June 16, 2016 by Helen Borgers


This is the fourth year KJazz has included a summer benefit concert in our live music projects, and it’s the biggest yet! On Saturday, June 25th, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall we’ll be raising money to keep jazz groovin’ on FM88.1 by presenting three diverse artists to produce a mix of sounds, rooted in tradition, but definitely contemporary.


The veteran, Ramsey Lewis, has set the trends since the 1960s, when he was a swinging acoustic pianist with hits such as “The In Crowd” and “Hang On Sloopy.”  


The Ramsey Lewis Trio plays "The Ripper" from the album Never on Sunday.


Then, in 1974, he made a career-defining change with his release of Sun Goddess, which started him on a 40-plus year path as a leader in pop-jazz fusion.

The original 1974 recording of Ramsey Lewis with Earth Wind and Fire.

The latest from this three-time Grammy-winner is an album called Taking Another Look, which Ramsey thinks is among the top-5 of his 80 albums.


Ramsey Lewis playing "Intimacy" from his latest release, Taking Another Look.


In addition to his prolific career as a player and composer, Ramsey is a well-known ambassador for America’s music, having been a public radio host since 1990.  The radio program, Legends of Jazz (heard on KJazz every Sunday, from 9pm to midnight), expanded into a 13-episode television series in 2006, with guests such as Dave Brubeck, Joey DeFrancesco, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, and Tony Bennett.


Ramsey celebrated his 81st birthday on May 27th, and will make a rare southern California appearance for our benefit on June 25th!


Joining Ramsey as a special guest will be Dee Dee Bridgewater.  Like Ramsey, she is a veteran, she has won three Grammys, hosts a radio show, Jazz Set on NPR, and was born on May 27th! (She just turned 66.)


But, whereas 4-year-old Ramsey, who grew up in a housing project in Chicago, had to beg his parents to get him 50-cent piano lessons, Dee Dee grew up in a musical family in Michigan. Her father was a jazz trumpet player and teacher.   


In the ‘70s, after she married trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, the couple moved to New York, where Cecil joined Horace Silver’s band and Dee Dee sang with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band.


Dee Dee singing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band.

Dee Dee told me that she would regularly hang around while Horace’s band rehearsed, and she kept asking him to let her sing with the band, but he always told her she wasn’t ready. Imagine her satisfaction and excitement when, in 1995, she asked Horace if she might record an album of his music and lyrics, and he not only agreed, but played on two of the tracks! 

Dee Dee singing with Horace Silver at the piano on his "Song for My Father" from Dee Dee's album Love and Peace.


Dee Dee was nominated for a Grammy for that disc, but the award went to the sentimental favorite, Lena Horne. However, she won her next time out, in 1997, for her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, who had just died the year before. She won twice! For Best Jazz Album of the year and also for Slide Hampton’s arrangement of "Cotton Tail".


Dee Dee from her Grammy-winning tribute, Dear Ella, singing a John Clayton arrangement of "Let's Do It." 


She won again in 2010 for her Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959) To Billie With Love.


Dee Dee in a duet with bassist Christian McBride on this Grammy-winning disc in tribute to Billie Holiday.

Along the way, there have been many other honors, including a 1975 Tony Award for her performance as Glinda in The Wiz. And this year, Dee Dee was invited to perform at the White House for International Jazz Day. Oh! And another thing Dee Dee has in common with Ramsey Lewis. . . Ramsey was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2007, and Dee Dee was just named among the 2017 honorees!


Opening our fourth annual benefit concert will be Jane Monheit. She is celebrating the release of a brand new disc in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, whose Songbook series on Verve was of “Biblical importance” to Jane when she was growing up in Long Island, NY.


This disc is of special significance to Jane, not only because of its intense personal connections to her youth and development as a singer, but also because it is her first release on her own label, Emerald City Records.


Jane Monheit from brand new tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

Having complete artistic control has enabled Jane to choose her material and her own producer. . . trumpeter/arranger/bandleader Nicholas Payton. Jane feels that this album takes her to a new level.  She says, “Honestly, when I listened back to the takes, I heard a different singer than I’ve heard before—a more mature one. . .These were the vocals of a 38-year-old woman with a lot of life experience. These tracks really express who I am.”


For our benefit, Jane will be performing material from this new release, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald.


In addition to the exciting and diverse line-up, the venue itself is a treat! Wonderful sound!  And, if you really want to get the most out of the experience, I urge you to consider getting a V.I.P. pass!  Parking – as it is everywhere in L.A. – is tricky and expensive in those parts, but with a V.I.P. pass, valet parking is included! And you’ll be sitting in the Front Orchestra section. . . the best seats in the house! You will also be invited to a post-concert reception, with dessert, coffee, and wine in the Founder’s Room at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The V.I.P. package includes a year’s membership with KJazz, which will give you all the member perks! You will also be automatically entered for a chance to win the June Sweepstakes … a trip for two to the San Jose Jazz Festival in August! All this for a donation of only $200 per V.I.P. pass!


It’s a sweet deal! As will be the blend of artists we have selected for our summer potpourri. We will all benefit from the experience! Please join us!  General admission tickets are available through Ticketmaster.









On-air personality, Helen Borgers, can be heard on KJazz 88.1 FM from 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. As a jazz broadcaster, Helen has been invited to give pre-concert lectures at various performing arts centers, served on panels in jazz conventions all over the world, and lectured about the history of jazz in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She has also written articles for international jazz publications and regularly emcees concerts, festivals, and club dates throughout southern California.

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