Steve Lewis

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A piano man old enough to be remembered by Jelly Roll Morton, Steve Lewis played with many of the major large orchestras working in New Orleans in the first decades of the 20th century. He is also one…
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A piano man old enough to be remembered by Jelly Roll Morton, Steve Lewis played with many of the major large orchestras working in New Orleans in the first decades of the 20th century. He is also one of a small list of jazz players who finished out their lives in mental institutions, a fate most players' families only wish on them. Lewis on the loose began gigging professionally with the Silver Leaf Orchestra as early as 1910. He was later involved with the Olympia Orchestra and went on tour in 1917 with a revue fronted by Bill and Mary Mack.

The following year, the pianist was back in New Orleans playing piano with Armand Piron, with whose groups he was regularly associated for the next decade. Some of this time was spent in New York City, where Piron drank in several long stints; the pianist also was involved in some of Piron's recording sessions during this period. Obviously still in command of his faculties, Lewis was also active as a piano teacher in the '20s. Among his students was the bandleader Luis Russell. Following a decade in which the pianist both freelanced and led his own band, composing titles such as "Kiss Me Sweet," Lewis was committed to an asylum in Louisiana. He died a year later.