But Ramsey Lewis, an inventive jazz pianist and one of the country’s most respected artists in the genre, continued to find new ways to keep the genre alive and evolving and, most importantly, to develop new generations of musicians. jazz listeners.
The mid-1960s also saw the release of crossover hits like “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water”, two songs that appealed to listeners from all walks of life, not just jazz fans.
Lewis left a legacy in Chicago and beyond
Lewis had a prolific output, releasing two to three albums a year for several years following the success of “The ‘In’ Crowd”. In all, he has recorded more than 80 albums, including “Maha de Carnaval” last year.
When he wasn’t performing, Lewis was still introducing listeners to new artists and replaying old favorites: he hosted several jazz programs on public radio and television stations in Chicago throughout his life.
He was also a great proponent of arts education and the edification of musically gifted young people. He founded the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005, which provided music programs for at-risk youth. He recalled his own fundamental arts education at his Chicago public school, which he said offered various bands and music lessons to choose from. He deplored the defunding of arts classes in public schools.
“When they eliminated that from the public school system, we lost a lot of kids who probably could have contributed to the scene as we know it,” he told WGN.
Music was oxygen for Lewis; he couldn’t stop composing original songs even after his “retirement”. In the 2018 interview with WGN, he shared that he was still tinkering with a song he started writing 15 years earlier. He spent much of his time at home at his beloved Steinway piano, which he said he bought in 1962. An eternal student eager to hone his skills, he listened to anything, in any genre, that could fit on his iPod.
“What satisfies me today might not be tomorrow or next week,” he told Pop Matters in 2009. “The best album I’ve ever heard is the one I just listen, unless I spend time researching other cultures or listening to new music. /artists. So…you never know!”
Lewis is survived by his wife and five of his children.