Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr. was born on May 27, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois and began taking piano lessons at the age of four. By 15 he joined his first jazz band, The Cleffs. The seven-piece group provided Lewis his first involvement with jazz and he would later join Cleffs drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
The trio started as primarily a jazz unit and released their first album, Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. Following their 1965 single hit “The In Crowd” that reached #5 on the pop charts and the album #2 they concentrated more on pop material. Young and Holt left in 1966 to form Young-Holt Unlimited and were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White.
By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts in addition to “The In Crowd” with Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water”. All three singles each sold over one million copies and were awarded gold discs. Many of his recordings attracted a large non-jazz audience and in the 1970s, he often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups.
In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosted a syndicated morning show on Chicago “smooth jazz” radio station WNUA. His weekly syndicated Legends of Jazz, featured recordings from artists such as David Sanborn, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau and Miles Davis.
Ramsey has appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, his Ramsey Lewis Morning Show became part of Broadcast Architecture’s Smooth Jazz Network, his Legends of Jazz became a television series, he is the artistic director of Jazz at Ravinia, serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music and The Chicago High School for the Arts. His Ramsey Lewis Foundation helps connect at-risk children to the world of music. He continues to perform, record and tour.
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Marc Ribot was born on May 21, 1954 in Newark, New Jersey and worked extensively as a session musician. His early sessions with Tom Waits helped define Waits new musical direction in 1985.
His own work has touched on many styles, including n wave, free jazz and Cuban music. Ribot’s first two albums featured The Rootless Cosmopolitans, followed by an album of works by Frantz Casseus and Arsenio Rodriguez. Further releases found him working in a variety of band and solo contexts including two albums with his self-described “dance band”, Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos.
His relatively limited technical facility is due to learning to play right-handed despite being left-handed. He currently performs and records with his group Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog. Marc’s studio work involves several tracks accompanying the legendary pianist McCoy Tyner’s “Guitars” project. He has performed and recorded with Jack McDuff, John Scofield, Wilson Pickett, Cibo Matto, Bela Fleck, Derek Trucks, Madeline Peyroux, Medeski Martin & Wood, Elton John and many others.
He has toured Europe with his band Sun Ship, had a biographical documentary film called the The Lost String and has also judged the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards to support indie careers in music. He has twenty-one albums as a leader, a filmography that includes five and a biographical documentary about him titled The Lost String. Guitarist Marc Ribot also plays banjo, trumpet, cornet and sings and continues to perform, record and tour.
Keith Jarrett was born on May 8, 1945, in Allentown, Pennsylvania and had significant early exposure to music. He possessed absolute pitch and displayed prodigious musical talents as a young child. He began piano lessons just before his third birthday, and at age five he appeared on a TV talent program and by seven had given his first classical piano recital. During his teens he began leaning towards jazz, turned down classical training in Paris and attended Berklee College of Music
He started his career with Art Blakey and after his tenure as a Jazz Messenger moving on to play with Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. Since the early 70s he has enjoyed a great deal of success in jazz, jazz-fusion, and classical music; as a group leader and a solo performer. His improvisations draw not only from the traditions of jazz but from other genres as well, especially Western classical music, gospel, blues, blues and ethnic folk music.
Jarrett has received the Polar Music Prize, the Leonie Sonning Music Prize, was inducted into the Down Beat Down Beat Hall of Fame, played with Jack DeJohnette, Charles Lloyd, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Airto Moreira, Palle Danielson and Jan Garbarek among others.
Jarrett’s compositions and the strong musical identities of the group members gave this ensemble a very distinctive sound. The quartet’s music is an amalgam of free jazz, straight-ahead post-bop, gospel music, and exotic, Middle-Eastern-sounding improvisations. He has played as a soloist, trio, returned also to classical music, incorporates vocalizations of grunts, squeals and tuneless singing. He continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
In 2003, Jarrett received the Polar Music Prize, the first (and to this day only) recipient not to share the prize with a co-recipient, and in 2004 he received the Leonie Sonning Music Prize. In 2008, he was inducted into the Down Beat hall of Fame in the magazine’s 73rd Annual Readers’ Poll. He continues to tour and record.
Charles Anthony Williams was born April 17, 1942 in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a bassist and his teacher, preparing lessons for him each day, stringing his bass and demanding practice everyday after school.
Nicknamed Buster, he started his professional career in Philadelphia in 1959 working with Jimmy Heath, then went on to play and record with the Gene Ammons – Sonny Stitt quintet from 1960-61. Leaving the quintet he moved to Los Angeles and played behind Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson through the decade. He also worked with The Jazz Crusaders, Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet and Miles Davis.
In 1969, Williams moved to NYC, joined the Herbie Hancock Mwandishi Sextet and for the next three years doubled on acoustic and electric bass. In the ‘70s he worked with Mary Lou Williams and the Ron Carter Quartet and in 1975 released his debut album “Pinnacle”. Since the ’80s, Williams has appeared as a sideman on a significant number of sessions with notable jazz instrumentalists and vocalists, Chet Baker, Kenny Barron, Dexter Gordon, Carmen McRae, Illinois Jacquet, Frank Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Shirley Horn, Woody Shaw, Stanley Cowell and the list continues.
With opportunities to lead his own sessions being rare, in 2008 Buster began releasing a series of live albums exclusively for download through his company, Buster Williams Productions. A solid supportive player, he has made subtle swing, a precise rhythm and superb technique the landmark of his playing.
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Steve Gadd was born April 9, 1945 in Irondequoit, New York and when he was seven his drummer uncle encouraged him to take lessons. By eleven he had sat in with Dizzy Gillespie. After graduating from Irondequoit’s Eastridge High, he attended the Manhattan School of Music for two years before transferring to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, playing in wind ensembles and concert bands.
After matriculation in the late ’60s, Steve played regularly with Chuck and Gap Mangione, making his recording debut on Gap’s solo album, “Diana in the Autumn Wind” in 1968. Drafted into the Army he spent the next three years drumming in the Army Music Program as a part of the Jazz Ambassadors. Discharged, Gadd returned to Rochester, formed a band and traveled to New York City where eventually the trio split. Gadd stayed on finding work as a studio musician that led to his short tenure with Chick Corea and Return To Forever.
During the ’70s and ‘80s, he toured internationally, recorded with Paul Simon and also with Al Di Meola’s Electric Rendezvous Band. In 1976, Gadd and other session musicians in New York City, including Richard Tee, Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree formed the group Stuff. Their work included appearances on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
By the end of the 1970s, Steve Gadd was an accomplished drummer bringing orchestral and compositional thinking, great imagination and a great ability to swing to his playing. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music for outstanding contributions to contemporary music. He is one of the highest paid session drummers in popular music.