Ramsey Lewis got down to some basics last night, and if his piano-playing did not deal in complexities, his head-bobbing, foot-tapping audience at Blues Alley didn't care. Lewis' music may be a hair short of commercial, but it is functional and involves the listener.
Accompanied by electric bassist Bill Dickens and drummer Frank Donaldson, Lewis constructed many of the set's pieces around a light beginning that contained the seeds of the tunes' later explosions. "Caring For You" unfolded in this manner and concluded with a reprise of the ambling introduction. A piano solo on "It Might as Well Be Spring" was delicate, with Tatumesque embellishments and hushed doodling--quite a constrast to the flamboyance of the balance of the set.
Both Dickens and Donaldson were given features in which they proved as direct as their leader. Their support of Lewis was precise and often dramatic.
One of Lewis' strong points is his flair for dynamics. More than once he swept up the entire keyboard and heaped it in a pile with a crash. Perhaps his strongest point is his down-to-earth feeling for the blues. His final, long number was about as unsubtle a delineation of that idiom as one hears these days, and one did not want it to ever end.
The trio stays through Sunday.