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Ramsey Lewis

Pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis has been a major figure in contemporary jazz since the late 1950s, playing music with a warm, open personality that's allowed him to cross over to the pop and R&B charts. Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 27, 1935, and was introduced to music by his father, who directed the choir at a local church and enjoyed the music of Duke Ellington and Art Tatum. Lewis began studying the piano when he was four years old, and was soon accompanying the choir at Sunday services. At the age of 15, he joined a jazz combo called the Cleffs, who played at parties and dances. Lewis was interested in a leaner, more bebop-oriented sound, and when the group splintered after several members joined the military, he formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with two other former Cleffs, bassist Eldee Young, and percussionist Redd Holt. The trio became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene, and they were signed to a deal with Chess Records, releasing their first album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, in 1956. Lewis and his trio continued to record and tour steadily over the years, building a sizable audience among jazz fans, but their career received a serious boost in 1965, when they recorded a swinging version of Dobie Gray's hit "The In Crowd" at a gig in Washington, D.C. Chess released the track as a single, and it became a sizable pop hit, earning Lewis his first gold record, as well as a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance. As Lewis' star rose, he returned to the pop charts in 1966 with versions of "Hang on Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water." Meanwhile, Young and Holt left Lewis' trio to form their own group, Young-Holt Unlimited, and the pianist hired a new rhythm section, Cleveland Eaton on bass and Maurice White on drums. In 1970, White resigned to form his own group, and Morris Jennings signed on as the trio's new percussionist. Lewis continued to record for Chess until 1972, when he moved to Columbia Records, and as his music developed a more contemporary groove, White's group, Earth, Wind & Fire (also on Columbia), was beginning to enjoy considerable success on the R&B charts. White produced Lewis' 1974 album Sun Goddess, in which he experimented with electronic keyboards for the first time, and several members of EWF played on the sessions; it became a major crossover hit and took Lewis to the upper ranks of the smooth jazz/fusion scene. Lewis would continue to record R&B-influenced material through the '70s, but continued to explore his roots in more traditional jazz sounds as well as Latin rhythms. In 1983, he went into the studio with Eldee Young and Redd Holt again for the album Reunion; in 1984, he collaborated with Nancy Wilson on The Two of Us; in 1988, he recorded with London's Philharmonia Orchestra for the album A Classic Encounter, and in 1989, Lewis and Dr. Billy Taylor cut a set of piano duets, We Meet Again. In 1992, Lewis signed with the successful jazz label GRP Records, and in 1995, he launched the side project Urban Knights, in which he collaborated with a handful of successful crossover jazz stars, including Grover Washington, Jr., Earl Klugh, and Dave Koz. In 1997, Lewis added disc jockey to his résumé, hosting a popular show on Chicago's WNUA-FM that ran until 2009; the show went into syndication in 2006 under the name Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, and is still on the air. In 2005, Lewis looked back on his roots in gospel music with the album With One Voice, which earned him the Stellar Gospel Music Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album. In 2007, he was commissioned to write a jazz ballet for the Joffrey Ballet Company, and "To Know Her …" debuted at Highland Park, Illinois' Ravina Music Festival, where Lewis is artistic director of the festival's jazz series, and helped found their Jazz Mentor Program. Lewis has also written several pieces for string ensemble and orchestra that have premiered at Ravina; highlights were featured on the 2009 album Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey, his first release from Concord Records. In addition to his work as a performer, composer, educator, and disc jockey, Lewis has received five honorary doctorate degrees, won the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Master Award in 2007, and is one of the few noted jazz artists to carry the Olympic Torch, having briefly escorted the flame as it passed through Chicago en route to the 2002 Winter Games. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

tina.gardner
What a blessing and a gift he has been to music- not just Jazz. A beautiful musician.
Wade In The Water, took me back.
linksgayaren a
From the Fleetwood how cool is this peace
Why doesnt pandora have Ramsey Lewis' individual tracks more available? He is a Master Composer!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !
"HOW GREAT IS THIS?!"!- I AGREE! AMAZING!!!
johnmargie6
WOW!! First time for my ears!!
Ramsey is amazing I have searched over a decade for this tune Ramsey defines smooth jazz
I saw him at the Blue Note/ Boulder, CO 1980....smal l , intimate venue....as I watched/list e n e d it was like his hands never touched the key board....it was WOW.Then I got to bang shoulders with him at the bar.
