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Ramsey Lewis R.I.P. (1935-2022)

Ramsey Lewis left this planet. At 87 yrs old. A life well-lived.

A Chicago native, born & bred. A man who always stayed faithful to the Chi too. A Jazz Man. A career spanning 8 decades. Whopping 82 albums. Excluding the ones with him as a sideman.

The first decade of his career, he recorded for Argo (a subsidiary of Chess Records and after 1965 renamed as Cadet) and was accompanied by the drummer Red Holt & bass player Eldee Young. They scored a huge hit in 1965 with a song called “The In Crowd”.

It wasn’t long before both gentlemen left to form Young-Holt Unlimited (making great records too!), only to be replaced by Cleveland Eaton on bass and this someone named Maurice White on drums.

At the Chess label, Charles Stepney (who recently had his first -posthumous- solo album 'Step On Step' released, also recommended!) was one of its staff arrangers and when he got to work with Ramsey, the latter’s music took another flight: the trilogy of albums “Mother Nature’s Son”, “Maiden Voyage” & “Another Voyage” are soaring, beautiful pieces of work.

Ramsey switched labels from Chess to Columbia in 1972, and started to use the Fender Rhodes more, his music gradually gettin’ more raw & funky with each release. By 1974, Maurice White (who had left in 1970 to form his own band) and some members of Earth Wind & Fire (yes, that band) were on hand to record a single with Ramsey, a supposedly sure-fire hit called “Hot Dawgit” that nonetheless tanked upon release.

However, the album it’s taken from had another song recorded with The Elements, and that happened to be the title track called “Sun Goddess”, an album cut that took all of 8.30 min. Radio deejays championed it themselves, creating so much demand that Columbia had to rush release it as a single to capitalize on.

Subsequently, Stepney returned to produce two more albums; of those “Salongo” is the keeper, and later albums always had a few of worthwhile cuts each.. “Tequila Mockingbird”, “Spring High”, “Don’t Look Back”, “Whisper Zone” among them.

To cap it all off: Ramsey Lewis was the man. One of the finest examples of musical excellence. And definitely will be sorely missed.

R.I.P. to a true legend 🕊


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James Brown
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