Today: Jun 19, 2024

Two legends in one night under one roof at Lyman

photo courtesy Sabina Walters
Bill Cosby visited Southern multiple times over the last two years.


It was a special evening by any degree of standard; one an audience member felt honored to attend and would want to remember for life. 

There was almost too much talent gathered in one room, as the feeling of grandiosity lingered in the air. 

A jazz legend, Ramsey Lewis and a legendary comedian, Bill Cosby took the stage at the Lyman Center for the performing arts last week to entertain the awestruck crowd and give their performances as part of “Two Legends. One Evening” event held to support Southern Academy and benefit student scholarship programs.  

“We’re very happy and excited to come here this evening to participate with our family in raising a village,” said interim president Stanley F. Battle, in his introductory speech. “You know how difficult it is to raise a village, how difficult it is support children and how expensive it is to provide the appropriate support. We have two gentlemen who have been committed to supporting children across the globe. With their willingness to perform here at Southern tonight, Ramsey Lewis and Bill Cosby are showing us they are part of our village.”

A soft-spoken, award-winning Lewis delivered a polished and slick performance, accompanied by a percussionist Charles Heath and bassist Joshua Ramos.

All three were wearing suits in different shades of grey and instantly connected with an audience, presenting a creative repertoire, which offered something for everyone. 

Lewis took everyone on a journey with his medley of lyrical ballads, playful and upbeat compositions, and amazing soulful gospel. 

Listeners swayed to the captivating sounds and an occasional “Mmmm-hmmmm” and “Yeah, baby!” could be heard.

Chicago native and a true gentleman, Lewis did not hesitate to show his appreciation. 

“My, my, my, what a wonderful audience. Take you all on the road with us, indeed,” Lewis said. “It’s a pleasure to be here with you tonight, thank you so much for coming out to see us.” 

Malcolm Mondesir said he was impressed by the trio’s performance.

Photo courtesy Sabina Walters
Ramsey Lewis opened up the show for Cosby, who then spoke about his upbringing and thoughts on education.

“I love jazz and Ramsey is a genius,” said Mondesir, freshman undecided major. “It’s like he’s having a conversation with everybody without even looking at them. The way he played was very nice, smooth and elegant. When he was playing I would close my eyes and see what kind of vision I would see and it was pure bliss, like a winter wonderland.” 

After Lewis’ performance Battle took the stage one more time to present Bill Cosby. Battle, who has known and worked with Cosby for many years, seemingly enjoyed his duty as a presenter and was eager to show his flamboyant side by giving his Fat Albert impression and reacting to audience’s applause with “thank you, I need more of that.” 

“I see him as a scholar, a certainly remarkable entertainer, but I also see him as a big brother, from the stand point that he is always willing to offer advice, sometimes quite cutting,” said Battle of Cosby. “When I watched him walk Dixwell and I watched him with the children in this city, with the faculty and the staff on this campus, every time he came to New Haven he lit this place up, there was joy, joy, joy. And all I gave him was some water and a chili dog.”

The audience gave Cosby, who was wearing a sweat shirt and a baseball cap with Southern logo, a warm welcome by giving him a standing ovation.  

“I want to thank all of you for this evening and I especially want to thank Dr. Battle. He is a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Cosby. “A lot of presidents want to do the correct thing and a lot of schools go just this far and stop. He continues on, so they have to give him his notice. But he always manages to find another fool.”

Cosby showed a true master-class by performing a mirthful comedic routine, interrupted few times by the audience’s explosive laughter and applause. 

He talked about his poor childhood and his parents’ questionable disciplinary techniques in the pre-911 days. He also shared hilarious recollections of his first date, for which he prepared himself by soaking in an improvised bath concocted from his father’s expensive cologne.

“I know now at age 74 that the reason why girls are ahead of us is because they have meetings,” Cosby said. “Men don’t have significant meetings; we have boisterous things, where you have to rely on each other. But women have meetings about how to attack us, without looking like they’re attacking. They challenge you and you feel stupid, because you come unprepared.”

But it was not all jokes and laughter for Cosby. After his comedic routine, Cosby talked about the importance of teaching and giving children education they deserve. 

“In order to be the kind of teacher that’s needed, you have to be able to define why you love what you teach,” Cosby said. “You need to talk about your passion for it and teach them the beauty of learning and joy of a mistake, and cheer them on.” 

Estela Lopez, graduate student in Women’s studies program, said she was impressed by both performances.

“I thought Bill Cosby was hilarious,” Lopez said. “I wasn’t aware of just how funny he was. I only remember his from commercials, not so much the Bill Cosby show, but I liked how he really captivated the older audience too. I don’t really listen to jazz music that much, but I felt like I was hypnotized by Ramsey Lewis and by the music, it was really emotional, even though there were no words to it.”

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