Ramsey Lewis trio makes Millennium Park debut

September 2, 2010 9:40:58 AM PDT
Legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis is celebrating his 75th birthday by giving a gift to music-lovers of Chicago. For the first time, Lewis will bring his trio to Millennium Park as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

(PRESS RELEASE) Lewis will perform on Friday, September 3 at 8:30 pm with long-time collaborators Larry Gray (bass) and Leon Joyce (drums). It is a concert of firsts: the first time the trio has presented a free concert in Chicago, and the first time in more than a decade that the ensemble has performed in a downtown Chicago location, and the first time since 1984 Lewis has performed at the Jazz Fest, chicagojazzfestival.us

"This concert is a gift to my hometown -- the city that has nurtured me and inspired me my entire life," said Ramsey, ramseylewis.com. "We are thrilled to perform at the Pritzker Pavilion surrounded by the vibrancy and awe-inspiring grandeur of the most beautiful city in the world."

The Friday evening program will include a sneak preview of Lewis' newest composition, "Colors?The Ecology of Oneness," a seven-movement jazz suite that will receive its world premiere in Tokyo later this month. Also on the program are selections from "To Know Her," a Lewis-composed ballet commissioned by the Joffrey Ballet in 2007; passages of Lewis' "Proclamation of Hope," the critically-hailed symphonic piece which debuted at Ravinia in 2009 and which will be presented at the Kennedy Center in November 2010; as well as some of the trio's biggest hits, including "The In Crowd," "Hang on Sloopy" and their beloved Gospel medley.

Also as part of his 75th birthday celebration, Lewis will sit down for a conversation with Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich, who's just released a new book Let Freedom Swing: Collected Writings on Jazz, Blues and Gospel. Jazz fans can listen in on Thursday, September 2 at 5:30 pm at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. Admission is free.

Composer, pianist and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis has been referred to as "the great performer," a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections that display his early Gospel playing and classical training along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. A native Chicagoan born May 27, 1935, Lewis represents the great diversity of music for which Chicago is noted.

Lewis first captivated fans with his debut album "Ramsey Lewis and The Gentlemen of Swing" by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956. By 1965, he was one of the nation's most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with "The In Crowd," "Hang On Sloopy" and "Wade In The Water." More than 80 albums later, he is embarking on the latest phase of his career, as a composer. Lewis is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award, four honorary doctorate degrees and numerous other accolades including seven gold records and three Grammy Awards.

The Chicago Jazz Festival is the longest running of the city's lakefront music festivals. For more than 30 years, the Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition. Know for its artistic creativity, the Chicago Jazz Festival promotes awareness and appreciation for all form of jazz through quality live musical performances. The festival's mission is to showcase Chicago's vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educated a jazz audience of all ages. In addition to the Ramsey Lewis Trio, this year's performers include: Nicole Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Brad Mehldau, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Rene Marie, The Either/Orchestra, Kurt Elling and more.

The Chicago Jazz Festival runs Thursday, September 2 through Sunday, September 5. For more information, including a program schedule, call the Mayor's Office of Special Events (312) 744-3315, TTY (312) 744-2964. Visit the Mayor's Office of Special Events on the Internet at chicagojazzfestival.us for updates on performers. For more information on Chicago, including help planning your trip, visit explorechicago.org.

FREE CONCERT BY RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO
Tomorrow at 8:30 pm
Pritzker Pavilion 201 E. Randolph
Chicago

CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL
THURSDAY THROUGH SUNDAY
MILLENIUM PARK
(312) 744-3315
chicagojazzfestival.us

RAMSEY LEWIS DEBUTS "COLORS ? THE ECOLOGY OF ONENESS" IN TOKYO

Legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis is currently putting the finishing touches on a major new work entitled "Colors - The Ecology of Oneness." Written for his jazz trio, the piece will be performed against a dazzling visual backdrop designed by acclaimed Chicago-based photographer Michael Coakes. The new work will receive its World Premiere at the renowned Blue Note Tokyo http://www.bluenote.co.jp/jp/index.html for 10 performances from Tuesday, September 28 through Saturday, October 2.

Building on Lewis' recent critical and popular successes as a composer, "Colors - The Ecology of Oneness" is a bold and vibrant seven-movement jazz suite that contemplates the infinite connections that unite individuals, ideas and the natural world. Lewis devotes each movement to a different color, exploring various themes by linking a color to a concept, event or idea relating to struggles and fulfillments of the human condition. Pitched in the musical palettes for which Lewis is well-known ? jazz, classical, gospel and blues ? "Colors" expands to encompass a musical language he has termed American Afro?Romanticism, a blending of western art sensibilities with African American idioms.

