While every tour has at least some residual impact on a player, the effect of the collaboration with the wide-ranging vagabond Wooding cannot be overemphasized. From 1925 he took Wooding's Symphonic Syncopators where no jazzmen had gone before, including tours of North Africa and South America as well as working throughout Europe. In 1931, Wooding canned the band and Lewis promptly formed Willie Lewis & His Entertainers, holding over some of the members of the old group and staying put in Europe. The activities of this group established Lewis as the first important black expatriate jazz bandleader in Europe. He expanded his capabilities as a performer from this perch, doubling on alto and baritone saxophone and even bursting into song when the spirit moved him.
Important players such as pianist Herman Chittison, alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and trumpeter Bill Coleman all spent time in Lewis' groups, recording for the French Disques Swing label. The group prospered for about a decade, disbanding in 1941 with Lewis returning to New York. Over the next two decades his musical activities diminished greatly, and while he did branch out into acting, his main occupation was unfortunately toiling as a waiter. In the '80s he began to be featured in the reissue market, sometimes on his own merits and sometimes in the context of memorializing players such as Coleman, who had worked for him. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi