Christmas Songs: The Ramsey Lewis Trio, “Egg Nog,” 1964
This is possibly the only music on The Ramsey Lewis Trio‘s second volume of jazz interpretations of Christmas songs and music isn’t laden with strings. Additionally, this is an original Ramsey Lewis composition.
It features Eldee Young on bass, Steve McCall on drums, and Ramsey Lewis on piano. I am guessing that Lewis is also playing a xylophone or vibraphone that introduces the piece and dubbed separately, because no personnel is listed as playing them, according to Discogs.
This may be easy listening music for us geriatrics or Quiet Storm devotees, but it certainly is some interesting stuff, made interesting by the eclecticism of the musicians no doubt. The album, alternately on either the Chess, Cadet or Argo labels, is quite rare–found on either audio cassette or mono LPs. There have been persistent requests that the record be remastered and reissued on CD.
Of the personnel: Eldee Young died in 2007 at the age of 71 from a sudden heart attack in Bangkok, Thailand. The double bass player was only one year away from splitting creatively from Lewis’ line-up at the time More Sounds of Christmas was produced. In 1968, Young and drummer Isaac “Red” Holt, another Lewis alum, formed Young-Holt Unlimited. Their only Top 100 hit was “Soulful Strut,” which charted at number three in 1969. Young-Holt Unlimited tried to duplicate their initial success, but they couldn’t, and the group–actually a trio with pianist Ken Chaney–broke up in 1974. Eldee Young and Red Holt eventually reunited with Lewis in 1983. Red Holt, born in 1932, is said to be still active as a drummer.
Chicago-born Steve McCall was a hard-bopping and free jazz drummer throughout the Sixties and Seventies. McCall later became an expatriate in Paris and in Amsterdam and afterwards went back and forth performing as a sideman between Europe and the States. He played with the likes of avant garde jazz men like Anthony Braxton; then he moved back to the States to work with Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons and Henry Threadgill. McCall died of a stroke in 1989 at the age of 56.
The indefatigable Ramsey Lewis is now 76 years old, and he’s on hiatus from touring until the holidays are over. (And no wonder: Lewis has seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.) He has assembled an electric quintet under the rubric, “The Sun Goddess Tour”, that includes Henry Johnson, Tim Gant, Charles Heath and Joshua Ramos. The tour is to promote his current album, Ramsey, Taking Another Look. Of course, he is playing all of the crowd favorites, including “Sun Goddess,” in his performances. Ramsey Lewis’ website (and appearance dates) is here.
By the way, egg nog. You know that stuff is deadly, especially when it is made right. Here’s a good recipe for egg nog right below, from the website EggNogAholic.com. And drink responsibly, folks.
EggNogAholic’s Basic Eggnog Recipe
6 eggs separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup rum
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla until light yellow and creamy. Add rum and milk. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Refrigerate the egg whites, as well.
When you are ready to serve your eggnog, whip the heavy cream in one bowl and the egg whites in another bowl. Both should be beaten to stiff peaks form. Then alternate folding in egg whites and whipped cream to the eggnog mixture.
This eggnog is rich, thick and delightfuly creamy. You can use less whipped cream and more milk, it’s a matter of taste. Garnish with nutmeg and cinnamon if desired.