There’s something almost presidential, which is to say dignified, about jazz icon Ramsey Lewis.
The pianist started playing jazz when Truman was in office, recorded his first album in the Eisenhower era, and was a national jazz piano success by the Johnson administration. He’s recorded more albums than his age (which is 80), and if there’s any doubt about his titanic talent, a trip to Minneapolis’ Dakota Club on Dec. 9 ought to dispel it in a trice.
There he’ll be joined by his “regular” quartet: Henry Johnson on guitar, Joshua Ramos on bass, and Charles Heath on drums, but there’s nothing regular about these men. They’ll bring their stylish jazz treatment while revisiting songs Lewis recorded on his popular holiday records, “Sound of Christmas” (1961) and “More Sounds of Christmas” (1964).
If jazz was born in the blues, Lewis was born in Chicago, Ill., where he still resides, and they’re all virtually inseparable. That’s near where he works his magic as the artistic director of the famous Ravinia Festival’s jazz program, and his area-mentor and youth-focused music programs are notable among his many honors, which is no small measure when you consider he’s also carried the 2002 Winter Olympics torch, lighting the cauldron during its stop in Chicago, received the Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and been bestowed with the Landmarks Illinois Legendary Landmark Award, proving the state doesn’t just consider buildings important to their cultural landscape.
Having pleased generations with popular gems like “Hang on Sloopy,” “The In Crowd,” and “Wade in the Water,” it should be an exciting Yuletide for everyone when Lewis and his group again focus on his jazzy interpretations of Christmas tunes.
Holiday gifts are rarely a certain thing, but Lewis’ visit is one gift with a guarantee: He’ll have everyone calling out for “more sounds of Christmas.”