Today in 1935 – Ramsey Lewis

Composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis has been referred to as “the great performer”, a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections which display his early gospel playing and classical training along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. A native Chicagoan (born May 27, 1935), Mr. Lewis represents the great diversity of music for which Chicago is noted.

Ramsey Lewis first captivated fans with his first album “Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. By 1965, he was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy and Wade In The Water. He has three Grammy Awards and seven gold records to his credit. Often called legendary, Ramsey concedes “It’s a high honor when someone says so, but I don’t see myself that way. What keeps me enthusiastic and energizes me, is the realization that the more I learn, the more I find there is to know.”

To his credit, he has been honored with three (3) honorary doctorate degrees, the Recording Academy Governor’s Award in 2000 and he was “Person of the Week” on ABC Nightly News in February 1995. Mr. Lewis performed at the White House State dinner President Bill Clinton held for President Fernando Henrique & Mrs. Cardoso of Brazil in April of 1995. He was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Academy of Illinois “Laureate” Award in Springfield, Illinois in April of 1997, and was one of the Olympic Torch runners who carried the Winter 2002 Olympic Torch during its journey to Salt Lake City in January of 2002.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio
The Ramsey Lewis Trio

In addition to recording albums and performing live, Mr. Lewis hosts WNUA-FM Chicago’s weekday morning drive-time radio show for which he has been awarded R&R’s 1999 and 2000 Personality of the Year Award. He also hosts the syndicated “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis”, a two-hour radio program which airs in over 65 cities throughout the U.S. Active in community affairs, especially on behalf of youth, he helped organize the Ravinia Festival’s Jazz Mentor Program and also serves as the Artistic Director for that festival’s jazz series. He is constantly his own trio composed of Larry Gray on bass and Leon Joyce on drums. Check the tour page for current dates.

Mr. Lewis has performed concerts and has played many of the jazz festivals and summer venues in the U.S. He has performed with over 25 symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Canada and has performed in concert and at festivals throughout Europe, Japan, Mexico and the Caribbean.


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