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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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RAMSEY LEWIS

The In Crowd Anthology

Chess 983 886-3

 


CD1

1. Lonely Avenue
2. My Babe
3. The "In" Crowd
4. Since I Fell For You
5 The Tennessee Waltz
6. You've Been Talkin' Bout Me
7. Felicidade (Happiness)
8. A Hard Day's Night
9. High Heel Sneakers
10. The More I See You
11. Hang On Sloopy
12. Wade In The Water
13. Ain't That Peculiar
14. Hold It Right There
15. Day Tripper
16. Hurt So Bad
17. Hey Mrs. Jones
18. One, Two, Three
19. Free Again
20. Down By The Riverside

CD2

1. Blue Bongo
2. Function At The Junction
3. Spanish Grease
4. Dancing In The Street
5. The Look Of Love
6. Soul Man
7. Jade East
8. Maiden Voyage
9. The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)
10. Les Fleur
11. Eternal Journey
12. Back In The U.S.S.R.
13. Julia
14. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey
15. Bold and Black
16. Them Changes
17. Oh Happy Day
18. Do Whatever Sets You Free
19. The Unsilent Majority

Some jazz critics tend to be a bit sniffy about anyone who has commercial success, whether it’s George Benson or Jamie Cullum. Ramsey Lewis had the misfortune to have hit records with The "In" Crowd" and Wade in the Water, so he’s in danger of being sidelined by jazz snobs. But this compilation of some of his recordings for the Chess label from 1956 to 1972 proves his jazz credentials.

His early trio recordings were indisputably jazz, even if it was a stripped-down form of jazz which could be almost minimalistic. Take a track like The More I See You, which is slowed down from its Chris Montez speed to become a pensive piece with plenty of Garneresque piano (including an appropriate hint of Misty). Note also the superb double bass on such tunes as My Babe and The Tennessee Waltz (where the unnamed bassist plays a witty flamenco-style introduction before stating the melody and then soloing with aplomb). Other tracks are more in jazz-funk vein but none the worse for that, with infectious rhythm and hints of gospel music and the blues. The live ambience of many of the tracks on the first disc adds to the excitement.

Unfortunately most of the tracks on the second disc add orchestral backings which dilute the jazz content and often get in the way of Ramsey’s playing. The strings and voices provide an intriguing backdrop for Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage but there are some very strange noises on tracks like Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey. Ramsey’s reputation survives in the few live tracks on the second CD, like the groovy Them Changes and Do Whatever Sets You Free.

Some tracks on this double album (such as singalongs like Hang On Sloopy and the covers of Beatles tunes) tend to date the recordings to a bygone era, but this collection suggests that Ramsey Lewis often transcended his commercial pop image and played with genuine jazz feeling.


Tony Augarde

 



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