Ramsey Lewis & Nick Colionne: 2022 Behind the Beats Tributes
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves, but this week we want to highlight two artists we lost in 2022, Ramsey Lewis and Nick Colionne.
We spoke with Dave Koz, Bobby Lyle, and Jeff Lunt. Check out the magazine article below or keep scrolling for the extended version of their comments below.
Read the rest of the BEATS magazine here.
Remembering Ramsey Lewis
We lost a music icon this past September. Ramsey Lewis was a true innovator when it comes to jazz music. His hit “The In Crowd” crossed to popular formats and helped to establish Ramsey as one of jazz music’s iconic performers. His career spanned over 60 years and we could never do him justice in this short tribute. So, we reached out to a couple of musicians who knew Ramsey well and got their thoughts.
Ramsey Lewis was one of the great icons of music…a beloved ‘gentleman of jazz’, he always made you feel so good in his presence. Of course we all knew Ramsey as a master of the piano and an amazing songwriter, producer and educator. But he was also a modern media master as well…hosting his own TV show on BET and anchoring the morning show on WNUA/Chicago. I learned so much from him over the years, and a more encouraging presence you couldn’t find…Ramsey was a mentor to many, and always had a good word to say about everyone. What a contribution he made to the world, truly making it a much better place with his unforgettable music and incredible humanity.
Ramsey Lewis has always been a role model for me—as much for his classy demeanor on and off stage as well as his music. Always a gentleman. Back in the ‘60s he decided it was okay to incorporate pop, R&B and even gospel elements into his piano stylings despite harsh reviews from purist jazz critics. After huge commercial success with his cover of “The In Crowd” and later “Sun Goddess” many of us felt more comfortable using these elements that drew more young people into the music.
Ramsey and I stayed in touch through the years by phone. The conversations would range from mutual health inquiries (he survived some serious episodes) to piano practice techniques, to good cuisine. Most notable was when I called him last year after hearing that he was retiring from music to gently scold him and tell him we still needed his sound out here, and that piano players don’t retire. He gently responded in that FM radio voice of his “Bobby, I’m only retiring from traveling and the hassles of airports. I will stay here in Chicago to record and do podcasts from home.” I stood corrected.
To say we lost a musical icon when Ramsey passed this year is only part of the story. We also lost a very special human being who was a husband, father, and good friend to those who were close.
Rest In Peace my friend.
Remembering Nick Colionne
We lost one of the jazz world’s most prolific recording artists and dazzling performers early in 2022. Nick Colionne left us far too soon and throughout the year his music has lived on through several single releases and more to come in 2023. Nick was truly loved by everyone and we thought we’d get a few thoughts from some guys who knew him well.
I still can’t believe Nico has left us. He had such a presence and was so full of life, it’s hard for me still to grasp that this amazing human being, with that huge heart of his and outsized talent on guitar is no longer here. But thankfully, for all of us who knew him or saw him live, or listened to his records…we can always stay connected to the man. Im beyond grateful we got to be wonderful friends. For me, what I’ll miss most is his sartorial sense…the man never disappointed with his clothing and those hats! He was larger than life, and will surely never be forgotten.
Nick entered my life some 10-11 years ago when he became a member of the Trippin N Rhythm family. I have to tell you that after our first conversation I knew he was my brother. It is no accident that he ended up here at our label and was placed in my orbit. I didn’t realize it at the time or even over the following years of our flourishing friendship how he gradually changed the person I was until this day when I now reflect on the many years of calls, texts and communications with him. He changed me.
He was the consummate showman and knew that you came to see a show and he was going to give you one. Told me once that his mom’s advice to him early on was to come out and start the show at 100% and build from there.
The outpouring of support for him as well as myself and the label just overwhelms me. Phone has not stopped ringing and I’ve heard from friends from far and near. Never met anybody who did not love this man and God how I loved him. In closing I’ll leave with this. We never had a conversation that didn’t end like this…”Love You Dude…..and that’s from the heart”. He didn’t have to include the last part, I knew, I’ve always known. Love You Uncle Nick!!!!
I don’t know if anyone can pinpoint a moment that Nick morphed from good guitarist to consummate showman complete with colored suits and hats, or if it happened gradually over a period of time. But consummate showman he was, and his mission was singular: To make sure every audience he appeared before had a memorable good time. I enjoyed watching his growth as an entertainer and musician. He was an authentic cat who carved out his lane and worked it to the max. He love singing and playing Chicago style blues, and when we were at festival jam sessions (like Berks) I always tried to make sure I was onstage to play those blues with him. Getting to know him on a personal level was even more interesting. He had a certain shyness about him that you wouldn’t expect from watching the stage Nick. He was a genuinely nice and caring guy who exuded a warmth that made you feel comfortable in his presence. Once over breakfast he shared some very personal stuff that made me have even more respect for how far his journey and perseverance had brought him. But the thing that stands out the most in watching him over the years was his interaction with the fans. I’ve seen him under the weather, feeling lousy, and he would still play a great show, take pictures with them and sign all their programs and CDs afterward. It’s no wonder then that Nick was so beloved and is still so missed.
May he Rest In Peace