Pianist Elew wows Montreux after White House gig

Tue Jul 7, 2009 9:09am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Eric Lewis, the hot American pianist who recently played for U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, swept Montreux fans off their feet with a hard-hitting "rock-jazz" instrumental set.

Known as "Elew," the 36-year-old from New Jersey and his band gave an electrifying one-hour show on Monday night which one admirer called a blend of Thelonius Monk and Jimi Hendrix.

Tracks ranged from "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers, "Clocks" by Coldplay, and Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic "Sweet Home Alabama" spliced with the Charlie Brown cartoon theme song.

"We hope you like what we do -- rock-jazz. We're here to rock some jazz and jazz some rock," Elew told fans at the sold-out Miles Davis Hall.

He opened for the bassist trio known as SMV (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten) and then showed up at 2 a.m. for a jam session at the underground Montreux Jazz Cafe.

Elew -- who played standing without a piano bench or sheet music -- says he doesn't even look at the keys so that he can concentrate on the emotions. He pounds on the keys, occasionally bending over to pluck the strings directly.

"I have to focus like an athlete, a boxer, a military person," the African-American said before the show.

"A lot of what I am doing is high energy, using techniques which are a lot different than typical pianists who sit down with their hands quiet and use a paint-brush movement," he said. "I don't care if I break keys or whatever."   Continued...