Ramsey Lewis, the jazz pianist who revived the style, of 87. died in


Depending on which music pundit you ask, Jazz “Die” When its heyday of 1920 came to an end. Others believe that jazz music lost its luster in the 1960s – and rock music – rolled around.

But an inventive jazz pianist and one of the nation’s most respected artists in the genre, Ramsey Lewis continued to find new ways to keep the genre alive and developing and, crucially, developing new generations of jazz listeners.

Lewis spent nearly 60 years recording and performing original jazz music, winning the gold medal in 1965 with the crossover hit “The ‘In’ Crowd”. He three. won Grammyset seven gold records and in 2007 was named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master, the highest honor given to jazz musicians in America.

Lewis died on Monday in his hometown of Chicago, his manager Brett Steele Confirmed, He was 87 years old.

A lifelong Chicagoan, Lewis grew up on a Cabrini-green housing project on the city’s Near North Side. Although he played the piano as a child, he was introduced to jazz at home, when his father played records by Duke Ellington and Art Tatum (one of Lewis’s all-time favorites). He did not attempt to learn to play jazz himself until another musician from his church approached him at the age of 15 to start a band. National Endowment for the Arts Biography Why Lewis?

After honing his jazz piano skills with that band, the Clefs, he formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with bassists Eddie Young and Red Holt. Website, Their first album was released in 1956, but it was not until nearly 10 years later that they became national stars: the trio’s instrumental cover of “The ‘In’ Crowd” became a hit upon its release in 1965, and Lewis released his Won the first three. Grammer.

The mid-1960s also saw the release of crossover hits such as “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water”, two songs that resonated with listeners from all backgrounds, not just jazz aficionados.

The line-up of these three has changed over the years – other members include Maurice White on drums (he eventually left the trio to start Earth, Wind & Fire but returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 album “Sun Goddess”). Lewis also collaborated with other artists in his style, including late jazz singer Nancy Wilson on several albums, including 1984’s “The Two of Us”.

Lewis melded the gospel music and blues he grew up playing with the jazz his father loved and the popular sounds of the time that became contemporary jazz music. His jazz compositions had funk and soul (a style he perfected “Sun goddess” And performance on shows such as “Soul Train”), although he could also play classical compositions with ease and panache (he once counted Bach as one of his favorite sources of “brain food”).

Lewis produced a prolific production for several years following the success of “The ‘In’ Crowd”, releasing two to three albums a year. In all, they recorded over 80 albums, including last year’s “Maha De Carnaval”.

He was fit and initially retired. In 2018 he told Chicago Station WGN that he took several days off from piano performance and practice and quickly became bored. In 2019, he opened the Chicago-based Ravinia Festival and told Chicago Tribune That year—they were “90-something percent retired”—they still performed locally, but were completely retired from touring across America.

Even when he wasn’t performing, Lewis was introducing listeners to new artists and replaying old favorites: He hosted several jazz shows on public radio and TV stations in Chicago throughout his life.

He was also a great proponent of art education and upliftment of talented youth in music. He founded the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005, which brought music programs to at-risk youth. He recalled his own basic art education at his Chicago public school, which he said offered various band and music electives. He lamented the disregard for public school art classes.

“When they got knocked out of the public school system, we lost a lot of kids who might have contributed to the scene as we know it,” he told WGN.

Music was oxygen for Lewis; Even after he “retired”, he could not stop composing original songs. In a 2018 interview with WGN, he shared that he was still tinkering with a song he started writing 15 years ago. He spent most of his time at home at his beloved Steinway piano, which he said he bought in 1962. An eternal student eager to sharpen his skills, he listened to everything in all genres that would fit on his iPod.

In 2009, when asked what he considers to be the greatest album of all time, he replied“There is no such animal.”

“The satisfaction I get today may not be tomorrow or next week,” he told Pop Matters in 2009. “The best album I ever heard was the one I just listened to, unless I’m spending time researching other cultures or auditioning for new music. /artists. Then… you ever do not know!”

Lewis was remembered by his friends and fans for his innovative style and curious spirit. Rev. Jesse Jackson Remembered that Living near Lewis for over 40 years, watching their kids grow up together.

“Ramsey had excellent taste and was formally trained and disciplined,” Jackson tweeted, “I will remember him as a friend and neighbor.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Told The city of Chicago was grateful to have Lewis as its “native son.” Based on his lifetime of playing in his beloved Chicago, he felt the same pride representing his city. As he put it briefly in 2011 Interview: “Chicago is home.”

Lewis is survived by his wife and their five children.

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