Michael Lewis is regarded throughout the Twin Cities and well beyond as one of the most creative sax players in modern music, lending his blowing and bowing skills to a number of highly regarded ensembles.
Growing up in Minneapolis, Michael first picked up trumpet (his dad’s instrument) and then settled on saxophone at age ten. He attended South High, where he added bass to his arsenal of saxophones. But even before high school, retired band director Denny Malmberg recalls that “It was very apparent in eighth grade that Michael had what I call ‘the gift’ of music-making. I do remember he had a difficult time deciding whether he wanted to pursue baseball or play in the jazz band.” Lewis began a nearly two-decade collaboration with Erik Fratzke and Dave King as Happy Apple back in 1996, just a year or two after forming Fat Kid Wednesdays with Adam Linz and JT Bates.
Lewis has been increasingly visible in New York, performing at the Stone with Happy Apple as well as with Fat Kids; and he appeared on David Letterman in connection with his 2009 tour with Andrew Bird, on which he played electric bass. He continues to lead a double life in music, playing bass with Bird, Dosh, Alpha Consumer and Red Start, and locally on saxophones with Bryan Nichols’ quintet as well as with Bon Iver, Gayngs, Happy Apple, Fat Kids and recently, with Arcade Fire.
“Lewis’s dry, metallic tone on alto and tenor and the free melodic logic of his improvisations recalls the playing of Ornette Coleman…as well as the fragmentation of mid-sixties Sonny Rollins, the quizzical assertions of the great altoist John Tchicai, and even the visionary gospel rhapsodies of Albert Ayler… Lewis’s solos, digging from melody to wail, moving from a breathy, atonal whisper to a deep, swinging groove, have a vulnerable, confessional air.” Richard Brody, The New Yorker