Ramsey Lewis The In Crowd


RamseyLewis: The In Crowd

Jazzmusic is considered one of the most dominant types of music in thehistory of America. This kind of music began when the First World Warhad just come to a close and a social revolt was on underway. Customsand principles of the past were rejected during this time, and lifewas to be fully lived. Some of the renowned musicians in the worldhave contributed to the victory that jazz has had not only on thehistory of America, but all through the world. This paper goes backto a time before 1990, when jazz music was popular and selects anactive jazz musician to analyze the genre. The musician selected thatwill be a point of reference throughout this paper is Ramsey Lewis.

RamseyLewis was born in the year 1935 in Chicago, where he attended classesof piano. At this time, he based majorly on classical and gospelmusic until 1950 when he joined The Cleffs which was a jazz danceband in his locality. Major jazz musicians in this band includedsaxophonist Wallace Burton, bassist Eldee Young, and Ramsey Lewis asRedd Holt who played drums. While he worked with The Cleffs, Ramseyestablished contacts with experienced jazz musicians of those timessuch as Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and John Lewis. These contactsacted as a major turning point in his musical career since they madejazz an important part of his life1.It was during this period that Lewis made himself familiar with anumber of styles in music as evident in his career. He later formedthe Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956 in association with Holt and Young. Thethree released their first album, “Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemenof Swing” in that year. This album featured typical standards ofjazz and included songs such as I’llRemember April and My Funny Valentineand pieces like Bizet’s “Carmen”1.As a means of reaching a wider audience, Ramsey put to use hisstylistic diversity even during the early periods of his musiccareer. Carmen stood out to be an unusual repertoire as a choice forjazz musicians2.While Ramsey Lewis slightly deviates from the original version of“The In Crowd”, he creates a new form of jazz in which theaudience is allowed to participate in the singing process through hismethods of communication.

“TheIn Crowd”: An Analysis

Thissong was written by Billy Page and its popularization done by GrayDobie in 1965. In his version, Grayapplied cool and hippedaesthetics whose origin can be traced to the mid years of 1960s. Gray hired the services ofstylish dancers and his musicians weredressed in suits. Gray’s band delivered the music in smooth andcool style. The image posedGray to his audience was that of amusician whose reachability to the general public was not easy. HisIn Crowd belonged to the social elites and limited the number ofpeople who attended his performances3.

Lewiswas fully attached to his audience unlike Gray while he made hispresentations for “The In Crowd”. He fully relied on theconnections he created with his listeners. His version of “The InCrowd” puts to use a number of communication techniques to enhanceparticipation of the audience1.Oneof the techniques employed by Lewis is the use of dialogue where theaudience is allowed to get into the music and participateeffectively. The Crossover artists made this dialogue more pronouncedin 1970s.


Lewisutilizes a number of audience interactions in his release of “TheIn Crowd”2.Atthe start of the tune, there are indications by the audience that itrecognizes the tune of the song. This could be because Gray’sversion for this song was at its maximum when Lewis made hisperformance. When the tune begins, the audience is clapping and dothis all through the presentation. This is an interaction common topopular music. In jazz, clapping is viewed as a behavior that showsimproper conduct despite being a common style of interaction in otherkinds of music. The clapping disqualifies the fact that “The InCrowd” is part of mainstream jazz as it is totally out of the normsof this genre. This song delivers jazz and hybridizes it withelements of popular music. In his comment on the underlyingdistinction between the audiences in pop and jazz music, Lewis putsit clear that “The Bohemian Caverns is the kind of room where Monkand Coltrane play representatives of what you would call the realhard jazz in the purest sense. Yet when we play a thing like this,the audience would react in what some people would call a squaremanner- clapping hands and singing all along, the whole bit”3.In his reaction, Lewis appreciates his audience for clapping handsand singing along. He made the choice of The In Crowd very cleverlyto suit the needs of his audience. The audience admits that thechoices of Lewis were time based and satisfied all their musicalneeds. The initial success achieved by Lewis was not only limited tosimple recognitions of his tunes but also the involvement of hisaudience. This musician ensured the success of his version of “TheIn Crowd” by manipulating the lyrics and imagery of the originalversion

