Webster Lewis

Webster Lewis (Sept. 1, 1943 — Nov. 20, 2002) was an American keyboardist and producer who released five albums between 1972 and 1981.

Sporting a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, the Baltimore-raised pianist/organist hit the scene in 1972 with spots on the Bill Evans/George Russell Living Time LP and on a Norwegian-based, semi-spoken-word project titled Menneskedøgn. Webster’s Scandinavian contacts also brought about his first headlining album that same year, Live at Club 7.

Further credits on albums by bandleader Russell and drummer Tony Williams surrounded his involvement in The Piano Choir — an outside-music collective that Webster co-headed with fellow keys-man Stanley Cowell on the albums Handscapes (1973) and Handscapes 2 (1975).

Signing to Epic Records in 1976, Webster recorded On the Town — the first in his quadrilogy of jazz-funk/soul LPs. Aided among others by the ubiquitous talents of vocalist Bruce Gray, bassist Anthony Jackson, guitarist Joe Beck, and saxophonist’s Howard Johnson and Harold Vick, the album is graced with the lush pulsations and passionate vibe of “Do It With Style,” the flowering strings and snaky fretboard interplay of “Saturday Night Steppin’ Out,” the decorative fills and gritty syncopation of “Song of Joy,” and the buoyant strings and chipper slide of the title-track.

As if to indicate a smokier song-set, the cover of 1978’s Touch My Love sees Webster entrenched piano-side in a fog of misty red. Befittingly, these visuals are given sonic relief with the Rhodes-enmeshed samba swagger of “Barbara Ann” and through the harmonious sighs of “Hideaway,” in which fountainous sax and ivory glissando’s are swept along in a bass-netted stream of percussion. By contrast, the cloudy strings and refined accents of the generously-timed “Seasons” beacon like bright, breezy corridors of light. Elsewhere, the organ-driven aisle shakes of the gospelly “Believe in Yourself” reveal another side of the keyboardist’s musical roots.

Closing out the 1970s, Webster guested on Herbie Hancock‘s Japanese-market release Directstep — a project that brought both keyboardists into the temporary employ of Kyoto-based jazz vocalist Kimiko Kasai on her 1979 release Butterfly.

After two further Epic albums — 8 For The 80’s (1979) and Let Me Be the One (1981) — Webster resigned to roles behind the keys and console for albums by Merry Clayton, Thelma Houston, Gwen McCrae, Michael Wycoff, and numerous others.

The 1980s would also see the keyboardist/producer extend his talents to film. Webster’s most notable scores include soundtracks to the 1980 horror flick The Hearse and the 1981 boxing-drama Body and Soul.

A diabetic, Webster succumbed to his illness in 2002 at age 59.


  • Live at Club 7 (1972)
  • On the Town (1976)
  • Touch My Love (1978)
  • 8 for the 80s (1979)
  • Let Me Be the One (1981)
  • Webster Lewis in Norway: The Club 7 Live Tapes (2007, recorded 1971)

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