Ramsey Lewis

Tequila Mockingbird

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Despite the playful title, this effort often features the melancholy side of Lewis. He splits the production duties between Bert DeCoteaux and Earth, Wind and Fire member/keyboardist Larry Dunn. In both Dunn and DeCoteaux, Lewis works with producers he had never worked with prior to this. While the songs here do have trouble standing out, Tequila Mockingbird has a certain smoothness and cohesion that belies the sequencing and the different production styles. Whereas a producer like Charles Stephney made sure to match Lewis with evocative, challenging melodies, a lot of this has tracks any talented piano player could do. The Dunn productions, including the title track and "Skippin'," are heavy on a flashy, though well executed, style. The songs with DeCoteaux have a melancholy appeal. "Wandering Rose," a song Lewis first did on one of his late-'60s titles, and "Intimacy" both bring out the layers and emotion of his electric piano playing. The last track, the whimsical, Dunn-produced "That Old Bach Magic," is probably one of those tracks listeners never got to. All of the Dunn-produced efforts here have luminaries from Earth, Wind and Fire, including Al McKay and Johnny Graham on guitars and bassist Verdine White. Despite the producers and the artist, Lewis isn't given too much to work with here. That fact makes this less enjoyable than it could have been.

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