Ramsey Lewis "Funky Serenity"

Jun 22, 2016 | By: Sam Huff

It’s human nature to categorize.  To label.  To assign descriptors based on our own assumptions and run with it.  For better or worse, people often identify things in our own environment and organize them in a way that helps understand what that thing is.

And when it comes to attaching a label to things, we’re all guilty. Take music for example – how many times have we all heard something new and immediately stuffed it into a genre to our liking?  I guess some artists are easier to categorize than others, but for someone as malleable as Ramsey Lewis, it’s hard to pin his sound down to even a few key descriptors.

Sure, he’s a jazz musician.  But to listen to the breadth of his catalog over the past six decades, and you’d be hard pressed to contain Lewis’ sound in a nice, neat little singular jazzy box.  He’s run the gamut, from straight-ahead jazz to hard bop to soul jazz.  But one of my favorite albums Ramsey pressed to wax has to be 1973’s, Funky Serenity.

Building around the same trio that had been in place for the last handful of records, Lewis and company weave a funky path that incorporates both traditional sounds and a newer, plugged-in resonance that become typical with Ramsey’s key-work later in his career.

Side one track one, Kufanya Mapenzi (Making Love), builds around a groove that is bounce-worthy even to the most stoic, statuesque subset of jazz aficionados.  Trading off between original compositions and period-specific covers, like many of Ramsey’s albums do, it’s one of those LPs that as soon as the b-side runs its course, you’re compelled to turn it back over and listen to the whole damn thing again. 

Copies aren’t too terribly hard to come by if you keep your eyes peeled.  And for those paying attention, Colton dropped this as the third track to a mix we put together for Aquarium Drunkard a little while back titled, Paradigm.  Give it a listen if you feel so inclined…
 

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