A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.
If you want to know what jazz at an intimate nightclub would have sounded like in 1965, play this record – this is that sound.
This original Argo Blue Label Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real jazz club, this is the record for you.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. And the loss of transparency in a live jazz club recording is practically the kiss of death.
Two Exceptionally Good Sounding Sides
What both sides of this pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1965
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this stellar piano trio having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the club, putting you right in the audience where you want to be
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we describe above, and for that you will need to take this copy of the record home and throw it on your table.
Skip the Mono
This album is more common in mono than stereo, but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played unsatisfying. Where is the wall to wall space of the live club? It has been drastically shrunken into the area between the speakers. Much of the ambience disappeared with it, destroying the illusion the album was trying to create, that you are there.
In mono, you really aren’t.
The ‘In’ Crowd
Since I Fell For You
You Been Talkin’ ‘Bout Me Baby
Spartacus (Love Theme From)
Ramsey Lewis staked his claim to fame with The In Crowd, an instrumental version of Dobie Gray’s Top 40 hit. He also was one of the first soul jazz icons of the mid-’60s, based on the strength of the sales of this recording, done over three days during a club date at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C.
What is not readily acknowledged over the years is that bassist Eldee Young is really the star of the show. He’s the one who gets the crowd revved up with his vocalizing in tandem with the notes he is playing.
The album provided Lewis with his biggest hit reaching the top position on the Billboard R&B Chart and No. 2 on their top 200 albums chart in 1965 and the single, “The ‘In’ Crowd” reaching No. 2 on the R&B Chart and No. 5 on the Hot 100 singles chart in the same year.
The album also received a Grammy Award in 1966 for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by an Individual or Group and the single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
AllMusic awarded the album 4½ stars stating “this is the moment where Lewis shined the brightest, the “in crowd” at the club was verbally into it, and the time for this music was right.”
Fifty years ago, the Ramsey Lewis Trio sat in a Washington, D.C. coffee shop, musing over what it could add to its set that evening. It was booked for a run at Bohemian Caverns — the group had issued a live album made at the nightclub, and it was gearing up to record a follow-up live album. Over walked a waitress, who inquired about the band’s predicament.
Fifty years later, Lewis still remembers her name: Nettie Gray.
“She had a jukebox,” Lewis says. “Jukeboxes in coffee shops — people don’t know about that any more, but she went over to the jukebox and played: ‘You guys might like this! Listen to this!'”
Her recommendation was “The In Crowd,” sung by Dobie Gray — a popular hit at the time. Lewis and the band worked out an arrangement quickly, then ended their set with it that evening, to wild applause.
Fifty years later, that song remains Ramsey Lewis’ biggest hit.
“If somebody had come up with another song that fit the style of what we wanted, there would not have been an ‘In Crowd,’ ” he says.
Lewis, now 79 [in 2015] and still actively performing, spoke with NPR’s Arun Rath about how the song came to be.