An event every month that begins at 2:00 pm on day Last of the month, repeating until Saturday, September 26, 2020
GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist and NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis will offer monthly solo concerts in a digital program available to audiences worldwide. Beginning May 30th and streaming ticketed solo performances, Lewis will provide audiences with an exclusive concert experience streaming on the platform, Stageit. The “Saturday Salon” will take place every last Saturday of the month and will feature a 50-minute performance at 1:00 PM Central Time.
Last touring in 2018, Lewis made the decision to give up the exhausting life on the road. “I love to perform but O’Hare and LaGuardia [airports] got the best of me,” Lewis explains. “I enjoyed a great run of live performances, but I decided that it was time to give it up. The rigors of travel started to take a toll.” However, the turn of world events and the way the Coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the performance world has provided a new opportunity for Lewis to not only perform again but develop an even broader audience online. “I have played all over the world but not really. I’ve played most of the major cities, but not every city in between and it’s exciting to know that this will be available to every person in the world. And that thought in my mind excites me and makes me want to perform again.”
Lewis began his streaming experience on April 25 with a concert in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month. The upcoming monthly performances to be held the last Saturday of the month at 1:00 PM CT will serve as an intimate experience from his home. Lewis will also share inside knowledge through stories that reflect a long-standing career that delves behind the music.
Lewis and his production team decided to present the “Saturday Salon” series through the digital viewing platform StageIt. StageIt hosts a wide variety of star-studded performances from GRAMMY® Award-nominees Sara Bareilles and Rage Against The Machine/Springsteen collaborator Tom Morello to recent Golden Globe “Best Original Song” winner Common and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Daryl Hall, to GRAMMY® Award-winner Jason Mraz and actress Nina Dobrev.
Lewis’ solo format will also include new compositions penned specifically for these performances. “I’m going to be writing new material as well as performing and using material that has never been heard before. I started composing many years ago and I continue to compose now so there’s music that I have in my composition books that nobody has ever heard. Now there’s a reason to sit down and complete these fragments that I’ve always told myself that I would get to ‘later.’ I think now is the later.”
This birthday marks a milestone anniversary for Lewis. “What’s most important is that I’m playing for an audience once again because I started playing in front of an audience when I was 11 years old in church every Sunday morning. My dad was the choir director for the gospel choir, so I began in front of an audience there and that continued until I was 15 years old. I then met Wallace Burton who was an early inspiration, he thought I could play jazz because he heard me play gospel in the church. He said ‘Come play in my band,’ but when he learned that I knew the gospel and not jazz at all, he said ‘Well I’ll teach you.’ And it was all so exciting, so the idea of performing once again just became so alive.”
A portion of the proceeds from each performance will benefit The Jazz Foundation of America. The JFA is one of the leading non-profit organizations focused on aiding jazz musicians in this international time of need. Every aspect of the music industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and the JFA is focused on providing much needed emergency, health, housing and job assistance to jazz musicians who have lost a large portion of their income due to a lack of live performances. More information on the Jazz Foundation’s COVID 19 Relief Fund can be found here .
At a time when the power of music and art can serve as a unifying force, Ramsey Lewis is looking to reignite the fire and power that can only come from a connection between the musician and the audience. “I feel the audience because I know that they’re there. I know the number of people in the audience are there and listening and I’m playing to them, they are in my being and I’m performing for them as if we were in Carnegie Hall together.”
Ramsey Lewis has been an iconic leader in the contemporary jazz movement for over 50 years with an unforgettable sound and outgoing personality that has allowed him to crossover to the pop and R&B charts. The Ramsey Lewis Trio, with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt, became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene, releasing their debut album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz , back in 1956. Lewis earned his first gold record, as well as a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance, for their swinging version of Dobie Gray’s hit “The In Crowd.” He returned to the pop charts in 1966 with versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water.”
After Young and Holt left Lewis’ trio to form their own group, the pianist hired a new rhythm section with Cleveland Eaton on bass and Maurice White on drums. When White left the band to form Earth, Wind & Fire, Morris Jennings signed on as the trio’s new percussionist. White returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 smash album entitled Sun Goddess , in which Lewis first experimented with electronic keyboards and featured members of Earth, Wind & Fire on the album. In 1983, Lewis returned to the studio with Young and Holt for the album Reunion . Throughout his illustrious career, Lewis who is a NEA Jazz Master, has also joined forces with countless other artists to create new and innovative music. In 1984, he collaborated with Nancy Wilson on The Two of Us , in 1988 he recorded with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra for the album A Classic Encounter , and in 1989 Lewis and Dr. Billy Taylor cut a set of piano duets in We Meet Again . In 1997, Lewis added disc jockey to his resume, hosting a popular show on Chicago’s WNUA-FM that ran until 2009. You can hear Ramsey Lewis’ latest recording with the Urban Knights VII available now via Ropeadope here .