Vous Etes Swing: 'The John Lewis Show'

The late drummer Ron Jefferson often greeted people with the signature catchphrase "vous êtes swing!" It means something like "you are swing[ing]!" in French. And he got to use it an awful lot when he was the co-host of The John Lewis Show — as he often introduced it rambunctiously, "The beautiful, musicians' togetherness John Lewis Show!" — which often interviewed very prominent jazz musicians on what looks to have been 1980s public-access television.

Here's a clip with Mal Waldron and Vernell Fournier (embedding disabled, but you can click through to it):

YouTube

The show's equally genial co-host John Lewis (not that John Lewis) is also a jazz drummer. Perhaps that's why part of why he could bring on folks like Billy Taylor, Abbey Lincoln, Jaki Byard, Charlie Rouse, Roy Ayers, Roy Haynes and Amiri Baraka, and have such casual conversations with them.

You can purchase several complete episodes online through Miles Ahead Music, Lewis' company. For a taste, Lewis has also uploaded a whole bunch of interview clips to his YouTube channel — a few have made the Facebook and Twitter rounds lately. It's a total trip to see these living legends just hanging out on low-budget television. (Notice how Jefferson's handclaps stand in for a studio audience.)

The John Lewis Show also presented various other folks from the sports and business worlds. On other episodes, Lewis and Jefferson drink celebratory "orange juice" toasts, talk to a Tampax model, and even bring on the actual "Freddie Freeloader" — the legendary mooche who Miles Davis named a tune on Kind of Blue after.

But it was mostly jazz, and it seems to have been a relaxed, enjoyable time. Take this exchange with Roy Haynes:

Ron Jefferson: ... I've been knowing Haynes for quite a while, you know, being a jazz drummer myself —
Roy Haynes: You play jazz?
Ron Jefferson: Jazz — what is jazz?
Roy Haynes: I don't know, vous êtes swing! [all laugh]

That sounds about right.

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