Saturday, June 25, 2011

The In Crowd - The Ramsey Lewis Trio

The In Crowd
The Ramsey Lewis Trio
Argo LP-757

This is a live recording from the Trio's performances at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington D.C. in May 1965.  Lewis was a very prolific artist but I only have a handful of albums by him.  This is my favorite largely because of the title song which became a big hit.  It is such a swinging tune, it is impossible for me to listen to it without snapping my fingers and bopping my head.  It is the most exciting cut on the album rivaled only by a surprisingly frenetic version of "Tennessee Waltz."  The song is carried by bassist Eldee Young who switches to cello for the song.  He opens the song with some fluid Flamenco-style runs and then he plucks out the rest of the song with considerable power and virtuosity.  I fairly certain that this is the only time I've ever heard a guy shredding on a cello.  The trio delivers a jumping version of "Felicidade" from the "Black Orpheus" soundtrack which really gets me going.  "You Been Talkin' 'Bout Me Baby" has a seductive slinky groove to it.  There's a nice version of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday."  It doesn't swing but it holds my attention.  A few tracks don't do much for me.  "Since I Fell For You" is basically cocktail lounge jazz, tasteful but dull.  "Spartacus (Love Theme From)" starts out sounding like Ferrante and Teicher, then picks up some power in a more jazz flavored interpretation in the middle before reverting back to pompous soundtrack music.  I find it a little boring.  There are so many other jazz pianists from this era that I like better than Lewis - Monk, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock to name a few - yet I still play this record as much as theirs.  When this record works, it really grabs me and even when it doesn't work, it is at least listenable.  It has the accessibility and immediacy of pop music, but the musical sophistication of jazz which is a pretty compelling combination.   Recommended for pop music fans who find jazz boring.        

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