Ramsey Lewis has been an iconic leader in the contemporary jazz movement for over 50 years with an unforgettable sound and outgoing personality that has allowed him to crossover to the pop and R&B charts.


The Ramsey Lewis Trio, with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt, became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene, releasing their debut album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, back in 1956. Lewis earned his first gold record, as well as a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance, for their swinging version of Dobie Gray’s hit “The In Crowd.” He returned to the pop charts in 1966 with versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water.” Throughout the years, Lewis’ trio has undergone membership changes, all the while staying true to Lewis’ high musical standards.


After Young and Holt left Lewis’ trio to form their own group, the pianist hired a new rhythm section with Cleveland Eaton on bass and Maurice White on drums. When White left the band to form Earth, Wind & Fire, Morris Jennings signed on as the trio’s new percussionist. White returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 smash album entitled Sun Goddess, in which Lewis first experimented with electronic keyboards and featured Earth, Wind & Fire on the album. In 1983, Lewis returned to the studio with Young and Holt for the album Reunion.


Throughout his illustrious career, Lewis who is a NEA Jazz Master, has also joined forces with countless other artists to create new and innovative music. In 1984, he collaborated with Nancy Wilson on The Two of Us, in 1988he recorded with London’s Philharmonic Orchestra for the album A Classic Encounter, and in 1989 Lewis and Dr. Billy Taylor cut a set of piano duets in We Meet Again. In 1995, Lewis launched the side project Urban Knights, in which he collaborated with a handful of successful crossover jazz stars, including Grover Washington, Jr., Earl Klugh, and Dave Koz. In 1997, Lewis added disc jockey to his resume, hosting a popular show on Chicago’s WNUA-FM that ran until 2009.


A new show was syndicated in 2006 under the name Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis and was broadcast on jazz radio stations across the country. In 2006,a well-received 13-episode Legends of Jazz television series hosted by Lewis was broadcast by PBS on public TV nationwide and featured live performances by a variety of jazz artists including Larry Gray, Lonnie Smith, Joey Defrancesco, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Pat Metheny and Tony Bennett. Lately, Ramsey has been touring with Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), John Pizzarelli and Ann Hampton Callaway.


After having played for years in an acoustic trio, Lewis returned to his electric roots. The three time Grammy winner released a new CD Taking Another Look – Deluxe Edition, featuring a new electric quintet with Henry Johnson on guitar, Michael Logan on keys, Joshua Ramos on bass and Charles Heath on drums. On the CD, Lewis rekindles his 1974 career-defining album Sun Goddess through a collection of re-recorded tracks from the original disc perfectly balanced with five new tunes. “Jungle Strut” had all the attitude of its 1974 original and Lewis made magic on the Fender Rhodes in “Tambura.” And rather than re-recording the title track “Sun Goddess”, Lewis beautifully re-edited the original studio recording featuring Earth, Wind and Fire. Lewis and his Electric Band breathed new life into classic covers, such as the high octane rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” for which Ramsey shot a great video and the tender interpretation of the timeless “Betcha By Golly Wow.”


The CD also featured three bonus tracks. The legendary Dr. John served up some Cajun style funk with his rendition of “Jungle Strut”. Then up and comers and jazz fusion funksters Kung Fu turned in a mesmerizing version of “Tambura.” Finally, TAUK delivered an amazing take on “Sharing Her Journey” that clearly established them as a band to watch. "I've recorded maybe 70-80 albums, and this album is definitely among the top five" said Lewis.


Showing no signs of slowing down, Ramsey is currently working on a new record which he will begin recording in August with his long time band known as the Urban Knights.  An all-star jazz, R&B and funk band which features Grammy nominated guitarist Henry Johnson, drummer Charles Heath, bassist Joshua Ramos and keyboardist Tim Gant.


