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Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey

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Album Review

Ramsey Lewis is not only thriving in his golden years, but continues to refine his approach within the tried-and-true piano-bass-drums trio format. Alongside his longtime bandmates featuring the very talented bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce, Lewis has chosen to present an all-original program inspired by his collaborative concert stage work with the Joffrey Ballet Company, or the Turtle Island String Quartet. With elegance, panache, and a little bit of soul, Lewis and his group breeze through these selections, and while the pianist has his own approach to shadings and lyricism, there's no doubt he is also reflecting the muse and sage wisdom of another great jazz player who made his mark in Chicago, Ahmad Jamal. Lewis crafts lovely themes shaded in little or no drama via the light bossa nova dance traipse of "Touching, Feeling, Knowing," the easygoing contemporary funk of "The Spark," or the tango, soul-jazz inflected "The Way She Smiles." Not all laid-back, the trio is led by the irrepressible Gray, who pushes through "Exhilaration" all the way through, runs through an ostinato bassline on the driving, Brazilian, Jamal-styled beats of "Rendezvous," and uses a bouncy, hip, 6/8 mode for the classy, bouncy "To Know Her Is to Love Her," accented by the chiming piano of Lewis. While the backbone of these recordings is the sophistication of the piano player in the ensemble tracks, there are four solo pieces that further illuminate this grand dame concerto concept. "Clouds in Reverie" perfectly reflects its title, "Conversation" is an elegiac, epic, musical love tale in the class of "Exodus" or "Spartacus," "The Glow of Her Charm" reflects delicacy but merges into some forceful moments, while "Watercolors" uses up-and-down dynamics, not normally the strong suit of the pianist. Of the many watered-down commercial efforts and overproduced music Ramsey Lewis has offered on big commercial labels, this one could easily be his most accessible to a legitimate jazz audience. It certainly is his very best recording in the last two decades of his star-studded career, and can certainly be recommended to all lovers, dreamers, and mainstream jazz listeners in general. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: May 27, 1935 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis has been a major figure in contemporary jazz since the late 1950s, playing music with a warm, open personality that's allowed him to cross over to the pop and R&B charts. Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 27, 1935, and was introduced to music by his father, who directed the choir at a local church and enjoyed the music of Duke Ellington and Art Tatum. Lewis began studying the piano when he was four years old, and was soon accompanying the choir at Sunday...
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Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey, Ramsey Lewis
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