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Ramsey Lewis

Biography

By the 1960s most jazz performers were elevated -- or demoted, depending on your point of view -- into the rarified air of highbrow culture. Only a few artists managed to get onto the pop charts the way Ramsey Lewis did during the height of Beatlemania. His earthy and funky piano sounded great in a posh nightclub or in a hot discotheque: the hepcats dug how Lewis vamped off of his beefy grooves on the hit version of "The In Crowd," while the kids just knew a hot dance tune when they heard one. While his late '50s and '60s albums are a tasty combination of Vince Guaraldi and Ray Charles, much of Lewis' later recording were closer to Earth, Wind and Fire (his hit album Sun Goddess was recorded with the band and it still sounds great). He went through a bland, faceless fusion period but things are looking up once again and Appassionata (1999) finds him performing mellow but beautiful mainstream jazz. Lewis' funky piano style has been embraced by a young generation of Acid Jazz fans. Many of these youngsters try to ape his groove, but few (if any) can reach his level of funkified artistry. He's recorded a lot of crap, but the choice stuff stands out -- and will kickstart any party outside of the Utah state lines as quickly as the cast of Baywatch suggesting a game of Twister.

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