Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Lewis, Eric, piano; b. Camden, NJ, c. April 1974. He grew up an only child of a single mother in the Parkside section of Camden. His mother, Carol D. Lewis, is a classically trained flute player, music teacher and arranger. His aunt, Elsie Lewis Turner, was a songwriter before becoming a geriatric psychiatrist. His grandfather, Granville Lewis Jr., was a prominent dentist and amateur artist.
He grew up a loner, slightly overweight and with few close friends. Through his mother, he met Wynton Marsalis backstage at a Camden waterfront concert when the pianist was 12 years old. From seventh grade on, he traveled almost 35 miles a day to attend Overbrook Senior High School in Pine Hill for the music instruction. He became fascinated with cartoons and Japanese animation and concentrated intensely on the piano. He studied music theory with the late Donald Rappaport and classical piano with Charles Engel at Settlement Music School. He learned about showmanship and backing a singer from the late Gerald Price, his first jazz tutor, and was named best jazz soloist in New Jersey under Overbrook band director Bill Garton. Pianist Sumi Tonooka schooled him in modern jazz styles, while Jaki Byard introduced Lewis to the style of Art Tatum. Lewis got a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music, where he graduated in 1995. Soon after, Lonnie Plaxico recommended him for Cassandra Wilson's band. Then he worked with Marsalis, and since then has freelanced.
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