Inits original version Billy Page created the lyrics of “The InCrowd” with two major characteristics. These included the hipsingers and the In crowd which was the social group. The singer inthe lyrics espouses his charms and this helps him uphold theattributes brought out by his social group also referred to as the“In Crowd”1.To the listener, there is no reveal of the skin color, age, sex oreconomic status of the “In Crowd”. In the real sense, itconsisted of youthful college students, teenagers and African-Americans in their mid-age

Thereis a detailed interpretation of Ramsey’s version of “The InCrowd” by revealing what his exact “In Crowd” is. In hisexplanation, Lewis explains “The In Crowd” as the hip audiencemoving in line with the hip jazz performers. The kind of imagerybrought out by Ramsey’s description of “The In Crowd” issignified by the level of vagueness in the lyrics of this song2.This song is an actual description and reinforcement of themysterious aesthetics of a cultural jazz singer. Common beliefs abouthow jazz musicians ought to be dressed are seen to be inclined in aromantic way considering the dialects invented in lyrics like“Dressin’ fine, makin’ time”, “We got our way of walkin’and we got our way of talkin’” and “It’s easy to findromance, at the spot where the beat is really hot”3.

Lewisdoes not create his own “In Crowd” in a simple way like DobieGray did but uses imagery and a lot of imagination. The audience iswelcomed by Lewis to form part of his “In Crowd”. He does this bythe use of various inclusion techniques. Ramsey’s fans wereconsidered as an “In” crowd to themselves for the first instance.If pop musicians like The Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones were tobe compared with Ramsey Lewis in his genre, the popularity of Lewiswas a bit lower making his audience to have lesser numbers1.Despite this, the number of serious attendees of a jazz show is evensmaller. The second way through which Ramsey created his “In”crowd was through the use of experience. After performing for manyyears, Lewis knew his audience and he chose the tunes that could berecognized by his listeners2.The audience showed that they recognized these tunes by their yellsand intensive hand claps. This acts added strength to the communalexperiences Lewis had. Thirdly, Ramsey uses his techniques in musicin a very ingenious manner and continuously draws his audience deeplyinto his performance.3

CommunicativeMethods Employed by Lewis in “The In Crowd”

RamseyLewis slightly deviates from the original melody of “The In Crowd”in a careful manner. The melody of the song is stated all through thetune except for the interlude. Putting into perspective the kind ofsimplicity depicted by “The In Crowd”, Ramsey Lewis had theability to construct longer improvisations basing on endlesspermutations of his rhythm and chord alterations. Lewis chose todeviate from the original version of this song guided by a number ofreasons. First, he included the melody in his version to attract theaudience of non-jazz listeners. This would enable them to recognizethe tune4.Since Ramsey did not fully deviate from the original version of thesong, most of his pop oriented audiences appreciated the version heplayed.1Secondly, those listeners who were jazz oriented were able toappreciate the jazzy nature of any popular song since the wouldidentify and appreciate how cleverly Ramsey modified “The InCrowd”. He created his own “In” crowd by bringing together thejazzy and non-jazzy audiences2.


Lewisrhythmically considered the use of a non-swing pattern. He increasedthe tempo of his version making it deviate from the original. He usedan even eighth note pattern to exemplify the origin of his tune. Thisacted as a signal to his listeners that it was not going to be justlike any other typical jazz performance. The even eighth note patternemployed by Ramsey Lewis aided his audience in the identification ofthe tune used and establishment of the pop origin of the song. Lewishad the intent to maintain high energy levels by increasing the tempoin his version. The lyrics used by Ramsey were majorly used to ensurethat the interest of the audience was maintained.

Inhis version of “The In Crowd”, Ramsey Lewis puts some alterationson the melodic and harmonic forms of the original version of thissong. When Gray first sang the song, it had the original harmonicform as:




│I│III│III│vi │

│vi │II│II│V │


Theoriginal version had a combination of 2, 3 and 4 measure phrases.This could not be easily noticed by most of the listeners of thisversion. This made the song a bit unusual since most of the songswhich had gained popularity were based on four- and – eightmeasure phrases which were symmetrical.in this song, the phrases aremirrored and supported by the flow of the texts1.

TheRamsey Lewis Trio had no vocalist and did not fully depend onphrasing their lyrics and imagery. This made Ramsey to come up with asimplified form of the original song as:


│I │I│I│I│






Thekind of simplification employed by Lewis is not usual. Popular jazzsongs are treated with features such as harmonic and rhythmiccomplexities and complex formal characteristics. Lewis makes his newversion of “The In Crowd” a bit symmetrical if comparisons are tobe made with the original version.

