George Lewis (born Joseph Louis Francois Zenon, July 13, 1900 – December 31, 1968) was an American jazz clarinetist who achieved his greatest fame and influence in the later decades of his life.
Lewis was born in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Through his mother, Alice Zeno, his maternal great-great-grandmother was a Senegalese slave who was brought to Louisiana around 1803. Zeno’s family retained some knowledge of Senegalese language and customs until Alice’s generation.
During the 1920s he started the New Orleans Stompers. In that decade he also worked with Chris Kelly, Buddy Petit, Kid Rena, and was a member of the Eureka Brass Band and the Olympia Orchestra. In the 1930s he played with Bunk Johnson, De De Pierce, and Billie Pierce. He recorded with Johnson in the early 1940s and with Kid Shots Madison. Alan Lomax brought Lewis on a Rudi Blesh radio show in 1942 in which Lewis played “Woodchopper’s Ball” by Woody Herman.
Unable to make enough money as a musician, he worked loading and unloading cargo on ships at the docks of the Mississippi River.
In 1944 Lewis was injured while working on the docks. A heavy container nearly crushed his chest. He practiced while convalescing in bed at his St. Phillips Street home in the French Quarter. His friends, banjoist Lawrence Marrero and double bassist Alcide Pavageau, brought their instruments to his bedside. Bill Russell brought his portable recorder and they recorded “Burgundy Street Blues”, improvised blues song that was to become the Lewis signature piece. As Russell recorded Lewis, he occasionally gave new titles to interpretations of pop tunes, such as “New Orleans Hula” for “Hula Lou”. These changes may have been made for copyright reasons, but occasionally it was because musicians reported the titles inaccurately to Russell.
Lewis stayed with Johnson’s band through 1946. This included a trip to New York City, where they played for dancing at the Stuyvesant Casino on Second Avenue. Band members included Johnson, Marrero, Pavageau, trombonist Jim Robinson, pianist Alton Purnell, and drummer Baby Dodds. While in New York, they recorded for Decca and Victor. After Johnson retired, Lewis took over leadership of the band, which included Robinson, Pavageau, Marrero, Purnell, Joe Watkins, and a succession of New Orleans trumpeters: Elmer Talbert, Kid Howard, and Percy Humphrey. Starting in 1949, Lewis was a regular on Bourbon Street clubs and radio station WDSU.
His band was profiled in the June 6, 1950 issue of Look magazine with photographs by Stanley Kubrick. His reputation grew and he became a leader of the New Orleans revival.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s his recordings reached the UK and influenced clarinetists Monty Sunshine and Acker Bilk. They became important contributors to the traditional jazz scene in the UK and accompanied Lewis when he toured the country.
Lewis visited England in 1957, playing throughout the country with Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen. In 1959 he returned, this time with his full band, and received a warm response. In 1959 he visited Denmark and played at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen.
Beginning in the 1960s, he played regularly at Preservation Hall as leader of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band until shortly before his death. His performances were painted by New Orleans artists. Sitting portraits by Noel Rockmore were sold to collectors. Rockwell painted several musicians who had performed at Preservation Hall. John Van Beuren bought portraits that he put in other residences. His home in Morristown, New Jersey that was built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had portraits of George Lewis and Louis Nelson.
Jazz critic Gary Giddins described Lewis as “an affecting musician with a fat-boned sound but limited technique”. (by wikipedia)
On this album George Lewis played with Papa Bue’s Viking Jazzband:
Arne “Papa” Bue Jensen (8 May 1930 – 2 November 2011), known as Papa Bue, was a Danish trombonist and bandleader, chiefly associated with the Dixieland jazz revival style of which he was considered an important proponent. He founded and led the Viking Jazz Band, which was active from 1956.
Arne Bue Jensen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. At an early age, he became fascinated with jazz, prompted by a pile of records from his brother that included Harry James, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Bert Ambrose. Bunk Johnson and George Lewis made a strong impression.
After World War II, Jensen became a sailor, visiting ports around the world. It was around this time that he started to play jazz. He bought a slide trombone with money he borrowed, which would take him years to repay. A musician from the Royal Danish Orchestra taught him some basics, but otherwise he was self-taught. He played in Copenhagen clubs with other young musicians and bands, including the Royal Jazzman (later the Bohana Jazz Band), Henrik Johansen’s Jazz Band, and the Saint Peter Street Stompers, participating as a sideman in several recordings. In the 1950s, Papa Bue worked with the Bonanza Jazz Band, Chris Barber, Adrian Bentzon, and Henrik Johansen.
