Ramsey Lewis

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Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis October 2009.jpg
Lewis at KPLU in October 2009
Background information
Birth name Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr.
Born (1935-05-27) May 27, 1935 (age 78)
Origin Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Jazz, jazz funk, pop
Occupations Composer, pianist, radio personality
Instruments Piano, keyboards
Years active 1956–present
Labels Cadet, Columbia, GRP, Narada, Concord, Hidden Beach Recordings
Associated acts Young-Holt Unlimited
Website www.ramseylewis.com

Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr. (born May 27, 1935) is an American jazz composer, pianist and radio personality. Ramsey Lewis has recorded over 80 albums and has received seven gold records and three Grammy Awards so far in his career.

Biography[edit]

Ramsey Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ramsey Lewis, Sr. and Pauline Lewis.[1] Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four. At 15 he joined his first jazz band, The Cleffs. The seven-piece group provided Lewis his first involvement with jazz; he would later join Cleffs drummer Isaac "Redd" Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Lewis is a graduate of DePaul University.

The trio started as primarily a jazz unit and released their first album, Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. Following their 1965 hit "The In Crowd" (the single reached No. 5 on the pop charts, and the album No. 2) they concentrated more on pop material. Young and Holt left in 1966 to form Young-Holt Unlimited and were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White. White left to form Earth, Wind & Fire was replaced by Morris Jennings in 1970. Later, Frankie Donaldson and Bill Dickens replaced Jennings and Eaton; Felton Crews also appeared on many 1980's releases.

By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with "The In Crowd", "Hang On Sloopy",[2] and "Wade in the Water". All three singles each sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs.[3] Many of his recordings attracted a large non-jazz audience. In the 1970s, Lewis often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups.[4]

In 1994, Lewis appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, alongside other prominent jazz artists, Herbie Hancock and 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.

In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosts the weekly syndicated radio program Legends of Jazz, created in 1990. He also hosted the Ramsey Lewis Morning Show on Chicago "smooth jazz" radio station WNUA (95.5 FM). In December 2006, this morning show became part of Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network, simulcasting on other smooth jazz stations across the country until its cancellation in May 2009, when WNUA switched over to a Spanish format.[5]

In 2006, a well-received 13-episode Legends of Jazz television series hosted by Lewis was broadcast on public TV nationwide and featured live performances by a variety of jazz artists including Larry Gray, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey Defrancesco, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Pat Metheny and Tony Bennett.[6]

Lewis performing at JazzFe 2006. Photo by Tomas Forgac

Lewis is artistic director of Jazz at Ravinia (an annual feature at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois) and helped organize Ravinia's Jazz Mentor Program.[7] 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, the new public arts high school in Chicago. Early in 2005, the Ramsey Lewis Foundation was created to help connect at-risk children to the world of music. As an offshoot of that foundation, Lewis plans to form a Youth Choir and Youth Orchestra. In January 2007, the Dave Brubeck Institute invited Lewis to join its Honorary Board of Friends at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Lewis is an Honorary Board member of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Lewis is a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. In May 2008, Lewis received an honorary doctorate from Loyola University Chicago upon delivering the keynote address at the undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Lewis still lives in Chicago, Illinois, the city of his musical roots. He has seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Discography[edit]

