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Release: Immediate

Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor trade piano licks April 18 in Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jazz pianists Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor will collaborate at 8 p.m. Friday, April 18, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. Their performance will be the final event in Hancher's 1996-97 University of Iowa Community Credit Union Jazz Series.

During his visit to Iowa City, Taylor will also present a special educational matinee through Hancher's Stage Door series for school groups.

Lewis and Taylor have been occasionally touring and recording together for nearly a decade, but they took very different routes to this mutually satisfying musical meeting of the minds.

Lewis achieved pop stardom in the 1960s with a series of crossover hits -- "The In Crowd," "Hang on Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water" -- winning two Grammy awards and seven gold albums. Later he recorded and toured with Earth, Wind and Fire, before abandoning synthesizers and returning to the acoustic jazz trio format.

Lewis has twice been nominated for the cable ACE award for his "Jazz Central" program on BET, and is the director for Jazz at Ravinia Festival in Chicago. Despite his serious jazz credentials and musical achievements -- including more than 60 albums -- Lewis has found it difficult in some jazz-purist quarters to "live down" a reputation as a lightweight crossover artist.

In contrast, Taylor has no trouble commanding respect, with either jazz purists or those outside the jazz fold. He studied with jazz piano legend Art Tatum and completed a doctorate in musical education in 1975. Through his articulate writing and broadcasting, Taylor has become one of the world's leading advocates of jazz as a serious art form -- America's classical music.

He's never had a hit, but Taylor has won two Peabody Awards, was honored with the National Medal of the Arts and was appointed to the National Council on the Arts. He is now the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and his features and commentaries can be heard regularly on CBS "Sunday Morning" and on both public TV and public radio.

The dissimilar backgrounds provide no barrier to Lewis' and Taylors' music-making. "What has 20 fingers, 176 keys and an infinite number of musical ideas?" the critic of the Toledo Blade asked. "Try the dynamic piano duo of Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis. The two jazz pianists have vastly different approaches to the instrument, and the contrast makes a compelling complement."

Although Lewis and Taylor play jazz standards by composers including Duke Ellington, John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Billy Strayhorn and Bill Evans, their concert-hall collaboration transcends jazz.

Taylor says, "We play for a lot of people who just like the piano as an instrument, not necessarily jazz fans. We've tapped into that. There's a big audience that doesn't identify itself with jazz but they like it and will come to hear it in a place where they're comfortable. They might not go to a nightclub."

Tickets for Ramsey Lewis and Billy Taylor are $27.50, $23.50 and $21.50. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20 percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Further information about this event is available on Hancher's World Wide Web homepage, at <>. More information and links about Lewis are available at <>, and Dr. Taylor's "What Is Jazz?" lectures for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are accessible at <>.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Hancher 1996-97 Jazz Series, through the University of Iowa Foundation.