James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon
multikulti.com * * * * 1/2:
… Wystarczy posłuchać solowego wstępu Lewisa do tytułowej kompozycji, to przeszywający duszę słuchacza psalm, po którym następuje energetyzująca sekwencja zespołowego jazzowego flow. Bluesowa fraza, energia pogrzebowych parad nowoorleańskich generują niepowtarzalną energię. Albo "Lowlands Of Sorrow", z tym nieustannym napięciem na linii tego, co standardowe, a tym, co niepowtarzalne. Dialogujące ze sobą gimbri (marokańska lutnia basowa) Williama Parkera, wiolonczela Chrisa Hoffmana i charakterystyczne brzmienie dzwonka pasterskiego Chada Taylora tworzą ekspresyjne podglebie pod pełne długich, soczystych i uduchowionych fraz tenoru lidera i kornetu Kirka Knuffke…
Avant Jazz / Free Improvisation / Avant-Garde
premiera polska: 2021-10-18
kontynent: Ameryka Północna
opakowanie: digipackowe etui
multikulti.com * * * * 1/2:
James Brandon Lewis, nowojorski saksofonista, od nagrania płyty "An UnRuly Manifesto" (Relative Pitch, 2019) stał się jednym z najważniejszych postaci współczesnego młodego jazzu. "Olśniewające, zniewalające, gęste granie" tak pisał o tej właśnie płycie w pięciogwiazdkowej recenzji dziennikarz Jazz Forum. Z tym programem wystąpił po raz pierwszy w Polsce, na Warsaw Summer Jazz Days w 2019 roku.
Teraz otrzymujemy nowy krążek, na CD i na tradycyjnym Vinylu. "Jesup Wagon" wydany został przez nowojorską TAO Forms, gdzie wydają swoje płyty Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Tani Tabbal, Ivo Perelman.
Red Lily Quintet oprócz lidera grającego na tenorze to kornecista Kirk Knuffke, kontrabasista William Parker (w dwóch utworach też na gimbri, wiolonczelista Chris Hoffman i perkusista Chad Taylor (w jednym utworze na mbirze).
Jest artystą wszędobylskim, zajmuje się poezją, eseistyką, jest autorem społeczno-filozoficznych manifestów, skala jego aktywności, pomimo młodego jeszcze wieku zdumiewa, rozsadza ramy muzyka jazzowego. Można o nim powiedzieć, że jest artystą nowoczesnym, i współczesnym wszystkich epok.
Najnowszy album został poświęcony George'owi Washingtonowi Carverowi. W Europie nieznany, w USA przeciwnie, botanik, wynalazca, pedagog oraz agronom, jednocześnie znakomity muzyk i malarz, nie stronił także od zaangażowania społecznego, pisał wizjonerskie propozycje transformacji społecznej. Te dwie wielkie pasje - praca naukowa i sztuka wypełniły życie zasłużonego w historii USA afroamerykanina. To właśnie wywołało zainteresowanie nim Brandona Lewisa. Carver twierdził, że sztuka i nauka, jako procesy odkrywania, nigdy nie są ze sobą w opozycji. James Brandon Lewis, wypełniający swoją muzykę treściami pozamuzycznymi wydaje się nieodrodnym synem Carvera.
Siedem oryginalnych kompozycji Lewisa i dwa wiersze, to program tej niezwykłej płyty. Ta wszędobylskość Lewisa sprawia, że jego dorobek artystyczny - kształtujący się w czasach pojawiania się, co rusz nowych zjawisk artystycznych - jest samodzielny i odrębny. Wystarczy posłuchać solowego wstępu Lewisa do tytułowej kompozycji, to przeszywający duszę słuchacza psalm, po którym następuje energetyzująca sekwencja zespołowego jazzowego flow. Bluesowa fraza, energia pogrzebowych parad nowoorleańskich generują niepowtarzalną energię. Albo "Lowlands Of Sorrow", z tym nieustannym napięciem na linii tego, co standardowe, a tym, co niepowtarzalne. Dialogujące ze sobą gimbri (marokańska lutnia basowa) Williama Parkera, wiolonczela Chrisa Hoffmana i charakterystyczne brzmienie dzwonka pasterskiego Chada Taylora tworzą ekspresyjne podglebie pod pełne długich, soczystych i uduchowionych fraz tenoru lidera i kornetu Kirka Knuffke.
