Goodnight everyone, and have an ‘in’ weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!

Legendary jazz composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis recently announced his retirement  after more than 60 years in the music business.

His music is memorable. The talented Lewis has been able to take his jazz treatments and cross over into R & B and pop.

We’ve got a few samples of Lewis’s phenomenal career to look back on, so let’s get started.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio, with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt, started out in Chicago, and released their debut album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, back in 1956.

In February of 1965 Dobie Gary reached the Top 20 with “The ‘In’ Crowd.”

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows

Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

I’m in with the in crowd
I know every latest dance
When you’re in with the in crowd
It’s easy to find romance

That same year Lewis took Gray’s song and turned it into one of the great instrumentals of all-time. Lewis earned his first gold record, as well as a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance. His swinging version actually did better on the Hot 100 chart than Gray, peaking at #5.

Nearly 50 years later, Lewis recorded a re-make.

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Lewis was right back on the charts in 1966 with versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water.”

The recording of “Wade in the Water” marked the debut of new trio members (bassist Cleveland Eaton and drummer Maurice White) after Red Holt and Eldee Young left to form Young-Holt Unlimited.

“Wade in the Water” is a Negro spiritual that refers to the Christian tradition of baptism. The religious rite can be performed by sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or immersing a person’s body in water. Baptism symbolizes purification and choosing to live life in the Christian faith.

Wade in the water
Wade in the water
Children wade, in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

Who’s that young girl dressed in red
Wade in the water
Must be the children that Moses led
God’s gonna trouble the water

Next, a beautiful rendition of a classic that every jazz fan should know.

Another legend, Herbie Hancock was once a member of Miles Davis’ band, until Davis let him go.

“What happened with that? Yeah, well I got married in 1968, and my wife and I went to Brazil for our honeymoon. Then I got food poisoning on my wedding night,” Hancock recalled in a 2006 interview.

Hancock wound up missing some performances that didn’t sit well with Davis.

“I don’t think that Miles believed that I had food poisoning because he knew that all the members of the band were thinking about leaving,” said Hancock who was replaced by another great keyboardist, Chick Corea.

“Not only do I not have a gig, I’m not playing with Miles any more. Thinking about getting out the door is one thing, you see, but doing it is another. But actually it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because then I put my own band together and for the first time I could play the songs I’d written, night after night.”

Those compositions included “Maiden Voyage” in 1965 that originally was the theme for  an after shave TV commercial.

“I was asked by an advertising agency to write something that was hip and elite,” said Hancock. “They said the setting was going to be a kinda posh jazz club where the people would be dressed very elegantly and sit on high-backed chairs. And I’m thinking that I never even saw a jazz club like that. They were usually dingy little basements. Well, the Yardley’s men’s cologne is not… uh. Let’s just say that it was, um… a very affordable cologne.”

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Now the year is 1988. Lewis recorded with the Philharmonic Orchestra  under the direction of James Mack for the album “A Classic Encounter.”

The opening track starts out calmly, then bursts into a stirring Broadway-like theme.

Image result for image, photo, picture, ramsey lewis, philharmonia orchestra

Since 1957 Lewis has performed with more than twenty-five symphony orchestras. He is the winner of three Grammy Awards and has earned five gold records.

On retiring, Lewis said on his Facebook page, “most of all, this decision came simply because it feels like the right time. While I will be turning 83 in about a month and the aging body does present certain unavoidable challenges, I am very grateful to be in the shape I am in at the present time.” His last public appearance will be a free farewell concert in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, on September 1.

That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

Earlier we mentioned that Eldee Young and Redd Holt left the Ramsey Lewis Trio.  So Ramsey hired a new rhythm section with Cleveland Eaton on bass and Maurice White on drums.

You may have recognized the drummer’s name.

White  left the band to form Earth, Wind & Fire, but returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 smash album entitled “Sun Goddess” where Lewis for the first time dabbled with  electronic keyboards.

“I always have remained faithful and true to the acoustic piano and I don’t claim to be Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock —they go whole-hog off into the electronic world and I’ve never done that,” said Lewis “I love and respect what they do, but I’m so hung up on the acoustic piano, I’ve never strayed too far away from it.”

Earth, Wind & Fire appeared on the “Sun Goddess” album that amazingly topped three charts all at the same time in 1974 (no. 1 R&B, no. 1 jazz, and no. 12 pop).

Image result for image, photo, picture, ramsey lewis, earth wind and fireRamsey Lewis, Earth Wind and Fire perform during the OWN At The Apollo Concert Series, held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Photo by Jennifer Graylock-Oprah Winfrey Network

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