CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor trade piano licks April 18 in Hancher
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jazz pianists Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor will
collaborate at 8 p.m. Friday, April 18, in Hancher Auditorium on the University
of Iowa campus. Their performance will be the final event in Hancher's
1996-97 University of Iowa Community Credit Union Jazz Series.
During his visit to Iowa City, Taylor will also present a special educational
matinee through Hancher's Stage Door series for school groups.
Lewis and Taylor have been occasionally touring and recording together
for nearly a decade, but they took very different routes to this mutually
satisfying musical meeting of the minds.
Lewis achieved pop stardom in the 1960s with a series of crossover hits
-- "The In Crowd," "Hang on Sloopy" and "Wade
in the Water" -- winning two Grammy awards and seven gold albums.
Later he recorded and toured with Earth, Wind and Fire, before abandoning
synthesizers and returning to the acoustic jazz trio format.
Lewis has twice been nominated for the cable ACE award for his "Jazz
Central" program on BET, and is the director for Jazz at Ravinia Festival
in Chicago. Despite his serious jazz credentials and musical achievements
-- including more than 60 albums -- Lewis has found it difficult in some
jazz-purist quarters to "live down" a reputation as a lightweight
In contrast, Taylor has no trouble commanding respect, with either jazz
purists or those outside the jazz fold. He studied with jazz piano legend
Art Tatum and completed a doctorate in musical education in 1975. Through
his articulate writing and broadcasting, Taylor has become one of the world's
leading advocates of jazz as a serious art form -- America's classical
He's never had a hit, but Taylor has won two Peabody Awards, was honored
with the National Medal of the Arts and was appointed to the National Council
on the Arts. He is now the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and his features and commentaries
can be heard regularly on CBS "Sunday Morning" and on both public
TV and public radio.
The dissimilar backgrounds provide no barrier to Lewis' and Taylors'
music-making. "What has 20 fingers, 176 keys and an infinite number
of musical ideas?" the critic of the Toledo Blade asked. "Try
the dynamic piano duo of Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis. The two jazz pianists
have vastly different approaches to the instrument, and the contrast makes
a compelling complement."
Although Lewis and Taylor play jazz standards by composers including
Duke Ellington, John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Billy Strayhorn
and Bill Evans, their concert-hall collaboration transcends jazz.
Taylor says, "We play for a lot of people who just like the piano
as an instrument, not necessarily jazz fans. We've tapped into that. There's
a big audience that doesn't identify itself with jazz but they like it
and will come to hear it in a place where they're comfortable. They might
not go to a nightclub."
Tickets for Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor are $27.50, $23.50 and $21.50.
UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20 percent discount, with
Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members
17 and younger are half price.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa,
dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is
toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged
to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases
to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option
of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office
personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair
access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is
equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
Further information about this event is available on Hancher's World
Wide Web homepage, at <http://www.uiowa.edu:80/~hancher/>. More information
and links about Lewis are available at <http://www.afgsoft.com/ramsey/>,
and Dr. Taylor's "What Is Jazz?" lectures for the Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts are accessible at <http://town.hall.org/Archives/radio/Kennedy/Taylor/>.
The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor
of Hancher 1996-97 Jazz Series, through the University of Iowa Foundation.