74-year-old Santa Fe musician Bryan Lewis celebrates a landmark anniversary this year, 60 years as a jazz drummer. Recently he took a few minutes to talk with SFR about his career, his band Three Faces of Jazz and the state of jazz music in the City Different. Check out video of Three Faces of Jazz after the jump.
SFR: Why the drums?
Bryan Lewis: It was the cheapest instrument that I could find. I started making them out of pots and pans as a kid.
How did you get started as a jazz musician?
I started in London back in the '50s and I came to the states in 1960. My father owned a pub in London and he gave me an opportunity to put a band together and play, even though I was underage. I realized that all my musical heroes were Americans, and that’s what brought me to the states. I played with many of the greats. My first gig was with Dion Warwick in the '60s.
What brought you to Santa Fe?
I was living in [Los Angeles, Calif. in 1990] and I read about Canyon Road in the LA Times, and I decided to come here. My first gig was actually at El Farol within my first week of being here. I just always go where the art scene is, and jazz always seems to have its niche. Jazz is the great American art form. A lot of people think it’s Hollywood, but jazz is very Americana.
How would you describe the jazz scene in Santa Fe?
In general it’s fairly limited, maybe because of the economy, but some of the world’s greatest have played here. It’s a small community, but it’s the City Different and there are a lot of great artists that have either lived here or passed through town. There’s only a few clubs here. I think I’ve worked every venue you could name. Many of them are gone now.
Could you give a couple of examples?
I started playing at the old Radisson, which is now called The Lodge. I auditioned there for one of the managers. That would be back in the early 90s. I called the group Three Faces of Jazz because we were a trio. I played there for the next three years. Then I worked the Palace Restaurant for eight years, which is now defunct. I’ve held down a gig at El Mesón for 11 years now.
How do you like El Mesón?
It’s a wonderful venue because they have a grand piano and a big stage there, and the owner is very music conscious. He’s been very supportive of the music community.
How would you describe the group’s music?
We do jazz standards ala Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. I usually have a rotating front-liner. I just figured that, with a steady gig, you need to diversify. We’ve had people like Richie Cole, Bobby Shew and Ali Ryerson headline for us.
Any big plans for 2011?
I just put together a CD called El Mesón All Stars because every headliner that’s played at El Mesón is on that compilation. That will be released after the holidays.
Three Faces of Jazz
7 pm-10 pm
Friday, Dec. 24 (and every Friday)
213 Washington Ave.