Breezy Jazz From The Windy City
Anthony G Pizza | FL | 02/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ramsey Lewis, like BB King and Quincy Jones, serves as a jazz ambassador and transitional figure. His 60s work on Chess with the Ramsey Lewis trio, later collaborations with Earth Wind & Fire (founded by his Trio drummer, Maurice White) and pianist Billy Taylor, and his radio, TV and Web site exposure have brought his form of traditional jazz to a new group of musicians.Longtime fans will not be dissapointed by 1993's "Sky Islands." Lewis' occassionally missteps: John Lennon's "Julia" is performed too lushly considering the original's stark treatment, while "Love Will Find A Way" was at best a second-tier Lionel Richie song. But his piano playing here balances smooth, traditional, and R&B jazz in a way not done since the Crusaders' peak years (and consistent with the general philosophy of GRP Records, his label.) Highlights include a suprisingly effective medley of Lewis' 60s hits, a seductive version of Janet Jackson's "Come Back To Me," Lewis' and White's collaboration with Art Porter on "Who Are You," the EW&F-based title track, and the gentle "Song For Jan.""