Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Three-time Grammy winner and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis is going to host a new television show about jazz music. Lewis told VOA’s Jazz Beat that he does not know when the show will air on the PBS network. “I’m in talks right now during this period of time to start another show on public television. And I’m looking forward to that,” said Lewis, who hosted the extremely popular radio and television show “Legends of Jazz”. The show aired in about a 100 American cities and on some of Europe’s top affiliates.
Lewis has been fascinating audiences with his performances since he was 15 years old when he began playing piano for the jazz band The Cleffs.
He first rose to prominence in 1965 when three of his compositions: “The In Crowd,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water” were big hits on the song charts.
“I have never had any feelings about any record being a big hit,” admitted Chicago native Ramsey, who now has 80 albums under his belt. “When I make a record or when I write music, in the back of my mind I have no false illusions about oh this could be a hit or this might be a hit, or hope the audience like it. Of course I do hope the audience likes everything I do, but I can’t depend on that being the criteria for my success in performing and recording.”
Many musicians and artists have been influenced by Lewis. He is considered one of the top pianists worldwide. During an interview in Egypt, I once asked jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie to name three of his top jazz pianists. He put Lewis third after Duke Ellington and Art Tatum.
Tatum had a great influence on Lewis. “My dad brought Art Tatum home when I was 11 and scared me to death,” Lewis recalled, “because I thought there were two piano players: Mr. Art and Mr. Tatum.”
“I can’t say [Tatum] influenced me to the point where I could play like Art Tatum. I don’t think anybody can play like Art Tatum,” added Lewis, who said during his childhood years, he was highly influenced by classic masters like Wanda Landowska and Vladimir Horowitz.
Ramsey Lewis is now part of the Ravinia Outreach program which includes professional jazz musicians touring the United States to introduce children to the fundamentals, history, and tradition of jazz. The program’s motto is: “Reach, Teach, and Play”.
Lewis’ 80th collection and latest album, Taking Another Look, was released a year ago. It showcases 10 songs with his Electric Band and re-works many of Lewis’ favorite tunes, including “Sun Goddess” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City”.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America