 Title Label Year 77. "Ramsey, Taking Another Look" Hidden Beach 2011 76. “Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey” Concord 2009 75. “Urban Knights VI” Narada Jazz 2005 74. “Time Flies” Narada Jazz 2004 73. “Meant To Be” (with Nancy Wilson) Narada Jazz 2002 72. “Urban Knights IV” Narada Jazz 2001 71. “Urban Knights III” Narada Jazz 2000 70. “Appassionata” Narada Jazz 1999 69. “Dance of the Soul” GRP 1998 68. “Urban Knights II” GRP 1997 67. “Between the Keys” GRP 1996 66. “Urban Knights” GRP 1995 65. “Sky Islands” GRP 1993 64. “Ivory Pyramid” GRP 1992 63. “This is Jazz #27” Columbia 1991 62. “Electric Collection” Columbia 1991 61. “Urban Renewal” Columbia 1989 60. “We Meet Again”(w/ Billy Taylor) CBS Masterworks 1989 59. “A Classic Encounter” CBS Masterworks 1988 58. “Keys To The City” Columbia 1987 57. “Fantasy” Columbia 1985 56. “The Two of Us”(with Nancy Wilson) Columbia 1984 55. “Reunion” Columbia 1983 54. “Les Fleurs” Columbia 1983 53. “Chance Encounter” Columbia 1982 52. “Live At The Savoy” Columbia 1982 51. “Three Piece Suite” Columbia 1981 50. “Blues for the Night Owl” Columbia 1981 49. “Best of Ramsey Lewis” Columbia 1981 48. “Routes” Columbia 1980 47. “Ramsey” Columbia 1979 46. “Legacy” Columbia 1978 45. “Tequila Mockingbird” Columbia 1977 44. “Love Notes” Columbia 1977 43. “Salongo” Columbia 1976 42. “Don't It Feel Good” Columbia 1975 41. “Sun Goddess” Columbia 1974 40. “Solar Wind” Columbia 1974 39. “Newly Recorded. . .Golden Hits” Columbia 1973 38. “Funky Serenity” Columbia 1973 37. “Upendo Ni Pamoja” Columbia 1972 36. “Back to the Roots” Chess 1971 35. “Them Changes” Chess 1970 34. “The Best of Ramsey Lewis” Chess 1970 33. “The Piano Player” Chess 1969 32. “Another Voyage” Chess 1969 31. “Solid Ivory (His Greatest Hits)” Chess 1968 30. “Live in Tokyo” Chess 1968 29. “Mother Nature's Son” Chess 1968 28. “Maiden Voyage” Chess 1968 27. “Greatest Sides, Vol. 1” Chess 1967 26. “Up Pops Ramsey” Chess 1967 25. “Dancing in the Street” Chess 1967 24. “Goin' Latin” Chess 1967 23. “The Groover” (Live) Chess 1966 22. “The Movie Album” Chess 1966 21. “Wade in the Water” Chess 1966 20. “Hang on Ramsey” (Live) Chess 1965 19. “Choice! The Best of the Ramsey Lewis Trio” Chess 1965 18. “The In Crowd” Chess 1965 17. “Country Meets the Blues” Chess 1964 16. “At the Bohemian Caverns” Chess 1964 15. “More Sounds of Christmas” Chess 1964 14. “Bach to the Blues” Chess 1964 13. “Barefoot Sunday Blues” Chess 1963 12. “Pot Luck” Chess 1963 11. “The Sound of Spring” Chess 1962 10. “Bossa Nova” Chess 1962 9. “Sounds of Christmas” Chess 1961 8. “Never On Sunday” Chess 1961 7. “More from the Soil” Chess 1961 6. “Stretching Out” Chess 1960 5. “An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio” Chess 1959 4. “Down to Earth”(Music from the Soil) Chess 1959 3. “Lem Winchester with the Ramsey Lewis Trio” Chess 1958 2. “Gentlemen of Jazz” Chess 1958 1. “Gentlemen of Swing” Chess 1956

Career Highlights

Recording Artist

With more than 80 albums recorded to date



World premiere at The Blue Note Jazz Club Tokyo

September 2010


Proclamation of Hope

Commissioned by Ravinia Festival to compose a new work

to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth

Premiere performance at Ravinia

June 2009


Muses and Amusements

World premiere of new music composed for and performed

with trio and the Turtle Island Quartet at Ravinia Festival

June 2008


“To Know Her...”

