Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Porter, Lewis (Robert)

Porter, Lewis (Robert) [Portnoff, Lewis Robert], pianist, teacher, author; b. Scranton, PA, 14 May 1951. While he was an infant his family moved to Minn., MN, and then to North Decatur, GA (his parents divorced there in 1955). In Feb. 1958 his mother (born Carol Reiss, 1924) and two brothers (Spence, b. 1948; Gilbert, b. 1953) moved to the Bronx, in NYC, where they remained. His father, Arthur Portnoff (1924-2000) changed the family name to Porter ca. 1952.

Lewis had violin lessons from about age 10-12, then taught himself piano, becoming dedicated to jazz from about the age of 14, and eventually obtaining one year of lessons at the Eastman School of Music while in college at the University of Rochester (BA in psychology, 1972), where he also played in a combo class led by Chuck Mangione and began performing gigs on campus. He took a second year of lessons with classical recitalist Vivian Taylor while he was teaching part-time at Tufts University (he was the first faculty director of its student-led jazz band and directed a major jazz festival there in the early 1980s) and completing his MA in Music Theory there (1977-79) under his mentor, composer T.J. Anderson. He also earned an M.Ed. in Counseling at Northeastern U. in 1976. He received a PhD in Musicology from Brandeis University in 1983, having founded the jazz ensemble there while he continued to teach, now full-time, at Tufts, before moving in the fall of 1986 to Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, where he has remained. In the mid-90s he studied piano for a third year, with Andy LaVerne. He also had about six months of training each on saxophone and later with Keith Copeland on drums, performing extensively on the saxophone between about 1974 and 1994, and a few voice lessons (he sometimes scats in concert).

Dr. Porter founded the Master's program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers-Newark in the fall of 1997. Well known as an author and scholar, in 2002 he began editing a series of books on jazz for the University of Michigan press. He continues to advise other publishers about books they are considering. He was one of five people nominated for a Grammy in 1996 for their role in producing the boxed set of Coltrane's Atlantic Recordings (under Best Historical Reissue). Other awards include a New Jersey Governor's Fellowship in the Humanities, 1989-1990; a New Jersey Department of Higher Education Grant to teach college jazz educators, summer 1988, Rutgers-Newark; and a Massachusetts Council On The Arts and Humanities Grant to teach high school jazz educators, summer 1985, Tufts U. He was a coauthor with Chris Rich on two Massachusetts Council On The Arts and Humanities grants to commision new works from Ornette Coleman (1987) and Butch Morris (1988) through Tufts University.

He has remained active as a pianist, and, increasingly, as a composer. He has performed in a variety of styles, with Dan Faulk, Kenny Wessel, Harvie S, Don Friedman, Yoron Israel, Alan Dawson, Gregg Bendian, Matt LaVelle, Daniel Carter, Judi Silvano, in solo recitals, with the Indian Jazz Ensemble (which he founded in order to perform with four faculty members of the Ali Akbar Khan school in San Francisco, 1973), and others. He has spoken and performed at colleges (Berklee, North Texas, many others), jazz clubs (Birdland, Knitting Factory, others), and radio stations in the U.S., Denmark, Italy, Germany, and England. His first CD, Second Voyage, was issued on the Swiss label Altrisuoni in 2002.

His children from his first marriage are Rachel (b.1991) and Matthew (b.1987); in 2000 he married for the second time, and was divorced again in 2003.

Recordings, Broadcasts, & Films:
-Second Voyage, with guest Dave Liebman (rec. 2000); Matt Glaser: Play, Fiddle, Play (1986).
-About 30 unissued audiotapes and three videotapes of performances from ca. 1970 on, with George Garzone, David Kikoski, Gerry Hemingway, Tom Varner, Jimmy Lyons, Alan Dawson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Cohn, Don Friedman, Herb Pomeroy, Frank Lowe, Butch Morris, Herb Pomeroy, and others.
-Live radio performances on WBRS-FM (Brandeis U.; ca. 1983), WNYC-FM (Manhattan; 1995) and WBGO-FM (Newark, NJ; 2002).
-Numerous radio interviews across the U.S. and in England and Denmark; numerous interview segments as part of radio documentaries in the U.S. (NPR, All Things Considered, Jazz Profiles, etc.) and England (BBC).
-Interviews on several New Jersey TV stations and on BET TV.

Works by Porter: "An Historical Survey of Jazz Drumming Styles," in Percussive Notes, June and October 1982.
"She Wiped All The Men Out: A Re-Evaluation of Women Instrumentalists and Composers In Jazz,"  in Music Educators Journal, September and October 1984.
"John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme': Jazz Improvisation as Composition," in Journal of The American Musicological Society 38/3 (1985).
Lester Young (Twayne, 1985; reprinted U of Michigan, 2003)
"Some Problems In Jazz Research," in Black Music Research Journal 8/2 (Fall 1988)
"Jazz In American Education," in College Music Symposium 29, 1989; reprinted in Crescendo International (London), August, September 1989.
A Lester Young Reader (anthology edited by Porter; Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)
Jazz: From Its Origins to the Present, by Porter and Michael Ullman, with Ed Hazell (Prentice-Hall, 1992; was briefly available on CD-ROM)
John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography, by Yasuhiro Fujioka with Lewis Porter and Yoh-Ichi Hamada (Scarecrow Press, 1995)
"The 'Blues Connotation' in Ornette Coleman's Music-And Some General Thoughts on the Relation of Blues to Jazz," in Annual Review of Jazz Studies 7, 1996.
Jazz: A Century of Change (anthology, plus new essays; Schirmer,1997)
John Coltrane: His Life and Music  (winner of 1999 Jazz Research Award from the Association of Recorded Sound Collections; U of Michigan Press, 1998)
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (includes about 1000 short biographies by Porter; Gale Publications, 2000)
New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (includes 15 articles by Porter; MacMillan, 2001)
Numerous other short publications including book and LP/CD reviews from 1978 onward in Annual Review of Jazz Studies (which he coedited for a few years), Black Perspective In Music (for which he was jazz editor), American Record Guide, Coda, Signal to Noise, and elsewhere.
Works About Porter or Citing Him Extensively (omitting numerous reviews of his work):
Douglas Frank, Rutgers Focus, "Lewis Porter: Jazzman to the Roots," January 24, 1998.
http://www.furious.com/perfect (long interview, 1998)
George Kanzler, "Author Unearths New Details About Life Of John Coltrane," Newark Star-Ledger, July 12, 1998
Kijun Lee, "Lewis Porter Interview," Jazz Hipster (Korea), August/Sept. 1998
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/lporter.htm (long interview, 1999)
"Lewis Porter,"  in Contemporary Authors (Gale Publishing, 2000)
"Jazz in the Catbird Seat: It Wasn't Always So," by Ben Ratliff, New York Times, Jan. 6, 2001, B9, B11.
"A Master's Degree in Jazz Studies," by Terry Ripmaster, in Jersey Jazz, March 2001.
"Lewis Porter," in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition (2001)

Contact Information:
973-353-5600, ext. 30 (Rutgers U in Newark, NJ)

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