Pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis has been referred to as “the great performer,” a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections that display his early gospel roots and classical training.
Lewis captivated fans with his first album “Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956. 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, and he has been honored with three honorary doctorate degrees.
He was “Person of the Week” on ABC Nightly News in February 1995 and received the NARAS Recording Governor’s Award in 2000. In 1996 Mr. Lewis performed at a State Dinner at the White House honoring the President of Brazil and was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Academy of Illinois “Laureate” Award in Springfield, IL in April 1997.
Lewis carried the Olympic torch, kicking off the Winter Olympics, on its route through Chicago in January 2002. Mr. Lewis’s most recent awards include the National Endowment for the Arts highest award in the field of music in the jazz category, the Jazz Master Award, in January 2007, along with the Illinois honor of “Living Landmark” award in March 2007.
In June 2007, he collaborated with the Joffrey Ballet Company, choreographer Donald Byrd, and the Ravinia Festival for a ballet of original music.
In addition to recording albums and performing live, Mr. Lewis hosts WNUA-FM Chicago’s weekday morning drive-time radio show, “The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show,” for which he has been awarded R&R’s (Radio&Records) 1999 and 2000 Personality of the Year Award. “The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show” began syndication nationwide in January 2007.
In 2003 Mr. Lewis—along with Larry Rosen (founder and former president of GRP Records) and Lee Rosenberg—formed LRSmedia, the company that produced for the first time in forty years a series of thirteen one-half hour television programs. This acclaimed series “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis,” has aired on PBS featuring emerging and established jazz musicians.
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 the jazz series and trustee.
Lewis created the Ramsey Lewis Foundation in 2005 providing youth with the opportunity to play musical instruments and develop skills to enhance self-confidence and a sense of personal accomplishment.
Mr. Lewis tours nationally and internationally in various musical configurations, but primarily performs with his trio composed of Larry Gray on bass and Leon Joyce on drums. His latest release is a gospel album on the Narada Jazz label entitled “With One Voice” (2005).