Mr. Ramsey Lewis
“Listen – Ramsey Lewis – African Boogaloo Twist – MP3″
“Listen – Ramsey Lewis – Ode – MP3″
The week is done, and I don’t know about you cats, but I’m in the mood for some soul jazz.
Who better to bring the heat, than the mighty Ramsey Lewis.
The tendency among the crate digger types would tend toward taking Lewis for granted, since a lot of his records are incredibly common. Thanks to the success of his version of ‘The In Crowd’ he was a best selling artist for years. Thanks to his own prodigious talent – and an uncanny ability to stay ahead of the stylistic curve – he also produced a grip of high quality music, from swinging mid-period soul jazz like you’ll be hearing today, right on to visionary reimaginings of the Beatles on ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and then onto the gritty breakbeats of
‘Them Changes’ and then on, and on and on.
‘African Boogaloo Twist’ and ‘Ode’ come from the 1968 LP ‘Maiden Voyage’, and display two sides of an artist in transition. The album includes a couple of pop and soul covers (Manfred Mann, Aretha Franklin) as well as some heavier jazz material, including the Herbie Hancock title cut and a cover of Mike Gibbs ‘Sweet Rain’, previously recorded by both Gary Burton and Stan Getz. Lewis collaborated on the LP with Cadet records visionary Charles Stepney and his touch is most evident on cuts like ‘Les Fleur’ and the mini-epic ‘Ode’.
‘African Boogaloo Twist’ (written by bassist Cleveland Eaton) is classic Lewis with enough heat for the dance floor from Lewis’ piano, some slamming drums and a backing chorus. ‘Ode’ is something else entirely.
The Stepney composition is the kind of lush departure that he and Richard Evans were creating so much of for Cadet in the late-60s. Built on a crystalline string and horn chart, the tune creeps eerily close to easy listening territory before taking a hard left turn into a soulful bit of boogaloo, and then turning yet again (in a wonderful minor chord transition) into a mixture of the two. ‘Ode’ is a great example of the direction Stepney was going in with Rotary Connection, melding soul, jazz and easy sounds into a sophisticated new alloy.
Juxtaposing the two songs you get a good look at how Lewis was able to keep making groove oriented crowd pleasers and still stretch out, and no matter how much of a spread that was, it was still all Ramsey Lewis music at the end of the day.
I hope you dig the tunes, and I’ll be back on Monday.