Year Recorded Album Record Label
1956 Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing Argo
1956 Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Jazz Argo
1958 Lem Winchester and the Ramsey Lewis Trio Argo
1959 Down to Earth EmArcy
1959 An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio Argo
1960 Stretching Out Argo
1960 The Ramsey Lewis Trio in Chicago Argo
1961 More Music from the Soil Argo
1961 Never on Sunday Argo
1961 Sound of Christmas Argo
1962 The Sound of Spring Argo
1962 Country Meets the Blues Argo
1962 Bossa Nova Argo
1963 Pot Luck Argo
1963 Barefoot Sunday Blues Argo
1964 Bach to the Blues Argo
1964 The Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Bohemian Caverns Argo
1964 More Sounds of Christmas Argo
1964-65 You Better Believe Me Argo
1965 The In Crowd Argo
1965 Hang On Ramsey! Cadet
1965 Swingin' Cadet
1966 Wade in the Water Cadet
1966 The Movie Album Cadet
1966 Goin' Latin Cadet
1967 Dancing in the Street Cadet
1967 Up Pops Ramsey Lewis Cadet
1968 Maiden Voyage Cadet
1968 Mother Nature's Son Cadet
1968 Ramsey Lewis Live in Tokyo Cadet
1969 Another Voyage Cadet
1969 The Piano Player Cadet
1970 Them Changes Cadet
1971 Back to the Roots Cadet
1974 Solid Ivory Cadet
1972 Upendo Ni Pamoja Columbia
1973 Funky Serenity Columbia
1973 Ramsey Lewis' Newly Recorded All-Time Non-Stop Golden Hits Columbia
1974 Solar Wind Columbia
1974 Sun Goddess Columbia
1975 Don't It Feel Good Columbia
1976 Salongo Columbia
1977 Love Notes Columbia
1977 Tequila Mockingbird Columbia
1978 Legacy Columbia
1979 Ramsey Columbia
1980 Routes Columbia
1981 Blues for the Night Owl Columbia
1981 Three Piece Suite Columbia
1982 Ramsey Lewis Live at the Savoy Columbia
1982 Chance Encounter Columbia
1983 Les Fleurs Columbia
1983 Reunion Columbia
1984 The Two of Us - with Nancy Wilson Columbia
1985 Fantasy Columbia
1987 Keys to the City Columbia
1988 Classic Encounter Columbia
1989 We Meet Again - with Billy Taylor Columbia
1989 Urban Renewal Columbia
1992 Ivory Pyramid GRP
1993 Sky Islands GRP
1994 Urban Knights I GRP
1996 Between the Keys GRP
1997 Urban Knights II GRP
1998 Dance of the Soul GRP
1999 Appassionata GRP
2000 Urban Knights III GRP
2001 Urban Knights IV Narada
2002 Meant to Be - with Nancy Wilson Narada
2003 Urban Knights V Narada
2003 Simple Pleasures - with Nancy Wilson Narada
2004 Time Flies Narada
2005 Urban Knights VI Narada
2005 With One Voice Narada
2009 Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey Concord
2011 Taking Another Look Hidden Beach
2013 A Simple Discovery Rainmaker Productions

As sideman[edit]

With Max Roach

  • MAX (Argo, 1958)

With Jimmy Woode

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Lewis performs live in the KPLU studio on October 2009

Grammy history[edit]

  • Career Wins: 3[8]
  • Career nominations:
Ramsey Lewis Grammy Awards History
Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1965 Best Jazz Performance - Small Group or
Soloist with Small Group
"The In Crowd" Jazz Argo/Chess Winner
1966 Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance -
Vocal or Instrumental
"Hold It Right There" R&B Chess Winner
1973 Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance "Hang on Sloopy" R&B MCA Winner

Gold records[edit]

Currently, the normal RIAA certifications for a gold album is 500,000 units.

Gold Records[9]
Year Title Label
1965 The In Crowd Argo
1966 Hang On Ramsey! Cadet
1966 Wade in the Water Cadet
1968 Sound of Christmas Argo
1976 Sun Goddess Columbia

Recognitions[edit]

  • 2002: Ramsey Lewis, carried the Winter 2002 Olympic Torch, Ramsey lights the cauldron for its brief stop in Chicago.[10]
  • 2003: NAACP Image Award, Best Jazz Artist, for his album Simple Pleasures (2003)[11]
  • 2006: 22nd Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, Best Gospel Instrumental Album, With One Voice (2005)[12]
  • 2007: National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Masters Award[13]
  • 2007: Landmarks Illinois, Legendary Landmark Award, as one of living treasures of Illinois. "Just like our landmarked buildings, our three Legendary Landmarks have been critical to the civic well-being of Chicago and stand as a testimony to the greatness of our cultural integrity." said David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ramsey Lewis with one voice" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 50 - The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 6] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  3. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 192, 193 & 207. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  4. ^ "''Billboard'': Ramsey Lewis". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  5. ^ WNUA Swings to Spanish Format, Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2009
  6. ^ WTTW - Channel 11, Legends of Jazz[dead link]
  7. ^ Ravinia Festival[dead link]
  8. ^ "Grammy Awards Database for Ramsey Lewis". Theenvelope.latimes.com. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  9. ^ "RIAA Certifications". Riaa.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  10. ^ Tony Faillo. "Winter 2002 Olympic Torch". Worldisround.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  11. ^ "NAACP: Ramsey Lewis". Theenvelope.latimes.com. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  12. ^ "Stellar Gospel Music Awards". Thestellarawards.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  13. ^ 2007 NEA Jazz Master[dead link]
  14. ^ "Legendary Landmarks Gala". Landmarks.org. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 

External links[edit]