“Live at the Bohemian Caverns…Remembering Ramsey Lewis” – a poem by Mary K. O’Melveny

September 21st, 2022

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photo by Justin Steyer, KPLU Radio, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons (from original color version)

Photo by Justin Steyer / KPLU

Ramsey Lewis performs live in the KPLU studio on October 16, 2009

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Live at the Bohemian Caverns
…..Remembering Ramsey Lewis

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I was there to see The Trio:
Ramsey Lewis, Eldee Young,
Red Holt. The darkened space
lived up to its name. It felt edgy,
sophisticated, high voltage.
I held on tightly to my fake
ID, newly minted for a college
freshman. I tried to appear
nonchalant. As if I was used
to sipping vodka and tonic
at tiny, crowded tables
bordering a small wooden stage
backlit by faded stalactites.
Once a speakeasy, now home
to musical stars an arm’s length
away. The three musicians
shone like the sun as they played
familiar pieces but with a
different rhythm, a novel turn.

A West Side Story medley
took Sondheim to another realm.
Tennessee Waltz was not a
waltz at all but a toe-tapping
farewell to mismatched love.
Space travel was on our minds
back then. Fly Me To The Moon
anytime I said. When the set
ended, I walked outside on U
Street, amazed by how little
I had known about the magic
of jazz. I became a lifelong fan.
I kept that album around for years.
It reminded me that, if we
listen up and are willing to fly,
we can become lifelong members
of The In Crowd where everything
we think we know can become
bold, bedazzled, brand new.

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Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Woodstock NY and Washington DC. She is the author of three books of poetry and co-author of two anthologies; her award-winning poetry has appeared in many print and on-line literary journals and on national blog sites.

Click here to visit her website

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Listen to the 1964 recording of the Ramsay Lewis Trio playing “Fly Me to the Moon”  from the album Live at the Bohemian Gardens [The Verve Music Group, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.]

 

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Watch a (c. 1990) video of the Ramsay Lewis Trio performing “The In Crowd”

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