Complete Recordings: 1957-1960
The albums on this four-disc set represent the first recordings by pianist Ramsey Lewis as a leader or in a featured-artist capacity. All but one originally appeared on Argo. There are eight complete albums in this slipcase box, beginning with Ramsey Lewis & His Gentle-Men of Swing and Ramsey Lewis & His Gentle-Men of Jazz, Vol. 2 albums (aka the earliest Ramsey Lewis Trio sides with Eldee Young and Redd Holt), both on disc one. Disc two collects the stellar The Colorful Strings of Jimmy Woode and Max Roach's Max. Trumpeter Lem Winchester's date with the trio and the group's own Down to Earth -- as well as the first two cuts from vocalist Lorez Alexandria's collaboration with the group, Early in the Morning -- take up disc three. The remaining eight cuts from Early in the Morning commence disc four, rounded out by An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio (their lone album for Mercury). The good news is that this set is almost unbelievably inexpensive. The bad news is twofold. Enlightenment is a U.K. label and therefore not required to pay copyright fees on material at least 50 years old. It also means that they didn't have to use master tapes as their source material -- it's highly debatable as to whether these recordings were actually taken from tapes rather than vinyl LPs. You get what you pay for. The stars are for the music, not the package.