Sunday, October 7, 2018
Concert Review: Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights at the Folly Theater
Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights got off to a rough start at the Folly Theater on Thursday, September 27. Guitarist Henry Johnson, keyboardist Tim Gant, bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Charles Heath stubbornly laid down an unrelenting funk groove as Lewis attempted to play a delicate improvisation on acoustic piano in an awkward interpretation of “Tequila Mockingbird.” I feared that I’d spent $20 to watch an evening of musicians working at cross-purposes.
Even though the soul-jazz giant, 83, and his bandmates eventually found common ground in their 90-minute performance, Lewis’ unaccompanied playing on versions of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” provided the show’s most memorable moments. Lewis’ unaccompanied excursions indicated that while his body may move slowly, his mind is as facile as ever.
After encouraging the audience of about 600 to clap along during the encore, Lewis jokingly snarled when they persisted. His physical comedy was mirrored by the Urban Knights. Each man elicited laughter at least once with amusing musical gags. I’ve seen Lewis perform several times in recent years, but his usual closing flurry of the hits “Sun Goddess,” “Wade in the Water” and “The ‘In’ Crowd” never fails to give me goosebumps. If Lewis returns to Kansas City in 2019, I’ll be there to greet him.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)