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Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli salute legend Nat “King” Cole

Ramsey Lewis/John Pizzarelli live Nat King Cole Tribute


UA Presents in conjunction with the Fox Theatre sponsored The Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli tribute to Nat “King” Cole, Friday, April 11, 2014 at the Fox Theatre in Tucson, AZ. In addition to presenting the songs by the legendary singer, the show presented three generations of outstanding musicians together.

Ramsey Lewis greets the crowd.
©Mary F. Andrews

Ramsey Lewis is the elder statesman of the group. He and his piano have achieved legendary status. He has garnered three Grammy awards and seven gold records. He had chart-topping songs 50 years ago with “The In Crowd,” “Hang On Sloopy,” and “Wade In The Water.” At the age of 78, Lewis has no intentions of slowing down. In addition to his rigorous touring schedule, Lewis lectures, conducts master’s classes and works with youth in music education programs. For more information on Lewis’ accomplishments, click here.

John Pizzarelli represents the next generation and he is considered a master of the great “American Songbook.” Songs written from the 1930s through the 1950s is considered the richest era that produced the most “standard” songs. Pizzarelli is a vocalist and he plays a hollow bodied seven-string guitar, with the extra string that allows him to play bass lines along with the melody. This is the same instrument as his father, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli’s most highly regarded album is “Dear Mr. Cole.” This album features Nat “King” Cole’s most famous songs. For more information on Mr. Pizzarelli, click here.

The third generation of musicians and possibly the most important is both the bassist, Joshua Ramos, and drummer Charles “Rick” Heath IV. Thirty-one year old Josh Ramos is from Chicago and started playing bass as a child. He has been “possessed” by the instrument since that time. He travels worldwide and is a multi-genre musician. Charles “Rick” Heath IV is also from Chicago and started playing music as a child. He founded and operates The Heath School of Music in Chicago as well as performing.

Armed with this amazing talent, the audience was on course for a sentimental journey. The show started with the peppy “Route 66.” John Pizzarelli’s smooth vocals were spot on as he gave his own spin to the Cole classic. He was not trying to imitate the vocal master. He was just paying homage. Ramsey Lewis gave us his first piano solo of the night. Nat King Cole was a pianist with his own trio and one could observe that influence on Mr. Lewis.

Joshua Ramos gave us a “righteous” bass solo at the beginning of “Nature Boy”. It was an impeccable lead into the song and almost overshadowed Pizzarellli’s vocal.

Charles “Rick” Heath IV gave us a taste of the late Gene Krupa (from the big band era) style of drums on “Straighten Up And Fly Right”. He pepped up the music without being excessive during the process.

It was obvious that Ramsey still loves what he has been doing over the last 50 years. His excitement was apparent when watching him play songs like “Sweet Lorraine” or “For Sentimental Reasons.” His interactions with the band were fun and lighthearted. He stood and interacted with audience on multiple occasions. It was an “Unforgettable” evening of music by master musicians. For a complete set list, click here.

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