This week William Price King shares the music of Ramsey Lewis and his incredible 50 years in the contemporary jazz movement.
Ramsey Lewis has been an iconic leader in the contemporary jazz movement for over 50 years with an unforgettable sound and outgoing personality that has allowed him to crossover to the pop and R&B charts. Throughout his illustrious career, Lewis who is a NEA Jazz Master, has also joined forces with countless other artists to create new and innovative music.
You can find out more about him on his official website: Ramsey Lewis
Now for some music from this jazz legend and his trio.
“The In Crowd” (an instrumental version of Dobie Gray’s Top 40 hit, written by Billy Page) provided Lewis with his most successful recording which reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart and No. 2 on their top 200 albums chart in 1965, remaining there for 47 weeks. This irresistible, understated party-starter was considered the epitome of mid-60s cool. What’s incredible about this album being so high on the charts is that it was up there with the likes of the Beatles’ Help!, which was #1. Right below at #3 was Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.
On down the list were Sonny and Cher, The Rolling Stones, and Barbra Streisand. This was an amazing achievement for a jazz trio. The album marked the start of soul-jazz. The single of the same name reached No. 2 on the R&B Chart and No. 5 on the Hot 100 singles chart the same year. The album was recorded live at Bohemian Caverns, a Washington, D.C. night club with Ramsey Lewis on piano, Eldee Young on bass and cello, and Redd Holt on drums. « The In Crowd » received a Grammy Award in 1966 for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by an Individual or Group. The single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
“ Hang on Sloopy”, is the title track of a live 1965 recording (released on Rhapsody in 1966) by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, reaching #6 on the US R&B chart, #11 on the US pop chart, and #18 on the US adult contemporary chart. Like « The In Crowd, » it achieved gold status. For the recording of this album there was an enthusiastic crowd at the night club who provided a party atmosphere as they clapped along with the rhythm and on familiar tunes. The trio was at its best as Lewis exploited blues riffs and plagal cadences* while Young and Holt provided a strong backbeat.*
*Plagal cadence – A chord progression where the subdominant chord is followed by the tonic chord, which is also known as a church cadence because it is sung to the word Amen at the conclusion of protestant hymns.
*Backbeat – A rhythmic accentuation on even beats.
“Les Fleur” is from the album Maiden Voyage, recorded in 1968 and released on the Cadet label. This is beautiful, adventurous and ethereal baroque soul jazz/jazz funk/jazz pop at its best. “Les Fleur” was written and arranged by Charles Stepney. The album ‘Maiden Voyage’ features the Earth, Wind and Fire drummer Maurice White, and also songstress Minnie Ripperton. « Les Fleur » is an extraordinarily beautiful melody and embraces both intimacy and majesty to a haunting effect. For unknown reasons the original record label spelled the song as “Les Fleur”, although the French plural of ‘La Fleur’ (flower) is ‘Les Fleurs.’ Lewis is accompanied on this album by Cleveland Eaton on bass, and Maurice White on drums.
“Sun Goddess”, from the album by the same name, has a jazz-inflected, uplifting melody with superb wordless vocals by Earth Wind and Fire’s Phillip Bailey, whose incredible falsetto and rhythm guitar-paced groove shine throughout. It is evident from this album that Lewis had transformed himself into a jazz/fusion/funk musician, riffing on electric piano and synthesizer while at the same time exploring progressive rock. This was Lewis’ biggest hit since ‘The In Crowd’ and dominated the airwaves during the mid ‘70s. « Sun Goddess » was pinned by Maurice White (Earth Wind and Fire) and released on Columbia Records in 1974, reaching #1 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and jazz chart, and #12 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. It was certified gold in the US by the RIAA.
Buy the music of Ramsey Lewis: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION – https://williampriceking.tumblr.com
Buy William’s music ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484
Connect with William
You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-music-column/