Amongst their newest releases, reissue specialists BGO Records have just issued a 2 CD set on jazz legend RAMSEY LEWIS. The collection brings together three albums which he recorded for Columbia between 1983 and 1987. They are ‘Les Fleurs’, ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Keys To The City’.
The Chicago pianist (who sadly died last September aged 87) made his name in the mid 60 when he was pacted to Chess. With his eponymous trio (that at various times featured Red Holt, Eldee Young and Maurice White), his recordings of tunes like ‘Wade In The Water’, ‘The In Crowd’, ‘Hang On Sloopy’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ remain jazz staples and did so much to bring jazz to a wider audience.
By the mid-70s music tastes were changing and the big hits were drying up, so, a little disillusioned with Chess maybe, Lewis moved over to Columbia. ‘Les Fleurs’, released in 1983, was something like Lewis’ 12th LP for the major label and on it he was supported by bassist Bill Dickens and drummer Frank Donaldson. Guests included Eldee Young, Paul Jackson Jr and Ronnie Laws and Chicago’s Tom Tom 84 was in the producers chair. The album was a “classic” Ramsey Lewis LP in a s much as it was essentially a collection of tasteful covers like Bacharach’s ‘ A House Is Not A Home’, Stevie’s ‘Superwoman’, EWF’s ‘Reasons’ and the Minnie Riperton song that gives the LP its title.
Despite its quality, the album enjoyed only moderate success so for his next outing (discounting a collaboration with Nancy Wilson), Lewis decided to radically change tack and to try to “modernize” his sound with synthesisers, samplers and other up and coming gadgets. Thus 1985’s ‘Fantasy’ and ‘87’s ‘Keys To The City’ deliver something new for Ramsey Lewis … why.. some of the tracks were even vocals! Sadly, the Butch Stewart-produced ‘Fantasy’ was a commercial disappointment so for ‘Keys To The City’ EWF’s Larry Dunn was brought in to help Stewart with production duties and the album managed to reach 22 on Billboard’s jazz chart.
So here, over 24 tracks, you can enjoy various aspects of the genius who was Ramsey Lewis and with extensive sleeve notes from my esteemed SJF colleague Charels Waring, you can be sure you get to know everything you need to know!