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October 2003

Ramsey Lewis/Nancy Wilson
Simple Pleasures
Narada Media

It took 18 years for Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis to reteam after 1984's sublime The Two of Us. Fortunately, it has taken only 18 months for the lifelong pals to follow up on last year's equally delightful Meant to Be. Their third collaboration, the rather ironically titled Simple Pleasures (Narada), is a somewhat more complex affair than either of their previous outings. This time around, Lewis and Wilson, neither a stranger to lush settings, enrich the proceedings with a polished horn section that suits both well. On the five tracks Wilson and Lewis share, their affection is palpable. You can feel the love. Moreover, you can feel the deep respect these seasoned pros have for one another. As they should. Few are the artists who have sustained their musical authority, clarity and imagination to the degree these two have. Close your eyes as they meander through "In the Name of Love" or "Lost Up in Loving You," and you'll swear it's the Wade in the Water-era Lewis swingin' alongside the Wilson of A Touch of Today or Welcome to My Love. Yet stellar as these duets are, Lewis' solo turns prove even better, particularly his gently ebullient "Ooh Child" and a somber "In My Life" that's a spectacular study in bittersweet self-reflection. Still, the album's highlight-a spare, piano-and-vocal rendering of "God Bless the Child" that is achingly beautiful but never (unlike so many other treatments) mannered or overwrought-belongs to both. Rumor has it that Lewis and Wilson are so content with their combined studio and touring efforts that they intend to stay side by side for the foreseeable future. Here's hoping the rumors are true.

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Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson

Originally published in October 2003
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