News Column

Jazz great Ramsey Lewis kicks off Patten Performances - Sept. 9

September 4, 2014

Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

Sept. 04--The Patten Performances series will kick off its 35th season with a concert by legendary composer, pianist and jazz artist Ramsey Lewis on Tuesday, Sept. 9, in the UTC Fine Arts Center.

The series was created to bring professional performing arts to the city and the campus.

Known as "the great performer," Lewis developed his talent early in life playing gospel and classical music. His first album, "Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing," by the Ramsey Lewis Trio was released in 1956. Less than a decade later, he was one of the nation's most successful jazz pianists, having scored hits with "The In Crowd," "Hang on Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water."

Over the years, Lewis has earned three Grammy Awards and seven gold records. He received a 2006 Stellar Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album, "With One Voice." He was also the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in January 2007.

He began taking piano lessons at age 4. He has said in a previous interview, "It wasn't until I started studying with the late Dorothy Mendelsohn that I responded to some of the startling things she was teaching me, such as 'Listen with your inner ear,' and 'Make the piano sing.' These concepts were revelations."

He continued his musical education learning Bach, Beethoven, Hadyn, Brahms and Chopin and other basic piano repertoire for the concert pianist. He was introduced to jazz via records his father played around the house including the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Meade Lux Lewis.

At 15, however, a fellow church musician, Wallace Burton, asked him to join his jazz band and taught him the language of jazz. The seven-piece group called themselves "The Cleffs." The Ramsey Lewis Trio had its roots as the rhythm section (composed of Lewis on piano, Eldee Young on bass and Redd Holt on drums) and remained after the other members of the Cleffs went off to the Korean war.

"Jazz soon became a major force in my musical life, but European classical and gospel music were of almost equal importance," he says.


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Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

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