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October 3, 2013

Rockport Music gala features jazz of Nat King Cole

The annual benefit gala for Rockport Music this year features Grammy Award-winning Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli, a jazz guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader, who will perform for the event at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.

“Jazz on the Rocks —Take 4” takes place Saturday, Oct. 12 with Lewis, a jazz master pianist, and Pizzarelli. They will perform a tribute to Nat King Cole, whose vocals hit the airwaves in the 1940s and whose hits include “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Unforgettable” and “Mona Lisa.”

Prior to the concert, there will be a 1940s-themed cocktail reception and a live auction.

Lewis and Pizzarelli were influenced by Cole’s sophisticated cool jazz.

“I’ve always said in my concerts that Nat King Cole is why I do what I do,” said Pizzarelli in a press release. “We aren’t trying to copy him. His sound was singular and inspired. I’ve always said that we’re an extension, a 21st century version of what that group was.”

Lewis became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene in the 1950s and has been a leader in the contemporary jazz movement for more than 50 years. He holds three Grammy Awards and has recorded 80 albums over his career. He infuses gospel and his classical training into his love for jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. He is known for hits such as “The In Crowd,” “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water.”

Lewis also has been a jazz radio host, PBS Television host of the series “Legends of Jazz,” and has served as artistic director of the Ravinia Festival’s Jazz for the last 20 years.

A highly regarded jazz guitarist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader, Pizzarelli is a leading interpreter of the Great American Songbook. He has opened for greats such as Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis, and Rosemary Clooney, and was honored to open for Frank Sinatra’s international tour and to perform at Sinatra’s 80th birthday bash at Carnegie Hall.

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