top of page

Jazz Painter Captures Musical Notes Mid-Air & Preserves Them Across Vibrant Canvases

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Artist, Lewis Achenbach, works closely with well-known musicians at iconic venues across the Chicago-area who welcome and embrace his visual interpretations of their music.

While attending New York University as a film and animation student, Lewis Achenbach, who also loves music, found himself drawn to New York City’s jazz scene. It was a way for him to enjoy live music that was also affordable. Before long he met an artist doing live painting during jazz performances and was immediately intrigued by the process. That artist was none other than Jeff Schlanger, the musicWitness.

According to Jeff’s website: “As musicWitness, Schlanger has been painting and documenting live avant-garde jazz performances since 1976. He has been a regular fixture at all 19 Vision Festivals, the William Parker-curated annual festival presenting free jazz, the avant-garde, and other liberatory music, visual art, dance, and poetry.

Lewis quickly befriended Jeff and his wife, absorbing everything he could about their involvement with the arts.

When Lewis eventually moved to Chicago in 2012, he asked Jeff if he could start doing the very same thing here. Jeff gave his blessing.

“I found a nice niche for myself where there’s only a small group of us that do this,” Lewis says. “Music is so vibrant -- it calls for a full range of colors. It makes me wish I could see infrared or ultraviolet – to be able to use colors I don’t see!”

Today, at live performances, audience members can find him sitting next to the bassist or pianist, totally immersed in the sounds, the rhythms, and colorfully interpreting it all onto a canvas.

Calling his work, “Jazz Occurrence” – a marriage of art and music -- he heads to jazz or contemporary classical venues with art supplies in hand and quickly sets to work as the music plays. When the music stops, the canvas is done.

"Music is fleeting,” Lewis observes. “And when it stops, it’s gone. I’m documenting something you cannot see – sort of reinventing the experience. I’m changing how people feel about music and art showing they’re not separate pursuits but instead play well together.”

Lewis admits to often dreaming about being a musician and may someday take up the piano. In 2022, he sets his sights on the new – looking for music that he has not yet documented.

“I wonder how I can get into the Lyric Opera?” he asks with a smile.

For more information about Lewis, click:

Lewis at the Wheaton Public Library on December 20, 2021, appearing with harpist, Dawn Bishop.


bottom of page