JAMES BRANDON LEWIS — James Brandon Lewis Quartet with Aruán Ortiz, Brad Jones and Chad Taylor: Code of Being (review)

JAMES BRANDON LEWIS — James Brandon Lewis Quartet with Aruán Ortiz, Brad Jones and Chad Taylor: Code of Being album cover Album · 2021 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
snobb
Born in Buffalo in 1983, James Brandon Lewis is the son of a preacher father and a schoolteacher mother. A New York-based rising star sax player, he has a background in University studies under Wadada Leo Smith and also playing gospel as well. After some years working for TV and as a studio musician, Lewis started his recording career as a leader in 2010, playing avant-garde jazz and modern jazz-related crossover music. His soulful, r'n'b and soul rooted liquid sax sound is always mixed with free improvisation in the same way of the great free jazz masters of the 60s.

Lewis' first album with an accent on composition (and his European debut) was actually a duo album (James Brandon Lewis - Chad Taylor "Radiant Imprints", Off Records, 2018, Belgium). The duo played at Willisau Fest (released on "Live in Willisau", Intakt, 2020,Switzerland) and then grew into a quartet with bassist Brad Jones, and pianist Aruán Ortiz, which recorded and released their critically acclaimed debut on Swiss Intakt the same year.

Just released, "Code Of Being" is the quartet's second album and Lewis' third European release. Recorded in Switzerland, the album contains possibly the best music Lewis has played until now. The band is very capable, including one of the most interesting piano player of his generation, Cuban Aruán Ortiz. Many songs have strong melody and are quite memorable, with soulful Lewis' sax soloing (very much in Rahsaan Roland Kirk vein). Still differently from Kirk, Lewis doesn't play groovy r'n'b, his music is closer to cinematic pseudo-soundtrack, which incorporates many genres, from Ortiz Latin-scented piano on "Where Is Hella", to the almost chamberesque "Tessera". The album's opener, "Resonance", is an absolute beauty, it comes as today's minimalistic echo of Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra's debut music.

By its structure, the album's content is well balanced, mixing some very tuneful songs with more free and complex compositions. The listener never expect what comes next.

Being far not so simple under the skin, the music here sounds surprisingly accessible. "Code Of Being" is one among the better examples of modern creative jazz, which combines the tradition and modernity in a right proportion.
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