Ramsey Lewis / Nancy Wilson

Meant to Be

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Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson's 1984 project, The Two of Us, featured synth pop, smooth jazz, and disco-lite covers of tunes such as Paul McCartney's "Ram." While it was a solid attempt at mid-'80s mainstream pop radio airplay, it had little to do aesthetically with the jazz heritage that Lewis and Wilson built their careers on. Fast-forward to 2002 and you find the duo teaming up again on Meant to Be, an album of straight-ahead acoustic jazz. Some fans of The Two of Us may be a little disappointed with the classicist nature of the project, but anyone who's enjoyed the varied work of these two legends should revel in the lush sound they've achieved. Both Lewis and Wilson's careers have been marked by their ability to bring jazz to a wider audience by focusing on the melodic elements innate to well-composed songs. Here, they apply this to such jazz-friendly tunes like Van Morrison's "Moondance" and Blossom Dearie's "Peel Me a Grape." But it is the oft-overlooked jazz standard "Did I Ever Really Live" that defines the slightly melancholy tone of the album. Meant to have been recorded on September 11, 2001, the session was postponed for obvious reasons and when the musicians finally made it into the studio, the song's lyrics had taken on a more sanguine, heartbreaking meaning. Both Lewis and Wilson have aged well, with their abilities growing stronger and more assured. Wilson's voice is still as gorgeous and bell-tone pretty as ever, but reveals just the hint of a throaty fuzz that only deepens the beauty of her delivery. Lewis also fares well, filling out the tracks with his mature piano playing and compositions that reflect the best of his mid-'60s work.

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