Sep 13, 2022 - News

RIP, Ramsey Lewis (1935-2022)

Photo of a pianist playing on stage.
Ramsey Lewis performs at the Petrillo bandshell at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 1984. Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Jazz great Ramsey Lewis died yesterday.

  • He was 87 years old.

Context: Lewis was a leading voice in jazz, advancing the genre's legacy in Chicago.

  • He founded The Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956 and topped the '60s pop charts with hits like "The In Crowd" "Hang On, Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water."
  • Lewis and his bandmates were fixtures at Jazz clubs such as Mr. Kelly's and London House.

By the numbers: Lewis' accomplishments:

  • He recorded over 80 albums.
  • He won three Grammys.
  • Since 1990, Lewis has hosted a syndicated radio show, "Legends of Jazz."
  • He hosted mornings at defunct jazz station WNUA.
Photo of a band playing a nightclub.
Ramsey Lewis in concert at an unnamed Chicago club in 1975. Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

What they're saying: "Ramsey brought his own blend of serious classical training and deep gospel feel to jazz piano," Aaron Cohen, a co-author of Ramsey Lewis' forthcoming memoir, "Gentleman Of Jazz," tells Axios.

  • "But he went further and always explored new avenues with electronic music and R&B while drawing on sounds from around the world."
  • "Along with his own music, he was also a crucial mentor and teacher for generations of musicians."

Of note: Lewis taught music education courses and served on the boards of many Chicago institutions, including Ravinia and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

Flashback: Justin sat down with Lewis for a long interview in 2016. As they talked about his career, Ramsey said:

  • "I just want to be as good as I am today and better than I was yesterday."

💭 Justin's thought bubble: I loved Ramsey Lewis. I had to throw out his "Sun Goddess," because I played it so much it wore out. Ramsey may not be with us anymore, but his music will never leave. Here's to one of the best.

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