James Brandon Lewis na spirali nieustannego rozwoju sztuki tworzy dzieła wybitne. I tylko mam nadzieję, że w świecie nieustannego naporu nowości każdego dnia, jego dorobek nie zostanie wyparty przez kolejne nowości, bowiem mamy do czynienia z perłą XXI wieku!
autor: Andrzej Majak
Copyright © 1996-2021 Multikulti Project. All rights reserved
JazzWise - Editor's Choice
Following 2020's excellent quartet album, Molecular, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis returns with a very different ensemble, the Red Lily quintet, though the link between the two is the outstanding drummer Chad Taylor. In come cornetist Kirk Knuffe, cellist Chris Hoffman and double bassist William Parker, making a band with talent in abundance.
More to the point, they achieve an enviable cohesion amid the quality of the individual contributions on a repertoire that pays tribute to George Washington Carver, the visionary African-American agricultural scientist whose pioneering work in the early 20th century has a significant bearing on modern day dilemmas over sustainability,
Lewis' songs move from the intensely vibrant to the deeply plaintive, and his solid, hefty tone makes for a formidable frontline with Knuffe's punchy brass while Parker and Taylor provide a rhythmic base that has a very danceable, African pulse as well as a provocatively loose, freewheeling sense of time that enables the band to go ‘out’ while nonetheless keeping locked into a strong collective forward motion. If there is one salient reference it is perhaps Old And New Dreams, a legendary band that featured another one of Lewis' tutors, Charlie Haden.
Then again Lewis' graceful narration at the end of the programme – one of his most beautiful statements being “A seed never ran a race of its choosing, it still blossoms” – also places him in a long lineage of artists who have made very effective use of spoken word. This album provides further confirmation of Lewis' growing artistic stature, as he clearly has important things to say socially, culturally and politically, as well as a creative drive that keeps resulting in one notable recording after another.
by Kevin Le Gendre
The New Yorker
The tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis proves that, with applied passion and purpose of expression, free jazz is still capable of sending a few bracing chills down your spine. Given the tradition that Lewis and other younger players now draw upon, it’s not surprising that “Jesup Wagon” can call to mind such sixties masterworks of open improvisation as Don Cherry’s “Complete Communion.” But Lewis has his own fervid tale to tell, as does his ardent foil, the cornettist Kirk Knuffke. (The drummer Chad Taylor, the cellist Christopher Hoffman, and the ubiquitous bassist William Parker bulk up the spirited Red Lily Quintet.) Although a few pieces momentarily calm the torrent, the majority attempt to upturn the ground, confirming that the free-jazz idiom still has plenty of juice.
by Steve Futterman
All About Jazz
Most listeners have long since moved saxophonist James Brandon Lewis from the rising star category to one labeled virtuoso. But then, pianist Matthew Shipp signaled this status when he mentored Lewis early on and certainly bassist William Parker ordained his arrival by recording with the saxophonist on his major label debut, Divine Travels (Okeh, 2014). Parker returns for this latest release, as does drummer Chad Taylor who can be heard on the quartet recording Molecular (Intakt Records, 2020) and two duo releases Live in Willisau (Intakt Records, 2020) and Radiant Imprints (Off, 2018). Lewis' Red Lily Quintet is rounded out by cornet star Kirk Knuffke (Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom and Matt Wilson Quartet) and cellist Chris Hoffman (Henry Threadgill).
Jesup Wagon is inspired and dedicated to the African-American inventor, scientist, and author George Washington Carver, a true renaissance man on par with Leonardo da Vinci. Lewis opens the disc with a tenor exploration that calls to mind Pharoah Sanders' explorations before the quintet sets upon a folkish groove with Knuffke's cornet dancing along the the saxophonist. This composition, like the remaining were all composed by Lewis and they all have a connection to an agrarian landscape and people. Yes this is jazz, but it also comes from beyond a metropolis. Take for instance "Chemurgy" (the use of agricultural raw material in industry) which conjures the music of Ornette Coleman with Don Cherry. Here the earthiness is supplied by Parker's gimbri. The track ends with Lewis' spoken poetry, which we also hear on "Fallen Flowers." The latter song pairs Lewis and Knuffke before flowering into a meditative groove from Taylor plus bass and cello. While Lewis' tenor saxophone is built upon broad shoulders, he yields often to his quintet. Taylor's mbira flavors "Seer" which keeps the mood bright and accentuates the interlaced melody. Jesup Wagon should be in the running for album of the year honors.
by MARK CORROTO
freejazzblog.org * * * * 1/2
One of my few memories from South Elementary School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was watching a film about Dr. George Washington Carver. Carver was the genuine Renaissance man. Born the legal property of another man, he was four years old (or so) when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. He studied music and art, and then agricultural engineering. He is most famous for advancing the use of peanuts as a crop to restore exhausted soil. Here is a man.
