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STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Ramsey Lewis, then and Now

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Today, let's look at some performance videos from throughout the long career of pianist Ramsey Lewis, who will be in St. Louis with his Electric Band to perform Wednesday, November 30 through Saturday, December 3 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Lewis, 76, is a Chicago native who first gained wide attention in the 1960s with a series of hit singles that included the gospel-inflected “Wade In The Water" and bluesy versions of then-current pop tunes such as Dobie Gray's “The In Crowd" and the McCoys' “Hang On Sloopy." You can see a live TV performance of “Sloopy," recorded back in 1967, in the first embedded video window up above.

Down below, there are a couple of clips from Lewis' performance in 1980 at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The first starts off with a hard-driving “In Crowd," then segues into a piano solo that demonstrates Lewis' affinity for the blues. Next, guitarist Henry Johnson, a longtime collaborator who still performs with Lewis, kicks off an abbreviated version of “Sun Goddess," the funk tune that was a hit for Lewis and Earth, Wind and Fire in 1974.

The second clip from that concert shows Lewis and band playing Chick Corea's “500 Miles High," one of a number of songs by well-known jazz musicians that Lewis has adapted for his own purposes.

For the fourth clip, we fast-forward to 1987 and a performance of “711" on The Arsenio Hall Show. The video on this one, seemingly taken from an old VHS tape, is pretty rough, but the audio quality is fine, and the tune offers a nice taste of the commercial funk sound Lewis offered on several recordings around this time.

Clip number five brings us into the 21st century for a solo performance of “Dear Lord," taken from Legends of Jazz, the public television series hosted by Lewis in 2006.

The final clips show off the 2011 edition of Lewis' band, presumably the same group that will be playing with him at the Bistro. The sixth clip is a full-length version of “Sun Goddess," recorded in Paris in August, and the seventh and final video takes us back to the the pianist's roots with contemporary version of “The In Crowd" from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland last January.












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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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