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Sunday October 22, 2017
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George Lewis

 

continued

throughout the world. Lewis left as well, and over the years his unique version of the AACM message of radical innovation has informed the whole gamut of Afro-American cultural tradition. The combination of a Yale undergraduate degree and AACM guidance has served him well, but his great achievements as a teacher, scholar, composer, and instrumentalist derive primarily from his voracious intellectual and emotional appetites and from his desire to continually explore new possibilities.

Lewis is one of the great trombonists in improvised music, who revels in the wide range of tonal possibilities offered by his instrument. Like many other AACM musicians, he recorded a solo album early in his career, and while his playing has developed in many directions since then, the inventiveness and imagination that sustained that debut still impress the listener today. But as good as his solo playing is, Lewis especially shines in the company of others. He seems to thrive in the give-and-take of conversation, using his voice or his trombone — you can listen to him for hours. But it is also a great thrill to have him sit down, spread his legs, offer a generous laugh, and then launch into collective free improvisations with friends or strangers. Lewis has taken a further step in his exploration of improvisatory interaction by devising a computer program named Voyager, which he defines as "a composing machine that allows outside intervention" — that is, a device that reacts with and to the input of an improvising musician.

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