THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO: In Person 1965-67 (Label: Rev-o-La)

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THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO: In Person 1965-67

Though some short-sighted jazz purists enjoy taking pot shots at Ramsey Lewis, there can be no argument about the sterling work he did in the mid-sixties to popularize jazz with a series of swinging albums and chart-riding singles which he cut for the Chess organization. There’s any number of Ramsey Lewis compilations out there and, rightly, they’re stuffed with the big hits and the well-known tunes. This new Rev-o-la set, however, is different. It contains two full albums back to back – ’65’s ‘Hang On Ramsey’ and ’67’s ‘Dancing In The Street’. Both were recorded live – the former at the Hermosa Beach Lighthouse Club and the latter and San Francisco’s Basin Street West – and both have that lovely live, organic swing that marked out Lewis’s hits like ‘Hang On Sloopy’… and indeed that foot-tapping rework of the Vibrations/ McCoy’s hit is at the heart of this collection. But the great thing about having the full albums (as opposed to just the hits) is that it’s patently clear that Lewis was – indeed still is – a great and true jazz stylist. On stuff like ‘Satin Doll’ and ‘What Now My Love’ the playing is as dextrous, as sensitive and as soulful as anything the “proper” jazz heavyweights were laying down at the time. Maybe, just maybe, the purists we alluded to up top felt that scoring hits wasn’t quite right; maybe they wanted to keep the great music to themselves. Thank goodness then for Ramsey Lewis. He turned many onto jazz and plenty of that many – me included – went on to investigate and discover a whole new world of exciting music. Great to have these two fabulous LPs back on the racks and for the anoraks Eldee Young and Red Holt are bassist and drummer on ‘Hang On…’ while Cleveland Eaton and a young Maurice White take the roles on ‘Dancing In The Street’.
(BB) 4/5