Ramsey Lewis on first gig at Birdland (Jazz)

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "Black Eye Peas" CD: Ramsey Lewis's Finest Hour, Verve 314 543 763-2 (cut 4)

2007 NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis hails from the great jazz city of Chicago, where he was discovered in the late 1950s by renowned manager, Joe Glaser.

Ramsey Lewis: He at the time was the manager of Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and just tons of big people, Dinah Washington. And he says, "You know, you guys are pretty good. Do you wanna go to New York?" He said, "We think we have you a gig at Birdland." We said, "BIRDLAND!" I mean, didn't believe it.

MUSIC: punctuation

It was a three-week job. We got a Plymouth station wagon, nine-passenger. And we packed all our instruments and stuff and we went to New York. And we were one of three bands. The first band was The Art Blakey Group with Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy Merritt, and they were cookin -- they were burnin! The other band was The Buddy Rich Big Band! (big laugh) But hey, we got up there and did what we did. We weren't nervous at all. I guess we were too young to say to ourselves, "You're in Birdland!" And instead of three weeks, I think we stayed for almost three months.

MUSIC: up and fades

This Jazz Moment with pianist Ramsey Lewis was created by the National Endowment for the Arts. I'm Delfeayo Marsalis.

Ramsey Lewis on first gig at Birdland (Jazz)