz drummer, composer, and educator.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Victor Lewis was born on May 20, 1950, in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, Richard Lewis, who played saxophone and mother, Camille, a pianist-vocalist were both classically trained musicians who performed with many of the "territory bands" that toured the midwest in the forties. Consequently, Victor grew up with jazz as well as popular and European classical music at home. He would also go with his father to hear touring big bands as they passed through Omaha, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman.[3]

Victor started studying music when he was ten and a half years old. Too small for the acoustic bass, he began on cello, but switched to the drums a year and a half later inspired by the drum line marching in holiday parades. As part of his formal studies, he also studied classical piano.


By the time he was 15, Victor began playing drums professionally on the local scene. As one of the few drummers who could read music, he jumped ahead of many of the older musicians for calls on commercial jobs. His big band jazz drumming style was greatly changed after hearing a record of Tony Williams with Miles Davis' Quintet. In addition to Williams, he was greatly influenced by the jazz combo styles of Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. He started his own small group to play around town and quickly ascended to playing with nationally known jazz musicians, the first of which was accompanying Hank Crawford in Omaha.

In 1974 Lewis moved to Manhattan, Victor's first gig there was a night at Boomer's with bassist Buster Williams, where he met trumpeter Woody Shaw. Lewis joined the trumpeter's band, becoming a steady member, and a just a few months later he made his recording debut on Shaw's classic, The Moontrane. In the early seventies, the fusion and pop-jazz scenes were becoming popular. Quickly adapting, the drummer was soon recording with Joe Farrell, Earl Klugh, Hubert Laws, Carla Bley and David Sanborn. On his first outing with Sanborn, Lewis recorded his own compositions, "Seventh Avenue" and "Sophisticated Squaw" (a/k/a "Agaya") and later "The Legend of the Cheops."

In 1980, Lewis left Shaw's group to join Stan Getz, in a long collaboration that lasted until the saxophonist's death in 1991. Throughout the eighties, Lewis was one of jazz's busiest freelancers, touring and recording with, among others, Kenny Barron, Art Farmer, J.J. Johnson, Mike Stern, John Stubblefield, Grover Washington Jr., The Manhattan Jazz Quintet, Bobby Hutcherson and Bobby Watson.

As an educator, Lewis has contributed as a freelance instructor with The New School University Jazz School-Mannes Music School Jazz Program in New York City and appears in drum clinics around the world. In 2003 Lewis joined the faculty of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where he teaches drummers and coaches jazz combos.[4]

In the press, there have been several feature articles about him in publications such as Downbeat, The Wire, Jazz Times as well as Modern Drummer.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With John Abercrombie, Arthur Blythe, and Jeff Palmer

With George Adams

With Don Alias

  • Grey (Quinton, 2001)

With Franco Ambrosetti

With Kenny Barron

With Gary Bartz

With Roni Ben-Hur and Nilson Matta

With Andy Bey

  • Shades of Bey (12th Street/Evidence, 1998)
  • Tuesdays in Chinatown (12th Street/N2K Encoded Music, 2001)

With Carla Bley

With Paul Bley

  • Speachless (SteepleChase, 1995)
  • Reality Check (SteepleChase, 1996)

With Anthony Braxton

With George Cables

With James Carter

With Cyrus Chestnut

With Marc Copland

  • Crosstalk (Pirouet, 2011)

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With Art Farmer

With Barry Finnerty

With Stan Getz

With Dexter Gordon

With featuring Randy Brecker and Chuck Loeb

  • A New Kind of Blue (A Nest of Eggs, 2004)

With Steve Grossman

With Mark Helias

  • The Current Set (Enja, 1987)

With John Hicks

With Bobby Hutcherson

With J. J. Johnson

  • Standards (EmArcy, 1991)
  • Heroes (Verve, 1998)

With Jonny King

With Oliver Lake

With the Hubert Laws Group

With Dave Liebman

  • Setting the Standard (Red, 1993)

With Abbey Lincoln

  • A Turtle's Dream (Gitanes/Verve, 1994)

With Carmen Lundy

  • Good Morning Kiss (BlackHawk, 1986)
  • This Is Carmen Lundy (Afrasia, 2001)
  • Something to Believe In (Justin Time, 2003)
  • Jazz and the New Songbook: Live at the Madrid (Afrasia, 2005)
  • Night and Day (Afrasia, 2011)

With Charles McPherson

With Helen Merrill

With Karlheinz Miklin

  • Next Page (1991)

With Ralph Moore

With David Murray

With New York Rhythm Machine

With Judy Niemack

With Jeanfrançois Prins

With Charlie Rouse

With George Russell's New York Band

With Joe Sample

With David Sanborn

With Woody Shaw

With Lew Soloff

With John Stubblefield

  • Bushman Song (Enja, 1986)
  • Countin' on the Blues (Enja, 1987)

With Charles Sullivan

With Steve Swallow

With Harvie Swartz

  • Urban Earth (Gramavision, 1985)
  • Smart Moves (Gramavision, 1986)

With Lew Tabackin

With Charles Tolliver

  • With Love (2007)

With Steve Turre

  • Rhythm Within (Antilles, 1995)
  • Steve Turre (Verve, 1997)
  • TNT (Trombone-n-Tenor) (Telarc, 2001)

With Tom Varner

With Jack Walrath

With Cedar Walton

With Bobby Watson & Horizon

  • No Question About It (Blue Note, 1988)
  • Post-Motown Bop (Blue Note, 1990)
  • The Inventor (Blue Note, 1990)
  • Present Tense (Columbia, 1992)
  • Midwest Shuffle (Columbia, 1994)

With Randy Weston

With Larry Willis


  1. ^ Allmusic
  2. ^ Rutgers University
  3. ^ "Victor Lewis". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  4. ^ "Victor Lewis Mason Gross School of the Arts". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  5. ^ "Family Portrait". Valley Entertainment. Retrieved 8 July 2010.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]