In the mid 1950s, he was part of the entertainment district in Nyhavn. He performed with other young jazz musicians in various informal arrangements. With six musicians he founded the New Orleans Jazz Band in 1956, after a jam session at Cap Horn. Since Jensen was the eldest, he became the bandleader. Given that he was the only band member who was a father, he was given the nickname “Papa Bue”.
In late 1957, Jensen renamed the ensemble the Viking Jazz Band. The name came from American journalist and vocalist Shel Silverstein who attended one of their concerts at Cap Horn during a stay in Copenhagen. He subsequently wrote an article about them, calling them the Danish Vikings, explaining that they played original New Orleans and Chicago jazz better than any American band at the time. The band adopted the new name and released their first album as the Viking Jazz Band in 1958. In 1960 their “Schlafe Mein Prinzchen” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
At a time when many jazz musicians worked in the Bebop idiom, Bue’s style remained based on the Dixieland tradition but also with influences from early swing music. He is considered one of the most significant proponents of his genre.
The group remained active into the 1990s, and recorded with musicians such as George Lewis (1959), Champion Jack Dupree (1962), Art Hodes (1970), Wild Bill Davison (1970, 1974), Wingy Manone, Edmond Hall and Albert Nicholas. They also played with George Lewis, Earl Hines, Stuff Smith, Ben Webster. Wild Bill Davison was a permanent band member. It was Papa Bue’s Viking Jazz Band which recorded Bent Fabricius-Bjerre’s theme music for the Olsen Gang series, now a legendary sequence for the Danes. Jensen released a large number of albums, many of them issued or reissued on Storyville Records, Timeless Records, and Music Mecca.
Papa Bue died on 2 November 2011, at the age of 81.
In 1969, Papa Bue’s Viking Jazz Band was the only non-American band to participate in the New Orleans Jazz Festival and Jensen was honored with the “Golden Keys to the City”.
In 1989 he received the Ben Webster’s Prize of Honour. (by wikipedia)
New Orleans clarinetist George Lewis teamed up with trombonist Papa Bue Jensen’s Copenhagen-based Dixieland band for an LP in 1959 that has been reissued on this CD, along with five previously unreleased alternate takes. Lewis sounds a bit erratic in spots, slipping in and out of tune, and Jensen’s band (which includes trumpeter Finn Otto Hansen and Jorgen Svare on second clarinet) was not as strong as it would become. The music, which includes “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Listen To the Mocking Bird,” “Isle of Capri” and “Salutation March,” is full of spirit but not essential. (by Scott Yanow)
Okay, another old fashioned album in this blog, but a real good one !
George Lewis (clarinet, vocals on 17. )
Papa Bue’s Viking Jazzband:
Finn Otto Hansen (trumpet)
Arne “Papa Bue” Jensen (trombone)
Ib Lindschow (drums)
Bjarne Pedersen (banjo)
Mogens Seidelin (bass)
Jørgen Svare (clarinet)
01. The Old Rugged Cross (Traditional) 6.36
02 Now Is The Hour (Clement/Scott) 4.07
03. Maisie (Traditional) 4.07
04. In The Sweet Bye And Bye (Traditional) 4.00
05. Listen To The Mocking Bird (Traditional) 4.34
06. The Old Spinning Wheel (Hill) 4.30
07. Silverthreads Among The Gold ( 3:28
08. Isle Of Capri (Grosz) 3.40
09. Mary Wore A Golden Chain (Traditional) 2.38
10. Salutation March (Traditional) 4.25
11. Far Away Blues (Traditional) 3.40
12. You Always Hurt The One You Love (take 2) (Fisher/Roberts) 3.26
13. If I Ever Cease To Love (take 1) (Traditional) 2.14
14. Martha (take 1) (Traditional) 4.09
15. In The Sweet By And By (take 1) (Traditional) 4.31
16. You Always Hurt the One You Love (take 1) (Fisher/Roberts) 4.50
17. Mary Wore A Golden Chain (take 2) (Traditional) 2.31
18. If I Ever Cease To Love (Traditional) 2.07