Reasonsfor Symmetry Modification

Anumber of factors could explain why Lewis decided to move out of theoriginal symmetry of the song. First, the asymmetrical form of theinitial version seemed complex. There are periodic abrupt shifts inthe harmony of the song. This could have led to a disruption in thegroove of the song if little time was dedicated to rehearsing thissong by the band. Despite this, the ability of the audience toidentify the tune was not distorted in an adverse way by changing theform. Second, the fourth line indicates that the interlude on thetonic was as a result of this modification. Lewis freely improvisesby setting a repetitive harmonic groove or at times repeating themelody1.More clapping is invited through the use of a gospel tinged harmonicpattern and this creates Lewis’ “In” crowd. At the interlude,the harmonic pattern is repeated and a series of crescendos anddecrescendos are employed. The audience is made to listen to themusic more attentively as the volume goes down. This allows it (theaudience) to fill the sonic gap through claps, yells and stomps.


RamseyLewis’ “The In Crowd” brings great deviations from theconvectional jazz music. The Lewis` Trio fully involves its audienceby responding to the communication gestures brought out by each side. This brings out the unique nature of this music and its deviationsfrom what was initially known as “mainstream jazz” where theaudience barely interacted with the artistes1.The singer in the lyrics espouses his charms and this helps himuphold the attributes brought out by his social group also referredto as the “In Crowd”. The kind of imagery brought out by Ramsey’sdescription of “The In Crowd” is signified by the level ofvagueness in the lyrics of this song. Lewis streamlined his dialoguewith the audiences he had in his music and this made him a veryactive performer. Lewis rhythmically considered the use of anon-swing pattern. He increased the tempo of his version making itdeviate from the original. “The In Crowd” is an example of earlyjazz music in which common elements in music are used to connect withthe audience. In this song, Ramsey Lewis uses pop derived rhythmstogether with other methods of communication in music to involve hisaudience2.This musician and his version of “The In Crowd” should beconsidered for the class of “The History of Jazz” since it isthrough the philosophy of communication by the use of populartechniques in communication as employed by Ramsey Lewis that otherstyles in jazz such as the crossover style was conceived.


&quotRamsey Lewis | Biography &amp History | Allmusic&quot. Allmusic. Last modified 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ramsey-lewis-mn0000334770/biography.

Baker, David. Jazz Styles &amp Analysis, Trombone. Chicago: Maher, 1973.

Ben Sidran, Talking Jazz (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1992)

Brown, Caroline. &quotGolden Gray And The Talking Book: Identity As A Site Of Artful Construction In Toni Morrison`s &quotJazz&quot&quot. African American Review 36, no. 4 (2002): 629.

Mark Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, 9th ed. (New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006).

Stern, Chip” “The Crusaders Lose the Groove.” The Village Voice, July30 1980

1 &quotRamsey Lewis | Biography &amp History | Allmusic&quot, Allmusic, last modified 2016, accessed June 16, 2016, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ramsey-lewis-mn0000334770/biography.

1 Ibid, 317.

2 Ben Sidran,Talking Jazz (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks,1992), 112


1 Ibid, 112

2 Ben Sidran,Talking Jazz (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks,1992), 112


1 David Baker, Jazz Styles &amp Analysis, Trombone (Chicago: Maher, 1973).

2 Mark Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, 9th ed.(New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006).335

3 Ibid, 331.

1 Stern, Chip” “The Crusaders Lose the Groove.” The Village Voice, July30 1980

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Caroline Brown, &quotGolden Gray And The Talking Book: Identity As A Site Of Artful Construction In Toni Morrison`s &quotJazz&quot&quot, African American Review 36, no. 4 (2002): 629.

1 Mark Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, 9th ed.(New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006).330

2 David Baker, Jazz Styles &amp Analysis, Trombone (Chicago: Maher, 1973).

1 Stern, Chip” “The Crusaders Lose the Groove.” The Village Voice, July30 1980

1 Mark Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, 9th ed.(New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006).329

1 &quotRamsey Lewis | Biography &amp History | Allmusic&quot, Allmusic, last modified 2016, accessed June 16, 2016, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ramsey-lewis-mn0000334770/biography.

2 Stern, Chip” “The Crusaders Lose the Groove.” The Village Voice, July30 1980