Once upon a time, Eric Lewis was a decorated, up-and-coming jazz pianist, a sideman for Wynton Marsalis and Elvin Jones, among others, and the winner of the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Piano competition. A decade into his career, he had an epiphany. The songs he was playing weren't speaking to him the way he wanted them to: while they were part of the traditional jazz repertoire, they weren't part of his own emotional repertoire. On the other hand, there were contemporary rock songs whose lyrics meant the world to him. Lewis considered the landscape, drew the curtain, and reemerged as ELEW, a revolutionary artist who combines virtuosic skill on the grand piano with an unprecendented openness to modern pop and rock music.
A modern day pop artist and musical revolutionary, piano iconoclast ELEW is making a substantial impression on the music world with a thunderous new style of playing: an inspired melding of ragtime, rock and pop that he calls Rockjazz. Jazz pianists have always interpreted popular songs. Art Tatum did. Bud Powell did. But at some point, jazz detached from rock and roll. ELEW has fused the two together and, in the process, created a new genre.
ELEW has toured the world, recorded, and performed continuously with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Elvin Jones, Roy Hargrove, and Cassandra Wilson, among others. Over the course of two albums, ELEW has interpreted and reenergized songs by Coldplay, Nirvana, Radiohead, the Foo Fighters, The Bravery, Michael Jackson, and more. And the choice of material is only part of rockjazz. ELEW treats the grand piano the way a traditional rock front man treats the guitar, with an explosively physical style that includes entering the instrument to pluck the strings directly. Onstage, he is overtly theatrical, standing to play and even wearing specially designed pieces of armor on his forearms called vambraces.
An imposing force even before he stands (not sits) behind the piano, ELEW is known for playing his instrument like an athlete plays a sport--going inside the instrument, testing the limits of his body, pushing through the pain and exhaustion....but never stopping. His relentless innovation and disregard for the musical status quo has shocked and angered the jazz world even as it has attracted the rapt attention and following of mainstream political, artistic, and cultural leaders from across the globe--including Donna Karan, Forest Whitaker and Eric Schmidt of Google, among others--as well as netting the musician a historic performance at the White House, performing in the East Room for Barack and Michelle Obama. In fact, ELEW recently played in front of President Obama for a second time at a private fundraiser hosted by Will Smith.
In addition to his groundbreaking recordings and performances, ELEW has collaborated with a host of other artists. He joined forces with platinum-selling rapper Lil Wayne, providing the piano background for "IANAHB," the opening track on Lil Wayne's 2013 album "I Am Not a Human Being II." Last year, Complexions Contemporary Ballet Co-Artistic Directors/Founders Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson announced a five-year partnership with ELEW that named him Composer in Residence at CCB. This partership will yield a new work every year through 2017; the first fruits of the collaboration were presented in November 2012 at Complexions Contemporary Ballet's New York Season at the Joyce Theater.
Perhaps the most exciting development in ELEW's evolution as an artist is his burgeoning career as a DJ. While turntable artists combine songs with the aid of technology, ELEW is able to present them simultaneously with his own mastery of the piano. The result is yet another unprecendented hybrid--this time, the ingredients are not rock and jazz, but rather vinyl and ivory, the concert and then the afterparty.
As a result of his records and his performances, his devotion to both the history of jazz and the importance of redirecting that history, ELEW has earned a legion of prominent fans, including Josh Groban (who he supported on Groban's "Straight to You' tour of more than sixty North American arenas), Dave Matthews, Naomi Campbell, Forest Whitaker, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brooke Shields, and Woody Harrelson. He has performed at the behest of Google, Fendi, Disney, and Mercedes Benz....and Donna Karan has even included his music on her iPhone app.
Today, ELEW continues to captivate thousands of fans around the world: just him, his grand piano, and his trademark armor.
"The Evolution of ELEW and RockJazz"
A great documentary on ELEW's career
"Georgia On My Mind"
Thoughts from the Gallery
-- The Artist Gallery.com
"Smells Like Teen Spirit"
What can one say about Eric Lewis.... the prodigiously talented virtuoso who creates his own genre of music to fit his own larger-than-life personality and intensely musical soul...
We can say that as great appreciators of fine art and great artists, we have a special respect for this man, his musical exploits and accomplishments. Further, our admiration for Eric's early career as a conventional jazz artist is no less than our admiration for his recent genre-inventing Rockjazz career...and probably more so.
Eric's talent and personality speak for themselves. He is one of a kind....a true pioneer and a genius; we in the music world are his grateful beneficiaries.
ELEW has been a featured artist on The Artist Gallery.com since January 23, 2015.
"America's Got Talent"
ELEW plays "Heatbeats" by The Knife at TED 2015
It's a simple, powerful equation: rock + jazz = rockjazz.
The Artist Gallery.com
"ELEW on the making of Lil Wayne's IANAHB"
The Early Years: Eric Lewis....Jazz Virtuoso
Welcome to the Artist Gallery
ELEW's Featured Videos