If you would like to share Urban Knights lyrics with other users of this site, please see the bottom of this page on how to submit Urban Knights lyrics.

Members include Victor Bailey, bass; Omar Hakim , drums; Ramsey Lewis (born on May 27, 1935, in Chicago, IL), piano; Grover Washington, Jr., saxophone; Maurice White, composer. Addresses: Record company--Narada Productions, Inc., 4650 N. Port Washington Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53212, website: http://www.narada.com.

The smooth jazz group Urban Knights has brought together some of the best-known names in the field of smooth jazz, along with rising new talent, for a series of albums showcasing both new music and covers. The group's original lineup, created for a self-titled debut in 1995, featured Ramsey Lewis on piano and Grover Washington, Jr. on saxophone, backed up by Omar Hakim on drums and Victor Bailey on bass. As the mainstay of the group, Ramsey Lewis is the only member who has been with the group since its inception, appearing on all of their albums. The group's releases include Urban Knights in 1995, Urban Knights II in 1997, Urban Knights III in 2000, Urban Knights IV in 2001, and Urban Knights V, which hit music store shelves in 2003.

The collaborative group was the brain child of record label GRP's vice president, Carl Griffin. Griffin wanted to find a new project for Ramsey Lewis, who had been a GRP artist for some years, and he hit upon the idea of a "super group" composed of some of the brightest lights in smooth jazz.

Griffin realized right away that saxophonist Grover Washington would make a great addition to his proposed team. Washington and Lewis had played together previously, collaborating on two albums, Lewis's Live at the Savoy in 1982 and Next Exit, one of Washington's albums, in the early 1990s.

Looking for a rhythm section, Griffin hit upon bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Omar Hakim, who had played together in the band Weather Report, and who, at the time of the Urban Knights' formation, were on the road together as part of pop star Madonna's band.

Finally, Griffin found in Maurice White the perfect choice to produce and compose for the group. White had been the founder and leader of the highly successful group Earth, Wind & Fire, and had worked with Lewis as a drummer in the mid-1960s. He had also played in concert tours with Lewis as part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. In 1975 White had produced a hit by Lewis titled "Sun Goddess."

The first Urban Knights studio sessions took place in Chicago in 1994. The sessions had an informal, improvisational flavor, with all of the musicians contributing to the creative mix. Many of the tunes for the first Urban Knights album were improvised on the spot and shaped into the final tracks with White's help. With three songs recorded each day of the studio sessions, often on a single take, the recording of the group's debut, Urban Knights, took only ten days.

For Hakim the sessions were a particularly heady time, since he had grown up listening to Earth, Wind & Fire albums and greatly admired White as the leader of that band. He acknowledged on the Verve Music Group website that for him the collaboration was a dream come true. He also praised the working relationship of all the band members on that first album as a kind of melding of minds, adding that it felt as though they had all been playing together for years. Hakim had been a member of the band Weather Report, and had played with Marcus Miller, Sting, David Bowie, and Miles Davis, among others, before launching a solo career as a drummer.

Victor Bailey came to the group with a broad range of experience working with famous jazz players such as Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, as well as with rapper LL Cool J and R&B musician Kashif. Before joining the Urban Knights, the versatile bassist had proven himself equally adept at playing pop music (with Madonna's touring band), R&B (as part of Will Downing's band, in addition to Kashif), and jazz (with Roy Haynes).

Keyboardist Ramsey Lewis had been a successful recording artist since the 1950s. When he helped to found the Urban Knights, he was following a longstanding interest in fusing pop music with jazz. His jazz recordings had a strong pop sensibility from the beginning. The first group with which he recorded was a trio composed of himself, Eldee Young, and Red Holt. Formed in 1956, that group made its first album in 1958. Lewis found a wide following in the 1960s with his albums The In Crowd and Hang On. Lewis won two Grammy Awards in the 1960s, for his hit song "The In Crowd" in 1965 and for "Hold It Right There" in 1966. He also won a Grammy in 1973 for "Hang on Sloopy."

Grover Washington, already legendary as a saxophone player when he joined the Urban Knights, has been cited as an inspiration to a generation of sax players, including Kenny G. and George Howard. In addition to his prior work with Ramsey Lewis, Washington came to the Urban Knights with extensive experience as a producer for the likes of Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond, and many other well-known recording artists.

Urban Knights became a critical and popular success after its 1995 release, landing high on the contemporary jazz charts. Although the quintet of White, Bailey, Hakim, Washington, and Lewis formed the creative center of Urban Knights at its inception, many other rappers, trumpet players, guitarists, keyboardists, and drummers have contributed as players to each of the group's albums. In fact, Lewis has remained the band's only ongoing member. After that first album, the overriding concept of the band became the idea that the quality and style of the music itself could remain consistent, even when played by an ever-changing lineup of musicians. The group's second studio outing, Urban Knights II, featured, in addition to Lewis, Gerald Albright and Najee on saxophones, Jonathan Butler as singer and guitarist, and drummer Sonny Emory. Hailing from South Africa, and contributing African and South American-inspired vocals on such tracks as "South African Jam" and "Brazilian Rain," Butler lent an international flavor to the proceedings. Urban Knights II was released on the GRP label in 1997.

By the Urban Knights' third album, Urban Knights III, Lewis had begun to see his group as a vehicle for showcasing promising young talent from the Chicago area as one of its missions. Also with this album, the group moved from GRP to the Narada label. Released in 2000, Urban Knights III featured, in addition to Lewis on piano, the talents of Kevin Randolph on keyboards, Sharay Reed on bass, Calvin Rodgers on drums, Stereo, and many others.

Urban Knights IV, released on Narada in 2001, saw Lewis again leading Randolph, Reed, Rodgers and a host of new musicians in playing both covers and original tunes. Urban Knights V was released in 2003.

by Michael Belfiore

Urban Knights's Career

Group formed in Chicago, IL, 1994; released debut album Urban Knights on GRP label, 1995; released albums Urban Knights II on GRP, 1997; signed with Narada label; released Urban Knights III, 2000; Urban Knights IV, 2001; Urban Knights V, 2003.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Urban Knights Lyrics

Feel free to share Urban Knights lyrics. Just click on "Add a comment…" below and paste the song name and the lyrics. However, please do not post Urban Knights lyrics unless you have received permission from the copyright owner. Make sure to include the name of the Urban Knights album along with the lyrics.

Visitor Comments Add a comment…