Aaron Jonah Lewis
Virtuoso banjo player and fiddler Aaron Jonah Lewis has been elbow-deep in traditional American music since his first lessons at the age of five with Kentucky native Robert Oppelt. His concerts take audiences on a journey through the back roads of American old time and folk music, with detours through ragtime and early jazz. Lewis has taken blue ribbons at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, WV, and at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, VA, the oldest and largest fiddlers convention in the country. He spends most of his time teaching, touring as a solo performer, with the Corn Potato String Band, the Lovestruck Balladeers, and other projects.
Lewis has appeared on dozens of recordings from bluegrass and old time to traditional jazz, contemporary experimental and Turkish classical music projects. He has taught workshops at the the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and at the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London. He also plays and teaches banjo, mandolin, and guitar and is currently based in Detroit.
As a banjoist, Lewis explores some interesting veins in the roots of Old Time, Bluegrass, Ragtime and Jazz music through his newest recording, “Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project.” This project is devoted to the music of the great English prodigy and virtuoso composer Joe Morley (1867-1937), who wrote a significant body of great banjo pieces in a technique that people today call “classic fingerstyle.”
Greg Adams, Archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, says, “Lewis is one of the few performing musicians with the facility to build compelling musical bridges between the printed banjo music and techniques of the 19th century and the instrument’s journey into recorded sound by the turn of the 20th century.”
Other musicians featured on the album include banjoist Ben Belcher, pianists Tessa Hartle and Kevin Allswede, Grace van’t Hof on ukulele and Rachel Pearson on bass. The album has been released on Tiki Parlour Recordings in early 2020.
Aaron Jonah Lewis is passionate about sharing early fingerstyle banjo music. He brings light to the fact that classic banjo was the most popular form of music a hundred years ago, though today it’s almost entirely forgotten. He is “trying to keep (classic banjo) alive and spread it around, as it’s a delightful style that brings joy and connects us to the depth of our shared American history.”