World of Slick Music
I’m back with another edition of wosm and since it’s Sunday we’re gonna go gospel today and today’s artist is a big time veteran and is a pianist called Ramsey Lewis. He was born in May 27 1935 in Chicago, Illnois which means that within 2 months he will celebrate his 80th birthday! At the age of 4 he began taking piano lessons and joined his first jazz band The Cleffs when he was 15.
Now this 7 piece group would later develope into Ramsey’s perhaps most famous group the Ramsey Lewis Trio which contained the drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt and bass player Eldee Young of The Cleffs, picture below.
The trio released their first album in 1956 called Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing. Their biggest success came in 1965 with a cover a song originally written by Dobie Gray called “The In Crowd”. After this one they sort of changed their musical direction from jazz to more pop orientated music. Young and Holt left in 1966 to start Young and Redd Unlimited. They were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and a certain Maurice Young who left around 1970 to start a band of his own, a band that still exists today and goes under the name of Earth, Wind & Fire! Many members came and left after White.
Picture above the Ramsey Lewis trio with Maurice White (left), Ramsey (center), Cleveland Eaton (right).
By 1966 Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists with hits like “The In Crowd”, “Hang On Sloopy”, “Wade in the Water”. All 3 singles sold over 1 million copies and were awared gold discs. Many of the stuff he did also attracted a large non jazz audience so you can say he was a crossover. In the 1970:s Ramsey played a lot on electric piano probably a result of the fusion trend who came in the 70:s with fellow jazz pianists like Joe Sample (The Crusaders), Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return to Forever), Herbie Hancock (H.H.’s Headhunters). They were like some of the pioneers playing what we today would call “fusion jazz”. However towards the end of the 70:s Ramsey was back with a traditional acoustic piano.
Picture above Ramsey at a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
He contiued making albums and performing throughout the 1980:s and 90:s. In 1994 he appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool along with some other promient jazz artists such as Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as “Album of the Year” by Time magazine, see picture below.
Between 1994 and 2006 he had his own like hobby/side project called Urban Knights which was a mix of artists and musicians in many different styles such as pop, soul/r&b, jazz/funk/fusion. The made, at least so far 6 albums thou only the first 2 ones are the best, pictures below. They have a better and more like “natural sound” with real live drums and not so much pre programmed stuff as the other 4 that followed.
Ramsey has kept himself busy and still is, been hosting both radio and tv shows where he was promoting jazz legends. So Sunday as it is and like i said in the beginning it’s time for a gospel. Maybe you’ think Ramsey and gospel?? Yes i’m not kidding here he has done an album mixing jazz and gospel. For 10 years ago in 2005 he made an live album with a choir called One Voice, picture below.
Like many artists in soul/funk/r&b/jazz who have their roots in the church Ramsey also has. On this 2005 release he went back to his roots and played gospel. The song i’ve choosed is perhaps the most known gospel song of them all!! Originally recorded by Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969 and since then don’t think there are many gospel choirs who hasn’t sung this one! Well weather you like it or not here comes “Oh Happy Day” with Ramsey Lewis with One Voice.
Enjoy your listening!!
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