Ramsey Lewis meets Joe Segal. Lewis, Chicago's most famous resident jazzman, always prefers to stay home for the holidays; this year, he finds himself ensconced at Chicago's most famous jazz club for the very first time. Perhaps it's the atmosphere, or perhaps he's on the verge of reassessing his career--but whatever the reason, Lewis is taking some risks at the Showcase. He's extended some of the harmonies, and his improvisations are more venturesome; he's filled his repertoire with standards and jazz tunes, material that occasionally allows him to push his light touch and unhurried phrasing to another level--from spacey to spacious. (At times he recalls the vintage Ahmad Jamal recordings of the 50s.) The show is not without its problems: The long, late-in-the-set drum solo and the extra keyboard--a "sweetening" synthesizer, also used (among other things) to imitate a vibraphone on a song made famous by the Modern Jazz Quartet--better fit an all-purpose show lounge than a storied jazz club. And when a forceful melodist like guitarist Henry Johnson is given only one or two solos per set, then nobody--Lewis or the audience--is getting their moneys worth. But this is still the jazziest sound from Ramsey Lewis since he reunited his classic trio. Tonight and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4 and 8 PM, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.