2018 TMA149 Musician of the Year – Larnell Lewis

LARNELL LEWIS is a GRAMMY Award winning musician, composer, producer, and educator. A Toronto native, Larnell has quickly established himself as one of the most diverse and in-demand drummers currently on the music scene. Along with his long-standing position behind the drums in Snarky Puppy, Larnell has led many highly successful groups of his own and toured the globe with some of the most well known names in music, including Etienne Charles, Gregory Porter, Benny Golson, Lalah Hathaway, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Lisa Fisher, Kurt Elling, Gary Burton, and more. Larnell’s immense talent, fierce creativity, and continually evolving musical style is what has kept him at the top of the list as a musical collaborator for artists across the globe. While just in his second year of college, Larnell was recognized by JUNO award-winner Jully Black and acclaimed vocalist Matt Dusk, who took him out on his first national tour. Since then, Larnell continued to climb his way up the ladder, performing in various capacities with the Humber College Studio Jazz Ensemble. After his time at Humber, he found himself spending time both on the road, the big and small screens, and in-studio with some of Canada’s most celebrated artists, including Laila Biali, Molly Johnson O.C., Divine Brown, Colleen Allen, Elizabeth Shepherd, Johnny Reid, Kellylee Evans, and David Clayton-Thomas. Among his many accolades, including the 2004 Oscar Peterson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music (Humber College), Larnell was named as the fourth recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s “Emerging Jazz Award” (2017), which is a $10,000 cash prize intended to support the creation of a project that features original compositions from each recipient. Says Larnell; “As a creative person you have a lot of dreams of things you would like to do, and finances often stop them. I often dream and dream big. An award like this makes those dreams possible.” Larnell’s highly anticipated debut album “In The Moment” was released in June 2018, and featured ten original compositions in a variety of musical styles. When discussing the title track of the album, Larnell says that “For me, what that song represents is staying locked in the moment, running the course of life and not getting too distracted with small things or letting big things tear you down. It’s really about staying in the moment and absorbing the beauty.” While certain tracks on the album (such as “Beignets” or “No Access?”) really showcase Larnell’s jazz chops, “In The Moment” also heavily taps into his Caribbean background and deeply personal relationship with Gospel music, growing up the son of a Musical Director in a Pentecostal church. There are few musicians who take you on the musical journey that Larnell has embarked on, and the ways in which he tells a story are unlike that of any musician of this generation. In a year full of exciting performances including the North Sea Jazz Festival with Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest, the 2nd annual GroundUP Music Festival with Joshua Redman, Lionel Loueke, and Michael League, Larnell also made his debut at Carnegie Hall with Snarky Puppy and guests David Crosby, Laura Mvula, Chris Thile, and Fatoumata Diawara. Larnell’s vast talents not just as a musician but as a producer also landed him the opportunity to act as Musical Director for a performance during the Toronto International Film Festival’s premiere of the critically-acclaimed documentary of Quincy Jones, “QUINCY”, (directed by Rashida Jones & Al Hicks), where he led performances from the likes of Yebba Smith, Mark Ronson, and Chaka Khan. Larnell’s talents can be seen worldwide via his various social media platforms, which have a combined total of over 100,000 followers. His reach to fans and musicians of all generations is proof that he not only possesses undeniable talent, but a spirit unlike any other that excites, inspires, and encourages music fans of all ages to further explore their musical tastes and the follow him on the road he has paved for himself