Chicago-based visual artist Michael Coakes, who has collaborated with Lewis on several projects, is developing striking images to enrich the audiences' perception of the music, while University of Pennsylvania music professor Guthrie P. Ramsey, author of "Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop," is providing written notes.

"Much has been noted lately about how the world is growing smaller as time moves on," says Lewis. "The bonds that link us are ever-present: in the instantaneous sharing of digital information; in our heightened sense of interdependence when natural disasters strike; in the consequential fears that occasionally register and sweep through our global financial markets; and in the universal celebration of human achievement. Despite divisive temporal day-to-day realities, historical and spatial distances, or even vehemently opposing political or religious views, people around the globe share meaningful associations. This piece explores links that reach the core of what it means to be a resident of the world at this time."

Lewis has spent more than two years developing the piece, which will be performed with long-time collaborators Larry Gray (bass) and Leon Joyce (drums). Lewis, now 75, has in recent years embarked on a new phase of his career as a composer with the debut of "To Know Her," a ballet commissioned by the Joffrey Ballet in 2007, and "Proclamation of Hope," a piece for more than 20 musicians, written to commemorate the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial, which debuted in 2009 at the Ravinia Festival and will be presented at the Kennedy Center in November 2010. In 2009, Lewis also released "Ramsey plays Ramsey," his first recording of original music.

Lewis has been referred to as "the great performer," a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections that display his early gospel playing and classical training along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. A native Chicagoan born May 27, 1935, Lewis represents the great diversity of music for which Chicago is noted. Lewis first captivated fans with his debut album "Ramsey Lewis and The Gentlemen of Swing" by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956. By 1965, he was one of the nation's most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with "The In Crowd," "Hang On Sloopy" and "Wade In The Water." With more than 80 albums on his discography, Lewis is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award, four honorary doctorate degrees and numerous other accolades including seven gold records and three Grammy Awards.

A North American tour of "Colors ? The Ecology of Oneness" is currently being developed for 2011. Additional details will be released as they become available.

Michael Coakes, a visual artist based in Chicago, splits his time between the worlds of fine and commercial art. His commercial career started early, at the age of 14, and has encompassed art direction, illustration, photography and multi-media design. Much of that work has been for the music industry. Last year Coakes developed the visual elements for Ramsey Lewis' "Proclamation of Hope." His recent fine art project, "Illusions of Psyche" is a digital mixed-media series of prints that has been a part of a number of gallery exhibitions for the last two years. He is currently developing a new series, "Fluidity," which will be done in a similar medium.

Guthrie P. Ramsey, is a professor of music at University of Pennsylvania who specializes in African-American and American music, jazz, cultural studies, popular music, film studies, and historiography. He lectures internationally on these topics. Ramsey is the author of "Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop," which was named outstanding book of the year by International Association for the Study of Popular Music. His current project, "In Walked Bud: Earl 'Bud ' Powell and the Modern Jazz Challenge," is a study of jazz pianist Bud Powell and is forthcoming from the University of California Press. He has also begun a new book on singer/songwriter Curtis Mayfield. Ramsey was a Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth College in 1993, a DuBois Institute Fellow at Harvard University in 1996, and taught at Tufts University from 1994-1998. Ramsey composes and arranges all of MusiQologY's music, which moves beyond the traditional Jazz idiom, experimenting with R&B, Latin, Hip Hop fusions. The band's first CD, "Y the Q?" is available through http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/drguysmusiqology.

For more information, visit www.ramseylewis.com. For tickets to the World Premiere of "Colors ? The Ecology of Oneness," visit http://www.bluenote.co.jp/jp/index.html.

RAMSEY LEWIS

Biography

Composer, pianist and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis has been referred to as "the great performer," a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections which display his early gospel playing and classical training along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. A native Chicagoan (born May 27, 1935), Mr. Lewis represents the great diversity of music for which Chicago is noted. Ramsey Lewis first captivated fans with his first album "Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing" by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956. By 1965, he was one of the nation's most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with "The In Crowd," "Hang On Sloopy" and "Wade In The Water." He has three Grammy Awards and seven gold records to his credit. Often called legendary, Mr. Lewis concedes "It's a high honor when someone says so, but I don't see myself that way. What keeps me enthusiastic and energizes me, is the realization that the more I learn, the more I find there is to know." His most recent industry award was the 2006 Stellar Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album, "With One Voice" presented in January 2007.He was also the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in January 2007.Mr. Lewis has received four (4) honorary doctorate degrees and numerous other accolades.

