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Legendary Jazz Artists’ Ramsey Lewis Quintet and Lee Ritenour with Ernie Watts debut at Segerstrom Concert Hall
By Shonassee Shaver, Staff Writer
Published October 5, 2017

Veteran pianist, Ramsey Lewis is better than ever with contemporary jazz in this modern age of music. (Photo Courtesy: www.scfta.org)

The three Grammy-Award Winning Artists keep the Love of Live Music going with New Jazz Series.

Get ready for a night of jazz as legendary musicians Ramsey Lewis, Lee Ritenour and Ernie Watts come together to perform at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall as the 2017-2018 jazz season kicks off, Saturday, October 7 at 8:00 p.m. in Costa Mesa, CA.

Renowned pianist and composer, Lewis and his new electric quintet: Henry Johnson (guitar), Michael Logan (keys), Joshua Ramos (bass) and Charles Heath (drums) headline the musical event to celebrate the art of jazz at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The series will follow with Grammy Award winning guitarist, Ritenour and special guest saxophonist, Watts.

“I here it is beautiful,” states Ritenour.  “Ernie Watts is performing with me along with my band as a special guest. He has had an incredible career, and we’ve known each other for a very longtime, recording on each other’s albums and projects. I’ve also known Ramsey for a decade.”

On the significance of this jazz series, “It is important that jazz finds its way back to where it was a few years ago, “states Lewis. “It’s great that we as musicians can do what we can to perform at concerts, to enhance the genre.  Hopefully, people will leave, talking about jazz in their communities.”

“It is very important to have venues to play at these days, because a lot of them have dried up” Ritenour adds.

With their careers spanning over 50 years, Lewis, Ritenour and Watts are three distinguished jazz artists that will take to the stage with classic and modern talent and skill.

Lewis is no stranger to being at the forefront of contemporary jazz music and culture.

His credits include the release of “An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio” (1959), to climbing the pop charts in the 1960’s with a revised up-tempo version of classic “Wade In The Water,” to his 1970s’s hit album “Sun Goddess,” with a features from Earth, Wind & Fire and single “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder. His musical styles ranges from funk, pop and R&B.

Acclaimed guitarist, Lee Ritenour looks to keep live music going at the Segerstrom Concert Hall jazz series. (Photo Courtesy: www.scfta.org)

With his unwavering talent and drive, the pianist’s thrives, touring with Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire). Lewis continues to perfect his craft, by practicing the piano every day. “I love to practice the piano, because I love playing,” he reveals, having recorded 70 to 80 albums.  He has been inducted into the into the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and in the Grammy Hall of Fame. He is considered to be an ambassador for jazz. “He is a great statesman of jazz and a true legend,” Ritenour adds.

“When I’m about to perform on stage that night and they say backstage ‘curtains is in five minutes,’ I feel comfortable because I’m prepared. Opera singer, Leontyne Price said something many years ago, ‘when they say 5 minutes, there is that moment that you relax and know that you’ve done all you’ve done to go out there and express yourself to the audience, he states.

Lewis and Ritenour who have achieved success in the genre, suggests that jazz music is synonymous with America.  Both musicians feel that the music itself is one of the country’s greatest exports and contribution to the world’s culture.  Ritenour has spent half of his career traveling and performing all over the world, and has noticed that jazz is much more excepted in Europe and Asia than it is here.

The famed guitarist and producer states that his music has a lot of versatility. “It ranges from acoustics, contemporary jazz, funk, fusion and Brazilian elements. I try to make sure I know who I am playing for. I bend the music to fit the crowd,” he states.

Ritenour, began his music career in the late 1960’s, playing for the infamous folk and rock band, The Mamas & the Papas.  He officially began to record music in the 1970s’s and 1980’s with a collection of albums from “Lee Ritenour and His Gentle Thoughts” to “Earth Run.” He later followed up with Grammy Award-nominated album “Wes Bound” in 1993. The diverse musician was a founding member of the smooth R&B jazz quartet, Fourplay in the 1990’s. Lee has worked with musicians ranging from Slash to B.B. King. He is an award winning guitarist who has had numerous number 1 spots on guitar polls with recordings of more than 40 albums that have yielded 35 chart songs.

Two-time Grammy Award winner Erine Watts performs and mentors aspiring musicians. (Photo Credit: www.scfta.org)

Saxophonist, Ernie Watts rose to the music scene during the 1970’s and 1980’s as well, creating music for TV shows and movie scores. He worked and performed with Motown and Aretha Franklin. Watts has been featured on more than 500 recordings and is a two-time Grammy Award winner. Watts is one of the most versatile saxophone players in the music industry. Watts’ has used his signature sound to honor jazz pioneer John Coltrane, with classic,  “Dedicated To You.”

With his success and talent, Watts mentors aspiring musicians, by teaching clinics and master classes.

Lewis urges youth to extend their music realm, by attending symphonies, jazz concerts and ballets. “Young people should learn something about instruments, take lessons and be curious about why a cellist likes to play the cello. It can only make you a better person.”

On the significance on how the frequency of jazz concerts influence the genre into day’s music culture, “obviously, it’s not as popular as pop, rock or hip-hop music, but there is a huge place for it in the world,” said Ritenour. “The thing that doesn’t change is, live music.  When someone sings or plays a instrument great, people appreciate it.”

To purchase tickets, visit SCFTA.org or call (714) 556-2787.

Categories: Entertainment | Music
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