Ramsey Lewis’s falls at the jazzier end of instrumental music. He carved out a career strongly based on jazzed up, excellent, covers of pop songs, movie themes & some straight ahead jazz work. His earlier lps Bossa Nova (62), The In Crowd Live(65), Hang On Ramsey! Live (65), Wade In The Water (66), are fun, better than easy-listening work. You would never mistake him for Keith Jarrett but he’s miles away from Eddie Duchin.
I had Wade in The Water as a cassette & loved it & the horn arrangements. He recorded some of these lps under the direction of Charles Stepney, who was also the producer of The Rotary Connection – a trippy, LSD soul, r’n’b group that are sweet & stunning. The peak of his work with Cadet Chess is Mother Nature’s Son (68), an lp of all Beatles covers with wild electronic, electric piano work. I loved it but my buddies at the time didn’t get it. It wasn’t their idea of jazz & as it flirts with a weird LSD cocktail lounge sound. Plus musician like Phil Upchurch & Minnie Ripperton added to the sound.
In the early 70’s he changed labels & direction. Thanks to the jazz-rock trend he tested that expansive sound with Upendo Ni Pamoja (72), Funky Serenity (73). This are more Bob James than Weather Report & his electric piano work is pleasant. As much as I enjoyed these this didn’t hold as much as his earlier work so I lost interest in him after these.
On the mp3 collection are three lps by Stan Kenton – & his big band. Cuban Fire, Hair (not as campy as you might expect), Easy Go. Like Lewis Kenton did interpretations of pop, Broadway shows. He remained more ‘grounded’ & never ventured into the trippy territory that Lewis handled so deftly.