Ramsey Lewis

Classic Encounter

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No stranger to the world of the symphony -- having studied classical music from a very early age -- Lewis fuses himself and his trio to the suave, plush forces of London's Philharmonia Orchestra, producing results that can be described as "to the manor born." Lewis' elegant soul stylings and classical arpeggios dovetail right into James Mack's full-scale symphonic arrangements, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in a lavish yet subtle way that transcends ordinary mood music. Yet mood music it is up to a point, for not much is allowed to disturb the warm Philharmonia blanket of sound, and though Lewis gets to display his fertile gospel chops on "Spiritual," he is a very polite American guest. One classical adaptation does find a place here; "The Earle of Salisbury Pavanne" by William Byrd (1543-1623) is turned into some kind of post-Fauré marmalade until a soft Latinish rhythmic underpinning arrives to save it.

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