Ramsey Lewis: Urban Knights III

Ramsey Lewis’ Urban Knights III (Narada Jazz 708 76-15201-2-5; 51:44) exploits the urban sophistication and stylish blue roots of its Chicago setting, making a stronger statement than either of the preceding Urban Knights projects. Where “Far and Away” brings together popping bass and dark acoustic piano for a funky elegance, “Sweet Home Chicago” reflects the bustle of the city in its hopping, bluesy keyboard feel. Another standout track, “The Gypsy,” sets warm acoustic guitar lines gliding across the heavy, urban feel of slap percussion, lending a gentle sophistication to its modern street scene. Although other pieces here (“Do You Still Think About Me,” this month’s popular cover “I’m Not in Love”) are given more standard, heavy-breathing, programmed R&B treatments, Lewis and his standout Chicago ensemble end the Urban Knights trilogy on a strong note.