I’m going to depart momentarily from the guitar to bring you one of my favorite jazz pianists. In 1974, I attended a concert at Purdue University where a friend’s band was backing up Ramsey Lewis. That night, when Lewis’ trio launched into the most soulful version of Slippin Into Darkness I’d ever heard, I got hooked on his music. To this day, that tune remains one of my favorites.
Lewis was born May 27, 1935 in Chicago, so we share a certain city heritage. He attended DePaul University and joined up with drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio. While they initially concentrated on jazz, their music evolved into more of a pop sound with Lewis’ 1965 hit “The In Crowd” paving the way to his becoming one of the most successful jazz pianists ever. Three of his single hits, “In Crowd”, “Hang On Sloopy”, and “Wade In The Water”, went gold.
In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosted a morning show on Chicago "smooth jazz" radio station WNUA (95.5 FM) until May 22, 2009 when their format changed.
Lewis is artistic director of “Jazz at Ravinia”, a outdoor concert venue in Highland Park, IL and helped organize Ravinia’s Jazz Mentor Program. Ramsey also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music, a Chicago inner-city music program and The Chicago High School for the Arts. In 2005, he created the Ramsey Lewis Foundation to help connect at-risk children discover the world of music. Ramsey still lives in Chicago along with seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He’s a musical giant with a heart to match.
Slippin into darkness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pux-0_2bEPE
Sweet home Chicago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ7m1kAXtLY&feature=related
Something you got: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqEBFWhR9Bo&feature=related
Blues for the nightowl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NxqaqZgLR4&feature=related
Everybody’s groove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLbKXxY3UxA&feature=related
Upendo ni pamoja: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnhC2ChQRKo
The In crowd: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slv0j5USBa4
Wade in the water: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlJ6dXbjG4I&feature=related
With a class act like Ramsey Lewis, I suggest a 2009 CalStar Cellars Pinot Noir ($20.00) from their Sangiacomo Vineyards. The wine is crimson in color with a fragrance of honeysuckle and berries. The palate is filled with notes of raspberries, cherries, and a touch of vanilla with subtle tannins. The finish lingers with a bit of spiced cranberry. An excellent wine to go with some excellent music. Enjoy!