Pianist's Craftsmen's Guild shows light on 'Sun Goddess,' heavy on spiritual variety
Ramsey Lewis gave his listeners at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild more — and less — than he promised.
At two Friday shows, billed as “The Sun Goddess Tour,” the pianist played only three songs from the “Sun Goddess” album, which was a Billboard chart-topper in 1974.
In doing so, he offered more of a variety of songs, from a great collection of spirituals gathered in his younger days playing in church to a solo reading of John Coltrane's “Dear Lord.”
Less, indeed, can equal more.
Lewis and the band never got around to playing “Sun Goddess” until the second encore — after a collection of the pianist's famous hits, such as “Hang On Sloopy” and “The In Crowd.”
While the quintet, assembled specifically for this project, opened the first show with “Hot Dawgitt” from the album, the show never took on the sense of a tribute to the recording. A good decision. That album was built not only around Lewis' playing, but also the horns of Earth Wind & Fire.
This band uses two decks of Tim Gant's electronic keyboards to suggest some of the horn and string arrangements of the album, but it has only a mild similarity.
In fact, the songs from the “Sun Goddess” album had a rather mechanical nature that detracted from them.
One piece from the album that fully succeeded, though, was Stevie Wonder's “Living in the City,” which featured a great, soulful solo from guitarist Henry Johnson.
The other end of the selections worked much better. Lewis blended Coltrane's “Dear Lord” with his own “Blessings” to create an outing that was nearly as spiritual as the church medley he did later. Lightening matters, he did a easy-going version of the Brazilian-flavored “Bahia.”
Lewis's solos frequently had cadenza-like section where he explored many different melodies and moods.
Bassist Joshua Ramos also stood out in one section of the spiritual medley when he used a bow to explore some of the deepest notes his upright can offer.
By staying away from a replay of “Sun Goddess,” the band put together a show that was a better statement of itself.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.