Ramsey Lewis: Song of India
Song of India
Ramsey Lewis Trio
Consider the Source (Chess GRD-806)
Composed by Rimsky-Korsakov; arranged by Lewis/Young/Holt.
Recorded: Chicago, April 22, 1959
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
By the mid-'50s, Ahmad Jamal's open stylings had convinced Miles Davis that his keyboardist, Red Garland, should emulate Jamal some. Meanwhile, another pianist (like Jamal, based in Chicago) was listening to all of them, already persuaded of the efficacy in funky, percussive playing leaving lots of space. Before Ramsey Lewis's spacious, churchified threesome became one for the history books (pop-master Lewis actually revealing himself to be more limited than his breakaway cohorts Young-Holt Unlimited), his fledgling trio cut some fine post-bop piano albums full of expansive interplay—à la the later, much-vaunted Bill Evans/Scott La Faro/Paul Motian three. The best of these albums was An Hour with The Ramsey Lewis Trio (Argo LP 645), which truly was nearly an hour long and richer for it.
The available CD (reissuing a paltry part only) includes shorter, boppier tracks rather than the exotic ballads from that splendid 5-hour, single-takes session, during which Lewis struck lone notes and tremulous chords, Young essayed arco strings and gently arching solos, and Holt was all-over percussive, finger bells to cymbals to hand-drumming, for tunes as diverse as "Angel Eyes," a misterioso "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" and "The Ruby and the Pearl." Fortunately, the brief "Song of India" did make the reissue cut, so listeners can get a taste of the trio's moody changes and beautiful exotica-funk—and maybe lament the too-soon demise of some rich possibilities. All three musicians enjoyed later success, but they may have been at their jazzy best when together in 1959.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher