Sad to hear today of the passing of Ramsey Lewis…
I first saw the Ramsey Lewis Trio at the club Mister Kelly's while in high school. I didn't realize at the time that I was to meet & become friends with his drummer- Maurice White. Maurice later told me that he was painfully shy from childhood. Even when playing with Ramsey, he used to adjust his cymbals high so no one could
see him. Ramsey heard Maurice playing an African instrument (the kalimba) one day & begged Maurice to play it as an intro to one of their songs in the set.
That first night Ramsey praised Maurice for his drumming, told the audience that Maurice would start the next song with a kalimba intro, & forced Maurice to go to the front of the stage to play it. A very nervous Maurice did that, & by the end of his solo got a standing ovation from the crowd. Maurice told me that this cured him of his shyness.
I enjoyed Ramsey's work, & I loved Maurice's influence on his Sun Goddess album in 1974. The piano part in my song "Sky" (co-written much later with Maurice for my "All Things in Time" album") was influenced by the guitar figure in the song "Sun Goddess".
"Maurice [White] later told me that he was painfully shy from childhood. Even when playing with Ramsey, he used to adjust his cymbals high so no one could see him."
In 1995, Maurice called me to write material for & record with a jazz ensemble consisting of top studio musicians. The group was named the "Urban Knights". It was great to get to know Ramsey, & I was impressed at how easily he took things in stride.
When we tracked the first song that Maurice & I wrote titled "On the Radio", the band played to a click (with other synths that were pre-programmed). Ramsey was having a problem hanging tight to the click. He told me to play with the section, while later he would play solos on an overdub... no ego or drama at all.
The album garnered praise from the jazz community, & it led to further Urban Knights albums... I was able to contribute even more on the 2nd album. I lost track of Ramsey these last years, & felt terrible when I heard he passed on today. He was someone I should have kept in closer touch with.
My deep condolences to the Lewis family.
Rest in peace Ramsey..
Jazz pianist, three-time Grammy winner, and NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis, who successfully crossed over from the Jazz charts to the Pop charts, most notably with his smash hit “The In Crowd”.