Ramsey Lewis – Legends of Jazz TV Series

Ramsey Lewis
Legends of Jazz on TV
Debuts June 16, 2005

dl Media

LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions launch a new Jazz television series, Legends of Jazz, hosted by Ramsey Lewis, on June 16, 2005. The kick-off is a one-hour special, showcasing winners of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award.

The 13 weekly 30-minute episodes will debut in Fall 2005, marking the first time in 40 years that jazz has been the focus of a national network weekly series. Produced in state-of-the-art HDTV and Dolby Surround 5.1 audio, the series is unique in combining live performance, intimate conversation and archival material to provide a fascinating and entertaining first-hand accounting of some of the most memorable moments in jazz perhaps the most purely American art form, often referred to as “America’s classical music.”

The PBS series premieres with Legends of Jazz: The Jazz Masters, sponsored by Verizon and the National Endowment for the Arts. The historic hour-long special spotlights five recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters award, the highest national honor in this art form, presented annually since 1982. The celebrated guests are vocalist Nancy Wilson (NEA Jazz Master 2004); saxophonist James Moody (1998); vocalist Jon Hendricks (1993); Latin jazz artist Paquito D’Rivera (2005); and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein (2005). In addition, teen jazz vocal sensation Renee Olstead, who made her major label debut in 2004, appears as a special guest, providing a fascinating counterpoint to the established jazz superstars on the program.

“One of the most important reasons for me doing this series aside from the pure entertainment value — is to document and archive this incredible wealth of experience,” says Mr. Lewis, a three-time Grammy Award winner and host of the popular Legends of Jazz nationally syndicated radio program, heard by more than 5 million listeners each week. “It’s an incredible feeling listening to great artists like Nancy, Moody, Jon, Paquito and so many others as they recount their memories and speak about their influences. These people, and those legends who came before them, are jazz, and so it really is like being treated to an oral history of the genre.”

States Larry Rosen, co-chairman of LRSmedia, co-founder of GRP Records, and Creator and Executive Producer of Legends of Jazz: “This series not only serves to pay homage to the established legends of jazz, but also provides a national platform for audiences to be exposed to new, exciting young artists who are building upon the legacy of these greats. Now, for the first time in nearly 40 years, we are bringing jazz back to U.S. network television, and we are doing it with state-of-the-art HDTV and 5.1 Surround production technology.”

“Creating national programming that makes great music accessible to a wide and diverse audience is at the heart of WTTW’s mission. The revival of Soundstage and the production of dozens of local Chicago music programs has become part of our 50-year heritage. We are especially proud to co-produce Legends of Jazz with a Chicago legend, Ramsey Lewis,” said Randy King, Executive Vice President for Television at WTTW National Productions.

“Since 1982, the NEA Jazz Masters program has honored many jazz greats. We are delighted that this series, which will reach millions of viewers across the country, will begin with a tribute to the music’s true legends,” said Dana Gioia, NEA chairman.

Legends of Jazz is co-produced by LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions, the award-winning PBS affiliate in Chicago, IL. Hosted by Mr. Lewis, each weekly episode features a guest star performing several numbers with Ramsey and his trio. In between these informal performances, Ramsey and his guest artist chat casually about topics related to the show’s theme. Weekly episodes will focus on a single instrument, style or element of jazz. The feel is loose and improvisational, not dry or academic. All guest stars are world-class musicians known for their artistic gifts, their passion for music and the legends who came before them, and, of course, for their larger-than-life personalities, humor, fascinating stories, and riveting performances.

The series, conceived by veteran music producer Larry Rosen, and legendary jazz artist Ramsey Lewis, provides a unique business model for public/private partnership, combining the expertise of LRSmedia. and the International Association for Jazz Education. LRSmedia is an independent music entertainment company that creates and produces branded entertainment properties for distribution across broadcast, live and recorded media. IAJE is a non-profit organization with 10,000 members in 40 countries. In this spirit, a portion of the broadcast revenue will be directed back to the jazz community through the education and outreach programs of IAJE.

There is nothing on television like Legends of Jazz. Designed to serve as both oral history and pure entertainment, the series offers viewers live performances, highly personal anecdotes, remembrances, opinions, and thoughts on the most renowned names in jazz. Contemporary and legendary figures from the genre’s “golden age” converse with Grammy-winning pianist and jazz giant Ramsey Lewis.