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Ramsey Lewis: Salongo

Album Notes

Those shocked or even dismayed by the lack of jazz on 1975's Don't It Feel Good would no doubt be pleasantly surprised by this. Released in 1976 and produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney, Salongo offers a more substantial look at African and Latin styles. Around this time Lewis always had the good fortune to be supported by good bands and excellent side players like Verdine White, Ernie Watts, Jorge Strunz, as well as many others. The first track, "Slick" mixes Latin flourishes with straight-ahead jazz. The only less than stellar track is "Aufu Oodu," which has Lewis getting lost in the Earth Wind and Fire-derived production style. More convincing is the title track and it has a great bassline, tough drumming, strong horn arrangement, and, of course, smooth and quick electric piano solos from Lewis. The seductive "Brazilica" is a non-cloying experiment in Latin music, and is well known by fans of commercial '70s jazz and quiet storm. For the poignant "Nicole," Lewis plays both electric piano and acoustic with equal deftness and emotion. The last track, the methodical "Seventh Fold," was written by Stepney and has his characteristic adventurous approach and a sweeping string arrangement. Salongo earns most of its raves by being one of the few albums of the time to sidestep commercial considerations. The effort is also one of Lewis's best at getting his eclectic nature and is more enjoyable than the better-selling Sun Goddess. ~ Jason Elias


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