Over the years I have admired Ramsey and I mean over the years we played in the same band Wells High school in Chicago, of course he has far surpassed me , wish I had done better, nevertheless keep going UP Snoopy.
kathy_handle r
My all-time favorite jazz group since my college days! LOVE his style!
this man is smooth on those black and white key boards.
A CLASSIC!
My ol skool favorite!
Pandora does a great job with collecting Ramsey Lewis previous alblums however, Mother Nature Son was not in this collection. SL Wilson
The gemtlmen of jazz
Soooo glameroussss s
Signature Ramsey!!!
earlycall
What a fantastic piano player , I am so lucky to have met him and he was so nice to me as somebody he doesn't even know.Please go and see him in concert .
Original and historical for me...my first introduction to Ramsey Lewis and fortunate to see him play live in my hometown during the 70's!!!
This song was my introduction to jazz. Didn't know the term jazz at the time, I just knew I liked songs like this, songs without words. I was in elementary school when I first heard this song and it still songs so..... so good today.
The mature sound....fan t a s t i c . This is hotttt!!!!!!
missmemphis8 5
You didn't know jazz until you listened to one of the finest pianists ever - this being Mr. Ramsey Lewis! I grew up listening to his music which still resonates so beautifully in my mind. What a masterful musical legend!
Ramsey Lewis and Joe Sample are made from the same mold.
.....go O. S U.
If I could play the piano I wish I could play like Ramsey Lewis. Love that style
This guy plays soOOOOO WEEELLLLLL IT SOUNDS LIKe he is a machine with more than ten fingers and just pounds those keys never loosing a beat........ p l a y i n g riff after riff....neve r the same....That is a musician!!!!
Mr. Ramsey Lewis is, "LEGENDARY!! " Very Nice Man, Great Personality.
.." AMAZING ARTIST & MUSICIAN!!"
I was 15 when I first heard Sun Goddess. I used to carry the tape player around with me to play it for my friends. I played the recording over and over. It still gives me the most wonderful feeling. Filled with great memories.
red25377
chicagos own a true jazz legend
One of favorite tunes
The best radio ever !
kathy_handle r
Ramsey Lewis has been one of my favorite jazz artists since my college days when I used to fall asleep at night listening to an album of Beatles music he did in the 70's. LOVE his style!
youngfrederi c k 6 5
NOW!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! this is groove music at its pennicle
how have I managed to go this long and just now find him???
williamsjrhe r b e r t 4
REAL MUSIC!!!!
great sounds from my college days-the best
sonshine.mic k i 2
Happy Birthday Ramsey! Love your music!!!!!
Ramsey has a rhythmic touch like no other. Smoooooth.
Gotta Love It.
jtucker961
Ramsey Lewis just keeps on growing, doesn't stop--from back in the day to to-day-day. You think man, he couldn't get any better, then he does. I didn't realize that Mr. Lewis cut his first album in, check this out, 1956. That's some real staying power. Too bad so many experienced artists get shoved aside, just as they are hitting their stride. Takes time to get that mastery that comes with age!
back in the day!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! LOVE IT!!!!!!MISS IT!!!
jusjeanean
Wow what a funky, funky version of Aretha's classic.. I Love it !!!!
I have been listening to Ramsey for more than thirty years. I enjoyed Young- Holt and introduced my daughter to Earth Wind and Fire. A truly gifted artist. I'm still listening
hwwinc
Ramsey is one of the All Time Greatest
Absolutely love his music! Smooth and relaxing!
I have been listening to Ramsey close to my entire life. My older sister loved him. Back in the days of the Young-Holt trio, as the group was called, he was an upstart. Those fingers have made magic for many years. I still have some of his early work on vinyl. He hasn't lost anything over time; like a fine wine, he has mellowed into someone to be appreciated. His new collaboratio n s prove that.
He smoked this one!!!! Get back on tour young man.
afshortyf
I'll never forget listening to the IN CROWD back in Dayton, Ohio in 1965. I became a Ramsey Lewis fan then and I'm still Hangin' on Sloopy. Saw him in person 3 times and got autographs twice .. once in Disneyland when he was there for a while. I didn't care much for his South American period, but got the albums just to find the pony in the manure pile. This is simply my favorite piano player featuring the type of jazz I love.
ccblank2
Newly released... Live in Chicago w/ Stretchin out as a Bonus track. The REAL trio!
The In Crowd is INNNNN!
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