But Ramsey Lewis, an inventive jazz pianist and something of the nation’s most respected artists in the genre, continued to find novel ways to keep the genre alive and changing and, crucially, develop new generations of jazz listeners.
Lewis invested nearly 60 years recording and performing original jazz music, impressive gold in 1965 with the crossover strike “The ‘In’ Group. ” He gained three Grammys , obtained seven gold information and in 2007 had been named a National Endowment of the Artistry Jazz Master, the highest honor bestowed upon jazz musicians in the US.
Lewis died Monday on his home in his native Chicago, his manager Brett Steele confirmed . He had been 87.
Lewis was behind some crossover hits
A lifelong Chicagoan, Lewis grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing project in the city’s Near Northern Side. Though he or she played piano throughout his childhood, their exposure to jazz came only at home, whenever his father would play records from Duke Ellington plus Art Tatum (one of Lewis’ perfect favorite artists). This individual didn’t attempt to understand jazz himself until another musician with his church contacted him to start a band when he was 15, based on the National Endowment for the Arts’ biography of Lewis.
After sharpening his jazz keyboard skills with that band, the Clefs, he or she formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with bassist Eddie Younger and Redd Holt on percussion, per his website . Their particular debut album was released within 1956, but it wasn’t until almost ten years later that they grew to become national stars: The particular trio’s instrumental cover of “The ‘In’ Crowd” became a hit upon its 1965 release and gained Lewis his first of three Grammys.
The mid-1960s also saw the release of crossover hits like “Hang on Sloopy” plus “Wade in the Drinking water, ” two music that resonated with listeners from most of backgrounds, not just jazz music aficionados.
The trio’s line-up shuffled through the years — other people included Maurice White on percussion (he eventually departed the trio to start Earth, Wind & Fire but came back to produce Lewis’ mid 1970s album “Sun Goddess”). Lewis collaborated with other artists in his genre, too, including the past due jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson on a number of albums, including 1984’s “The Two people. ”
Lewis melded the gospel music and blues he’d matured playing with the jazz music his father adored and the popular noises of the time to create exactly what became contemporary punk music. His jazz music compositions had funk and soul (a style he enhanced on “Sun Goddess” and showcased on programs like “Soul Train”), though he could perform classical compositions effortlessly and panache, too (he once counted Bach as one of his favorite sources of “brain food”).
Lewis left a legacy in Chicago and beyond
Lewis had a prolific result, releasing two to three cds a year for several years after the success of “The ‘In’ Crowd. inch In all, he documented more than 80 cds, including last year’s “Maha de Carnaval. ”
He retired in fits and begins. In 2018, this individual told Chicago station WGN that he took off several days in a row from performing and exercising piano and rapidly became bored. Within 2019, he opened the Chicago-based Ravinia Festival and told the Chicago Tribune that season that he was “90-some percent retired” — he’d still carry out locally, but he or she was fully retired from touring across the US.
When he was not performing, Lewis was still introducing listeners to new performers and replaying aged favorites: He managed several jazz programs on public radio and TV channels in Chicago throughout his life.
He seemed to be a great proponent of arts education plus uplifting musically talented young people. He created the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005, which brought songs programs to at-risk youth. He recalled his own foundational artistry education at their Chicago public school, which he mentioned offered various rings and musical electives. He lamented the defunding of community school arts lessons.
“When they knocked that out of the general public school system, we all lost a lot of kids who could possibly have contributed to the scene as we know this, ” he informed WGN.
Music was oxygen to Lewis; he couldn’t quit creating original songs even after he “retired. ” In the 2018 job interview with WGN, he shared that he has been still tinkering with a song he started creating 15 years previously. He spent much of his time in your own home at his dearest Steinway piano, which usually he said he or she bought in 1962. An eternal student eager to sharpen his skills, he listened to everything, across styles, that would fit in the iPod.
When asked last year what he regarded the greatest album actually, he replied , “There is no such animal. ”
“What feels satisfying to me these days might not tomorrow or next week, ” he told Pop Matters in 2009. “The greatest album I ever heard was the one I just listened to, unless Now i’m spending time researching some other cultures or auditioning new music/artists. So then… you never understand! ”
Lewis was remembered by his close friends and admirers for his innovative design and inquisitive spirit. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recalled living near Lewis for more than 40 years, watching their children develop together.
“Ramsey had beautiful taste and has been formally trained and disciplined, ” Jackson tweeted . “I will miss him as a friend and a neighbors. ”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city of Chicago was grateful to have Lewis as a “native son. ” Depending on his lifetime of actively playing in his beloved Chicago, he felt exactly the same pride representing their city. As he place it succinctly in a last year job interview : “Chicago is home. ”
Lewis will be survived by his wife and five of his children.