80-year-old Ramsey Lewis’ Triumphant Soiree at Event Hall

The 7th year of Jazz series has begun, opened by the legendary Ramsey Lewis – traditional jazz pianist. The elderly guru of jazz came together with a quartet, which was the main surprise, as a trio had been announced.

The three time Grammy® award winner’s 80th album, entitled Ramsey Lewis, Taking Another Look – Deluxe Edition features a new electric quintet with Henry Johnson on guitar, Michael Logan on keys, Joshua Ramos on bass and Charles Heath on drums. The latter two band members were expected in the line-up, but Henry Johnson’s appearance on the Tbilisi Concert Hall stage was an unexpected bonus for the eager Georgian audience.

Gaioz Kandelaki, the musician who began the jazz tradition in Georgia, was the very person who brought the first record of Lewis to Tbilisi in the 1960s. At the time, he predicted an influential future for the jazzman, and it came true. “Ramsey Lewis is here – my childhood dream came true,” Kandelaki told GEORGIA TODAY. “I can hardly believe it. He’s a doctor, a person who gave a great push to American jazz. He is the leader of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, as well as a philanthropist who greatly supports the education of children. He himself has seven children and 14 grandchildren. He has a completely distinguished style among the pianists. Ramsey Lewis even used a Georgian lullaby in one of his works,” he told us excitedly prior to stepping on stage himself to introduce Lewis.

GEORGIA TODAY also spoke to Paata Baratashvili, an actor who purportedly has a collection of around 25,000 records of jazz and is a frequenter of jazz events in Georgia. We asked him for comments before the performance. “I just couldn’t miss out on this soiree and I’m not the only one who recognizes Lewis’ decisive role in the development of jazz. I’m also looking forward to Roy Hargrove, a trumpeter [to play on April 2nd]. I follow the times. Jazz is developing every day. Therefore, my interest is more directed to the new generation, as one has a chance to discover and listen to new and much more complicated rhythms. Nevertheless, I’m a purist in the sense that I’m fond of acoustic music. I buy records that were released not earlier than 2010 as jazz is a reflection of actual reality,” Baratashvili said.

Kakha Kandelaki, Deputy Minister of Culture and former member of Eastern Promotions, also commented for GEORGIA TODAY, “I think that everyone who loves music and who could afford the time and money should have come and listened to Ramsey Lewis. I am one of them.”

Ramsey Lewis was very sociable with the public and as humble as all great jazzmen. Soon, the quartet was in full swing, offering an ocean of musicality, improvisation and divinity, once more reminding listeners of what jazz, though constantly evolving, has been. However, one can never define it, as no-one can define god, love, or beauty. The band showed us a very impressive switching from minor to major musical disposition. The Beatles song and one dedicated to the recently deceased Maurice White, Ramsey Lewis’ co-performer, evoked particularly ample applause.

Giorgi Kereselidze, Director of the Eastern Promotions company, talked to GEORGIA TODAY right after the performance, “It was announced that Lewis would perform for Tbilisi with just Joshua Ramos and Charles Heath. The surprise arrival of guitarist Henry Johnson enriched the band even more. It was an excursus into 1960-70s America, a fertile basis to the birth of future multiple jazz directions. I’m happy, and I see that Ramsey Lewis is, too, which he conveyed in the energy he gave out. As for Maurice White, who began his career with Ramsey, the latter was the person who advised the former drummer to continue as a vocalist and we know what height White achieved in his own group ‘Earth, Wind and Fire.’”

The jazz series will continue on March 9 with the duo Bugge Wesseltoft @ Christian Prommer’s Tete-a-Tete. Hurry up, electronic jazz lovers! For more info, visit www.tbilisijazz.com or tkt.ge or call 2-99-05-99

Maka Lomadze

11 February 2016 19:40