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Urban Knights

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1995 to Present...


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Put together by Carl Griffin, A&R manager for the GRP label, Urban Knights were initially meant as the new project for Ramsey Lewis, who already was a GRP recording artist for some time. Things came together beautifully with their first recording, and under the supervision of Maurice White, the initial lineup consisted of bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Omar Hakim, legendary Grover Washington, Jr., and Ramsey himself. The project started out as a jazz superstar group, receiving enthusiastic acclaim by both critics and jazz fans. Due to successful sales things led up to a second release in 1997, which saw a drastic change of the group (emphasizing the project character it bears). Even though only partly responsible for the production, Urban Knights II was vastly produced by White again. The formation now consisted of saxophonist Najee, Sony Emory on drums, Paulinho da Costa, and was completed by South African guitarist Jonathan Butler. Due to Butler, the line-up now also had a vocalist for the first time. However, in spite of the ambitious project Ramsey Lewis still found time to continue recording solo albums under his own name, or with the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

Ironically, the third Urban Knight release saw them change to the Narada Jazz label, largely produced by Lewis' own son Frayne T. Lewis, and now using Sharay Reed (bass), Kevin Randolph (keyboards), Calvin Rogers (drums). Drum programmer Stereo completed the formation. These young musicians would from now on become the steady circle, backing the idea behind Urban Knights, increasingly more dominantly directed by Frayne than by his father, Ramsey. Consequently, almost the same circle of musicians appeared on the fourth offering (2001). It's the first time that most of the core players were not exchanged. Urban Knights have become the nucleus of a 'Ramsey family project' with assorted specialists surrounding father and son. Hereafter, Ramsey Lewis was never mentioned as a steady member of the project anymore, but occasionally appearing as a featured artist (but most importantly as the executive producer).

Following the first two albums on Narada, 2002 saw a release with a dubious name: Urban Knights Presents: The Chicago Project, a one-time effort of Frayne, and basically using the same circle of young cats as on the previous two Urban Knights albums. In 2003 Urban Knights V used the same concept like # III and IV. Interestingly, Ramsey is only mentioned as a featured artists on those tracks where his piano lines are in the foreground. Again using many guest musicians, this release contains appearances of the likes such as Kenny Garrett, Henry Johnson or Michelle Williams. 2005 brought yet another change to the project: for the first time showing five real individuals on the cover's front, Ramsey and Frayne only appear as credited producer or executive producer.
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Last Edit by cci
21st Oct 2021



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