But Ramsey Lewis, an ingenious jazz pianist and one of many nation’s most revered artists within the style, continued to search out novel methods to maintain the style alive and evolving and, crucially, develop new generations of jazz listeners.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Lewis grew up within the Cabrini-Green housing mission within the metropolis’s Near North Side. Though he performed piano all through his childhood, his publicity to jazz got here solely at house, when his father would play data from Duke Ellington and Art Tatum (one in all Lewis’ all-time favourite artists). He did not try to be taught to play jazz himself till one other musician at his church approached him to begin a band when he was 15, in keeping with the National Endowment for the Arts’ biography
After honing his jazz piano expertise with that band, the Clefs, he fashioned the Ramsey Lewis Trio with bassist Eddie Young and Redd Holt on percussion, per his website
. Their debut album was launched in 1956, but it surely wasn’t till nearly 10 years later that they turned nationwide stars: The trio’s instrumental cowl of “The ‘In’ Crowd” turned a success upon its 1965 launch and gained Lewis his first of three Grammys.
The mid-Sixties additionally noticed the discharge of crossover hits like “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade within the Water,” two songs that resonated with listeners from all backgrounds, not simply jazz aficionados.
The trio’s line-up shuffled through the years — different members included Maurice White
on drums (he ultimately departed the trio to begin Earth, Wind & Fire however returned to provide Lewis’ 1974 album “Sun Goddess”). Lewis collaborated with different artists in his style, too, together with the late jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson on a number of albums, together with 1984’s “The Two of Us.”
Lewis melded the gospel music and blues he’d grown up enjoying with the jazz his father liked and the favored sounds of the time to create what turned up to date jazz music. His jazz compositions had funk and soul (a method he perfected on “Sun Goddess”
on packages like “Soul Train”), although he might play classical compositions with ease and panache, too (he as soon as counted
Bach as one in all his favourite sources of “mind meals”).
Lewis left a legacy in Chicago and past
Lewis had a prolific output, releasing two to 3 albums a 12 months for a number of years after the success of “The ‘In’ Crowd.” In all, he recorded greater than 80 albums, together with final 12 months’s “Maha de Carnaval.”
He retired in suits and begins. In 2018, he advised Chicago station WGN
that he took off a number of days in a row from performing and training piano and shortly turned bored. In 2019, he opened the Chicago-based Ravinia Festival and advised the Chicago Tribune
that 12 months that he was “90-some % retired” — he’d nonetheless carry out regionally, however he was absolutely retired from touring throughout the US.
When he wasn’t performing, Lewis was nonetheless introducing listeners to new artists and replaying previous favorites: He hosted a number of jazz packages on public radio and TV stations in Chicago all through his life.
He was additionally an amazing proponent of arts training and uplifting musically gifted younger individuals. He based the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005, which introduced music packages to at-risk youth. He recalled his personal foundational arts training at his Chicago public college, which he stated provided numerous bands and musical electives. He lamented the defunding of public college arts lessons.
“When they knocked that out of the general public college system, we misplaced numerous children who might in all probability have contributed to the scene as we all know it,” he advised WGN.
Music was oxygen to Lewis; he could not give up composing unique songs even after he “retired.” In the 2018 interview with WGN, he shared that he was nonetheless tinkering with a tune he began writing 15 years earlier. He spent a lot of his time at house at his beloved Steinway piano, which he stated he purchased in 1962. An everlasting scholar desirous to sharpen his expertise, he listened to the whole lot, throughout genres, that might match on his iPod.
When requested in 2009 what he thought of the best album ever, he replied
, “There isn’t any such animal.”
“What feels satisfying to me at this time may not tomorrow or subsequent week,” he advised Pop Matters in 2009. “The finest album I ever heard was the one I simply listened to, until I’m spending time researching different cultures or auditioning new music/artists. So then … you by no means know!”
Lewis was remembered by his associates and admirers for his revolutionary type and inquisitive spirit. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recalled
dwelling close to Lewis for greater than 40 years, watching their kids develop up collectively.
“Ramsey had beautiful style and was formally skilled and disciplined,” Jackson tweeted
. “I’ll miss him as a pal and a neighbor.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said
town of Chicago was grateful to have Lewis as a “native son.” Based on his lifetime of enjoying in his beloved Chicago, he felt the identical satisfaction representing his metropolis. As he put it succinctly in a 2011 interview
: “Chicago is house.”
Lewis is survived by his spouse and 5 of his kids.