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Lewis & Levine: Jazz masters at the CVG
At one of his recent Thursday night gigs in downtown Bremerton, locally renown jazzman Mark Lewis mentioned his upcoming concert with living jazz legend Mark Levine.
“...And he’s famous, you know,” pianist and guest artist for the night Bud Schultz interjected on the mic.
Lewis paused slightly and said softly, “We’re all famous, Bud.”
“...Well he’s a lot more famous than me,” Schultz replied with a laugh, and they kicked into the next song.
Lewis has been gigging with cats of all stripes in places around the world, over the course of his storied career.
When asked why so many straight-ahead jazz artists think it’s wrong to strive for commercial success, in a profile for Northwest Jazz Magazine last year, Lewis replied, “...it’s not wrong, but to strive for commercial success is not important. A real musician will strive for musical success. That’s the most important thing... .”
Of course it never hurts. Lewis’ late-80s CD “In the Spirit” made the top-40 on Billboard Magazine’s Jazz Albums charts. But what’s more are the 20-some other albums he’s had a hand in, the 1,000-some songs he’s composed and the journey he’s recorded.
Lewis is a Kitsap County native. Growing up in South Kitsap, he was exposed to the sax at an early age (10) and influenced by his parents’ musically rich record collection including Count Basie, Duke Ellington and the greats.
After forming his first group in high school, Lewis branched out to the Seattle jazz circuit into the late 70s. Seeking to broaden his musical horizon, he followed the advice of Dizzy Gillespie’s drummer and bought a one-way ticket to Amsterdam and left town with his alto sax and $500 in his pocket.
He would eventually set up home base in Rotterdam, playing with some of Europe’s finest, honing his chops on sax, flute and piano, and developing a style so diverse that he had to employ three different trios for the Mark Lewis Quartet.
His musical horizon was furthered expanded upon his return to North America, touring the West Coast and eventually settling down with a record deal in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Which is where he recorded the 900,000 copies-sold “In the Spirit” album, subbed for legendary sax man Stan Getz and hooked up with this cat, Mark Levine.
If that name looks familiar, you’re probably a jazz musician.
Levine is a grammy-nominated jazz artist and educator, internationally known for his work in Latin Jazz and famous for his theory books. He’s credited with creating the bible for jazz pianists in “The Jazz Piano Book,” as well as the No. 1 rated book in the Jazz Times recommended jazz library, “The Jazz Theory Book.”
Like Lewis, Levine still spends his days and nights recording, teaching and playing, expanding his musical horizon.
The two Marks’ April 18 reunion is bound to be a nostalgic, diverse and undoubtedly cool evening of jazz, set against the backdrop of Bremerton’s Collective Visions Gallery.
MARK LEWIS & MARK LEVINE, the reunion of the San Francisco players is the next session in the Collective Visions’ Concerts in the Gallery series, at 7 p.m. April 18, 331 Pacific Ave. in Bremerton. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door. Info: www.marklewismusic.com, www.marklevine.com, www.collectivevisions.com.