World premiere of new music composed for and

performed with the Joffrey Ballet at Ravinia Festival

Choreographed by Donald Byrd

June 2007


On-Air Personality:

“The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show”

WNUA 95.5 FM, Chicago, IL

from 1997-2009


“The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show”

Nation-wide syndication

from 2007-2009



Hour long national PBS special entitled “The Jazz Masters”

featuring five winners of the NEA Jazz Masters Award:

Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Jon Hendricks, Paquito D’Rivera

and George Wein, as well as young vocalist Renee Olstead.

June 2005.



"Legends of Jazz" with Ramsey Lewis, a weekly two hour

jazz radio program syndicated

in numerous cities throughout the U.S.




Music related topics at civic functions and universities including:

University of Tennessee, Indiana University,

Northeastern University, etc.



Artistic Director:

Ravinia Festival “Jazz at Ravinia” — North America’s oldest music festival

Chicago, IL



“Art Tatum Professor in Jazz Studies”:

Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL




Of a weekly one hour interview and performance program on

“Jazz Central,” for B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television)

cable television nation-wide.

(Nominated for 2 ACE awards, 1991 and 1992)




Ravinia Mentor Program for Ravinia Festival

that cultivates jazz in city high schools   1995


The Sword of Loyola

for achievements of outstanding leaders

for contributions in a field other than medicine.



Ravinia Festival

Elected Lifetime Trustee   May 2010

Elected Trustee   December 2002

Artistic Director for Jazz Series  1992-Present


Smithsonian Institution

Personal memorabilia inducted into the

Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.   May 2008


Honorary Doctorate

Doctor of Humane Letters,

Loyola University, Chicago, IL    May 2008


Grammy Hall of Fame

Induction of “The In Crowd” jazz single

by the Ramsey Lewis Trio (Argo 1965)



National Endowment for the Arts

Jazz Masters Award   January 2007


 Landmarks Illinois

Legendary Landmark Award    March 2007


 Stellar Award

Best Gospel Instrumental Album, "With One Voice"  2006


NAACP Image Award

(Outsatnding Jazz Artist)  2004


Records & Radio Award

R&R Industry Achievement Award  2003


Olympic Torch Runner

Carried the Winter 2002 Olympic Torch for the Ravinia

segment during its journey to Salt Lake City    1/2002


Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Gave commencement address and received award

St. Xavier University, Chicago, IL    1/2001


Honorary Doctorate Degree

Gave commencement address and received award

University of So. Carolina at Spartanburg   5/2000


Records & Radio Award

R&R Industry Achievement Award • Radio

Personality of the Year – 1999 and 2000



Recording Academy Governor’s Award 2000


CBS Sunday Morning-Billy Taylor Jazz Segment

CBS network television   November 16, 1997


City of Chicago honors Ramsey Lewis Week

Celebrated many events   May 25-29, 1998


The prestigious Lincoln Academy of Illinois

“Laureate” Award   Springfield, IL   April, 1997


“Citizen of the Year”Award  (21st annual)

Gateway Foundation (Chicago, IL)   May 1996


Lifetime Achievement Award

Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL)   May 1996


Honorary Doctorate of Arts Degree

Gave commencement address and received award

University of Illinois at Chicago   May 1995


White House Performance

State dinner President Bill Clinton held for

President Fernando Henrique & Mrs. Cardoso of Brazil

April 1995


“Person of the Week”

ABC Nightly News (network)   February 1995


Honorary Doctorate Degree

Gave commencement address and received award

DePaul University, Chicago, IL   June 1993


3 Grammy® Awards

"Hang on Sloopy"  1973

"Hold It Right There"  1966

"The In Crowd"  1965


7 Gold Records

"Sun Goddess"  album  1976

"The Sound of Christmas"  album  1968

"Wade in the Water"  album/single  1966

"Hang on Sloopy"  album  1966

"The In Crowd"  album/single  1965