Born in Chicago, Ramsey Lewis started classical piano lessons at age four, only hearing the occasional jazz title from his father's record collection. But when he was 15, a fellow church musician asked Lewis to join a jazz band, and he got hooked. At age 21, Lewis formed his own trio with Eldee Young and Isaac Holt. They trod the boards for nine years, playing sophisticated, clean modern jazz. At that same time, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk were paving the way for intellectual interpretations of pop and dance songs with "My Favorite Things" and Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
, respectively. In 1965, the Ramsey Lewis Trio volleyed the ball back in the other direction, when "The In Crowd" hit No. 5 on the Billboard
. Young and Holt departed to form the Young-Holt trio in 1966, but Ramsey Lewis continues to perform and add to his legend as a master of jazz-pop hybrids.
Tonight Ramsey Lewis performs a benefit concert for the Cleveland School of the Arts; student musicians will join Lewis for the evening's grand finale.