June 14, 2024

Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis LiveNancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis
Live @ Symphony Hall

(April 17, 2004)
by Matthew Robinson

In celebration of their 150th collective recording and their third album together, vocal legend Nancy Wilson and key master Ramsey Lewis joined forces to raise money for the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. Backed by the burbly and richly bowed bass of Larry Gray, the crisp and animated percussion of Leon Joyce and the often busy and occasionally superfluous keyboards of Llew Matthews, Wilson and Lewis took turns performing alone and together, rarely failing to impress.

Opening with an energetic reading of Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Wilson tipped her mic to Kenny Rankin with a tender Jazz take on “Lost Up in Loving You” and paid tribute to her family with a heart-felt offering of “God Bless the Child” that brought to mind those for whom the evening had been organized. With her elegant red gown and a set of pipes as big and bright as the gleaming organ looming above, Wilson danced gracefully around her scales, filling the hall with rich expression. From a revisit to her first B-side – an instantly recognizable “My Foolish Heart” – to a preview of her forthcoming all-star rendition of “Why Did I Choose You?” Wilson waved her microphone and told it like it is, just as she always has. During his trio set, Lewis presented a diverse palette of sounds – from Gray’s spacious and snappy arrangement of Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3” to a medley of spirituals that turned Symphony Hall into a foot-stomping gilded revival tent – demonstrating his universal command of his instrument throughout.

Among the highest points of the evening were Wilson’s ever-timely and always surprising “Guess Who I Saw Today,” and a funked up, Earth, Wind & Fire-meets-Jimmy Scott version of “And So Is Love.” With 75 albums to each of their credits, it is safe to say that Wilson and Lewis are doing something right, but perhaps never so right as when they do it together!

© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

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