Will the real Ramsey stand up?
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 07/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ramsey Lewis is just about the the most eclectic and accessible musician I know. Whether commercial circumstances demand gospel-inflected funk, bluesy jazz, electronic fusion music with a disco beat, or most recently "jazzed-up" versions of Bach and Puccini, he serves up the kind of music a sizable portion of the public wants to hear. Whether it's jazz or not is quite another question. If the audience that grooves to "The In Crowd" or applauds "Nessun Dorma" finds as much of value in the music of Bud Powell and Bill Evans, give Ramsey his due. Frankly, I don't hear anything of the musical revolution produced by Bird and Diz in Ramsey's playing. To my ears he's a variant on Don Shirley, a versatile pianist who was more an "interpreter" of jazz, pop, and classical styles than an exponent of any one of them.
Since Ahmad Jamal is another pianist who eschews the language of bebop and constrains himself to playing the most accessible music for the largest number of listeners, some comparisons seem inevitable. Whereas Ramsey practices great musical discipline to stay out of trouble, Ahmad applies equal restraint to avoid overwhelming his listener, always holding extra in reserve. Ramsey has a fluid, facile piano touch at times suggestive of Tatum's; Ahmad, always the dramatist, alternately produces sonic thunder and extracts crytalline, singing tones from the instrument. Ramsey can get the crowd involved in a responsive group dynamic, whereas Ahmad addresses the individual listener, constantly keeping him off balance with repetition nad variation, tension and release, even hypnotizing and transporting him into exotic rhythmic and tonal worlds.
"The In Crowd" probably represents the "real" Ramsey Lewis better than any of his other recordings. After Charlie Parker's death in 1955, musicians like Silver, Blakey, and Cannonball sought out larger audiences by making the music more bluesy, religious, and down to earth. Ramsey Lewis took it a step further, showing that music can be as basic as church hymns and still be identified by its listeners as "jazz." One thing is inarguable: for 45 years he's performed for a relatively stable congregation of listeners and, given the tricks up his sleeve, its membership is likely to keep growing."
Santa Monica Jack
Santa Monica Jack | 01/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am sixty one years old. First saw Ramsey Lewis at the London House in Chicago when I was 13 years old. First jazz I ever heard in my life and I got hooked. In Los Angeles there used to be a radio station 105.1 KBCA jazz 24 hours a hour. There was a show Rod McGrew and the Lion's Den. The show always started with The Love Theme From Spartacus rendition by Yusef Lateef from Eastern Sounds. This has become one of my favorite music renditions. Then I went back and revisted Ramsey Lewis's version of this song and it blew me away. The whole album brought back many great memories. Highly reccomend if you are an old geezer like me or enjoy good jazz."
James F. Lennon | New York | 08/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The In Crowd sound is as fresh today as it was when it first came out. Ramsey Lewis has his own unique sound in the field of jazz."