But Ramsey Lewis, an innovative pianist and one of the nation’s most respected artists in the genre, has continued to find new ways to keep the genre alive and evolving, and most importantly, nurture new generations of jazz listeners.
Lewis, who has lived in Chicago his whole life, grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing project near the city’s North Side. Although he played piano throughout his childhood, his exposure to jazz was only at home, when his father played records from Duke Ellington and Art Tatum (one of Lewis’ all-time favorite artists). He didn’t try to learn jazz himself until another musician at his church approached him to start a band when he was 15, according to National Endowment for the Arts
After honing his piano skills with that band, Clefs, he formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with guitarist Eddie Young and Red Holt on percussion, in website
. Their first album was released in 1956, but nearly 10 years later they became national stars: the base cover of the trio “The In’ Crowd” was a huge hit upon its 1965 release and Lewis won his first album out of three. Grammy.
The mid-1960s also saw the release of crossover hits like “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water”, songs that resonated with listeners of all backgrounds, not just jazz fans.
The trio’s lineup has been mixed over the years – including the other members Maurice White
On drums (he eventually left the trio to start Earth, Wind & Fire but returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 album “Sun Goddess”). Lewis has also collaborated with other artists of the genre, including the late jazz singer Nancy Wilson, on several albums, including 1984’s “The Two of Us.”
Lewis blended gospel and blues music he grew up playing the jazz his father loved with the popular sounds of the time to create what became contemporary jazz. His jazz compositions were full of funk and soul (a style he perfected “Goddess of the Sun”
And the displayed
on shows like “Soul Train”), although he could play classical pieces with ease and versatility (he was once guess
Bach as one of his favorite sources of “brain food”).
Lewis left a legacy in Chicago and beyond
Louis’ production was prolific, releasing two to three albums per year for several years after the success of “The In” Crowd. Altogether, he recorded over 80 albums, including last year’s “Maha de Carnival”.
Intermittent retirement. He said in 2018 Chicago WGN . Station
He took several consecutive days of playing and practicing the piano and soon got bored. In 2019, the Ravinia Festival opened in Chicago and told The Chicago Tribune
That year he was “90 percent retired” – he was still performing domestically, but completely retired from touring around the United States.
When he wasn’t working, Lewis was still introducing listeners to new artists and replaying old favorites: he hosted numerous jazz shows on public radio and television stations in Chicago throughout his life.
He was also a staunch advocate of arts education and the promotion of musically talented youth. He founded the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005, which provided music programs for at-risk youth. He recalled his foundational art education at his Chicago public school, which he said offered diverse bands and electives. He regretted the cancellation of funding for art classes in public schools.
“When they took that out of the public school system, we lost a lot of kids who may have contributed to the landscape as we know it,” he told WGN.
Music was oxygen to Lewis; He couldn’t quit composing the original songs even after he “retired”. In a 2018 interview with WGN, he said he’s still messing about with a song he started writing 15 years ago. He spent much of his time at home at his beloved Steinway piano, which he said he bought in 1962. A timeless student eager to hone his skills, he listened to everything, across genres, that fit his iPod.
When asked in 2009 what he considers to be the greatest album of all time, he replied
“There is no such animal.”
“What feels good to me today may not be tomorrow or next week,” he told Pop Matters in 2009. The best album I’ve ever heard is the one I just listened to, unless I spend the time researching other cultures or testing new music/artists. So.. you never know! “
His friends and fans remembered Lewis for his innovative style and inquisitive spirit. Reverend Jesse Jackson remember
They have lived near Lewis for over 40 years, watching their children grow up together.
“Ramsey had great taste and received formal and disciplined training,” Jackson chirp
. “I will miss him as a friend and neighbour.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot He said
The city of Chicago was grateful to have Lewis as a “native son.” Based on his life spent playing in his beloved Chicago, he felt the same pride representing his city. As he put it succinctly in 2011 an interview
: “Chicago is home.”
Louis is survived by his wife and five children.