The careers of singer Nancy Wilson and pianist Ramsey Lewis have followed parallel lines since the early 1960s. Although both began as jazz artists, they soon found greater fame and fortune in contemporary pop and have rarely looked back since. In 1982, Mr. Lewis and Ms. Wilson teamed up for a vapid, forgettable collection of smooth jazz/contemporary pop called The Two of Us. For jazz fans, the record represented all the wrong turns taken by these two obviously talented musicians.
Twenty years later Ms. Wilson and Mr. Lewis have both reunited and returned to their acoustic jazz roots with Meant to Be. The split between the five vocals and six instrumentals recalls the format of Ms. Wilson’s famous early jazz albums, The Swingin’s Mutual with George Shearing (1960) and Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley (1962). Forty years later, Ms. Wilson’s rich, charismatic alto remains in remarkable shape even if her singing has not grown noticeably more inventive.
The instrumentals are mostly original compositions with “Truthfully” being the stand out tune. Mr. Lewis has a heavy touch on the keyboard, and his declamatory style often distracts from his otherwise accomplished playing. The most impressive voice on the instrumental tracks actually belongs to bassist Larry Gray whose playing is subtle and imaginative.
Ms. Wilson, naturally, holds center stage on the vocal tracks. Never one to underplay a lyric, her reading of Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me a Grape” is filled with verbal winks and nudges. If her approach ends up stepping on some of the tune’s wit, it is hard not to enjoy listening to Ms. Wilson sink her teeth into a good song. She delivers “Did I Ever Really Live?”, a tune Joe Williams used to sing, with the kind of high drama that has always been her calling card. “First Time Love,” a Dave Grusin/Patti Austin tune, is very reminiscent of the kind of interchangeable middle of the road songs Ms. Wilson has spent the last fifteen years or so singing. On the other hand, Brenda Russell’s “Piano in the Dark” is a superior contemporary pop song. Unfortunately, the tune staggers under the weight of Ms. Wilson’s interpretation. Van Morrison’s “Moondance” proves to be a much more suitable and inspired choice.
Track Listing: Peel Me a Grape, Truthfully, Did I Ever Really Live?, Velvet Night, A Moment Alone, Moondance, Meant to Be, Piano in the Dark, Time Peace, First Time Love, Tanquissimo
Personnel: Ramsey Lewis: piano; Nancy Wilson: vocals; Larry Gray: acoustic bass; Ernie Adams: drums; Leon Joyce: drums
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz.
Being a Musician myself, (Lead Guitar/Bass Guitar), I studied at the Dick Grove School of Music with Dick Grove, Jeff Richman and Lee Ritenour. This was around '84-'85. I started playing the Guitar in November 1967. Playing Guitar came quite naturally to me thank goodness. Though I spent hours upon hours practicing while my school buddies were doing Sports.
It was in the early '70s that I really got into Jazz, Jazz Rock, Jazz Fusion and World Music. Seeing Weather Report, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Steely Dan, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, RTF, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, VSOP, Freddie Hubbard and so many, many more amazing artists opened my eyes to the beauty and eloquent nature of Jazz. I really love the brilliant ensemble playing that is in Jazz!!
When I play and write music, it blends so many style together. Many fans ask me why my playing sounds so jazzy. It's because I understand Blue Notes, the phrasing, the tonality, time signatures and more. I can also play Rock, Folk, Soul, R n' B and other styles too. I seem to gravitate more and more as I get older to a jazzier style. Currently I'm 62 years old. I have released 2 CDs world-wide. Working on my 3rd.
I also teach Guitar/Bass/Music Theory to my students. They range from 6 years old to much, much older. (I was hired by the City of Aurora, CO to teach ages 6-13 specifically). Currently I teach 41 children in 5 classes. Additionally another 7 private students.
My wife, Meesh, and I love Jazz dearly. It was one of the things that we share together!
Most of the people that I know today do not get jazz. I try to explain what to listen for, but many times the music of Jazz is a bit much for them. So be it.
In a nutshell, I live, breath and listen to Music 24/7. No TV except the Food Channel and Weather.
I love John Kelman's articles. They are so insightful and well-constructed!
Thank you all for doing what you do.