Ramsey Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four, studying the basics and fundamentals. But, "It wasn't until I started studying with the late Dorothy Mendelssohn that I responded to some of the startling things she was teaching me, such as 'Listen with your inner ear,' and 'Make the piano sing.' These concepts were revelations!" he says. Soon after, he began learning Bach, Beethoven, Hadyn, Brahms and Chopin, and other basic piano repertoire for the concert pianist.

Except for records his father played around the house, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Mead Lux Lewis and others, Mr. Lewis had no experience playing jazz. He was 15 when a fellow church musician, Wallace Burton, asked him to join his jazz band and took the time to coach and help the young musician learn the language of jazz. It was a brand new experience for him. The seven-piece group called themselves "The Cleffs" and provided Mr. Lewis' first real involvement with the great music of jazz. The emerging Ramsey Lewis Trio had its roots as the rhythm section (comprised of Mr. Lewis on piano, Eldee Young on bass and Redd Holt on drums) and remained after the other members of the Cleffs went off to the Korean war. "Jazz soon became a major force in my musical life, but European classical and gospel music were of almost equal importance," he recalls.

In addition to recording albums and performing live, Mr. Lewis hosted WNUA-FM Chicago's weekday morning drive-time radio show, "The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show," from 1997-2009 for which he was awarded R&R's (Radio&Records) 1999 and 2000 Personality of the Year Award. The syndicated "Ramsey Lewis Morning Show" ran from 2007-2009 nationwide. He continues to host the syndicated "Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis," radio program throughout the U.S.

Active in community efforts, especially on behalf of youth, he helped organize the Ravinia Festival's Jazz Mentor Program and also serves as the Artistic Director for that festival's jazz series. In January of 2007, the Dave Brubeck Institute invited Mr. Lewis to be on the Honorary Board of Friends of the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music, an inner city music program in downtown Chicago and is a member of Loyola University (Chicago) Council of Regents. Early 2005 saw the formation of the Ramsey Lewis Foundation, a program designed to help provide scholarship opportunities to youth as they move through high school and on to college. Unfortunately, due to a health related issue in 2008, Mr. Lewis has had to suspend this program indefinitely.

In 2003, Mr. Lewis along with Larry Rosen (founder and former president of GRP Records) and Lee Rosenberg formed LRSmedia, an independent music entertainment company that created and produced branded entertainment properties for distribution across broadcast, live and recorded media. LRSmedia co-produced, along with PBS television station WTTW-Chicago in April 2006, a series of 13 one-half hour television programs called "Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis" making it the first time in forty years that jazz had enjoyed television coverage. The program not only featured the legends of this great music, but also the young and upcoming stars as well. Mr. Lewis, along with Mr. Rosen and Mr. Rosenberg were co-executive producers of the series.

Beginning in 2005, Mr. Lewis began seriously composing large-scale musical works. The first was an eight-movement work for jazz trio and ballet in collaboration with the Joffrey Ballet and choreographed by Donald Byrd. The world premiere of "To Know Her . . ." was performed at Ravinia Festival in June of 2007. The second was an eight-movement work for jazz trio and string quartet entitled "Muses and Amusements". This world premiere with the Turtle Island Quartet was also performed at Ravinia Festival in June of 2008. And the latest work was a multimedia tribute to Abraham Lincoln on the 200th anniversary of his birth. This eight-movement work entitled "Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem by Ramsey Lewis" was world premiered once again at Ravinia Festival in June of 2009 and consisted of Mr. Lewis performing with his trio and twenty-one other musicians on stage enhanced with visuals on giant screens and a historical description in the program conveying what each movement represented. Scott Hall arranged the music and conducted, Michael Coakes created the visuals, Guthrie Ramsey wrote the historical descriptions and Jan Lewis was senior advisor/coordinator.

Mr. Lewis continues to perform in the U.S. and abroad with his trio, Larry Gray on bass and Leon Joyce on drums. His latest album "Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey" is on Concord Records.

For more information, visit www.ramseylewis.com


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