He was a frequent subject of heroic paintings. It is doubtful, however, that anyone can ever produce a more beautiful tribute than James Brandon Lewis has in Jesup Wagon, his recording for the new label TAO forms. The latter is out of the gate with such artists as The Ivo Perelman Trio and Matthew Shipp.
Lewis composed the music and plays tenor saxophone. Most of the compositions are centered on dialogues between his sax and Kirk Knuffke on cornet. William Parker, in my opinion one of America’s greatest living jazz composers, plays bass on two tracks. Chris Hoffman is on cello. Chad Taylor plays drums and Mbira on one track, a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe that looks like a set of table knives packed for travel and sounds like a miniature metal drum.
The jazz is simply exquisite. Each theme is richly romantic and follows traditional form: the theme stated and used as portal to new realms of design space. Lewis’s horn reminds me of David Murray in albums such as Ming and The Hill. If you like Murray, you’ll like this.
Listening to “Fallen Flowers,” a call and response theme, did that avant garde thing to me, that feeling I had found it. There is a moment when a phrase that you expect will be played by a horn is instead articulated by the cello. That is a mark of genius in leader and composer.
If the former composition demonstrates Lewis’s surgical skills in the tissue of the human heart, the next one, “Experiment Station,” presents the raw power of his horn. Here is the hard boil of edgy jazz. The next cut, “Seer,” feels more in the mood of a church service. The mbira is a constant reminder of where we all come from. The last cut, “Chemurgy,” a term for the industrial use of raw materials, is a metaphor for jazz itself with an explicit Ornette Coleman vibe.
Did I mention that I liked this album? Don’t miss it.
By Kenneth Blanchard
TAO Forms is rather stoked to present this astonishing new work from the fertile creative mind of tenor saxophonist–composer James Brandon Lewis. Performed by the Red Lily Quintet, an exceptional & singular inter-generational ensemble, this album speaks to the forever-evolving continuum of the jazz tradition.
Voted Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist in the 2020 DownBeat Magazine International Critic’s Poll, James Brandon Lewis supercharges his remarkable evolution with Jesup Wagon, a brilliant and evocative appreciation of the life and legacy of turn-of-the-19th century African-American musician-painter-writer-scientist George Washington Carver. [Sustainable agriculture was a key component of Carver's prescient thoughts into action; his Jesup Wagon was a key part of that]. This album consists of seven pieces that create a portrait of stunning clarity and depth.
There is so much special about this recording, James’ 9th, starting with [on the way in] the lavish artwork, including a reproduction on the cover of Carver’s own tantalizing drawing of the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, which is shown in a photograph on the back cover, rendering a dialogue of representation and abstraction that Lewis models in the music. And while liner notes are generally more relied upon than celebrated, Jesup Wagon’s are delivered by the great UCLA American historian Robin D.G. Kelley, who in 2009 released the definitive Thelonious Monk biography 'Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original'. His notes, printed lovingly on an ochre background, contain much historical detail about Carver, particularly as they relate to the tunes. The fact that Kelley was willing to write them tells you something about the power of the music on the album, which Kelley calls “a revelation.”
If “revelation” is a word commonly used to describe master saxophonists like John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Dewey Redman, then it fits easily in the horn of James Brandon Lewis, who is a keen student of those and many other elders. But while boundless energy characterizes his playing, it is also grounded by a deep sense of narrative, which is why he is attracted to histories, like Carver’s, or to theories like his own Molecular Systematic Music, used on his superb previous 2020 Intakt album, 'Molecular', or to artistic genres such as surrealism, modeled by Lewis on the stunning 'An UnRuly Manifesto' from 2019.
Helping James get it all out on Jesup Wagon is the Red Lily Quintet, anchored by the tectonic rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Chad Taylor, and rounded out by cornetist Kirk Knuffke and cellist Chris Hoffman. Parker, who James says “has looked out for me ever since I arrived in New York City,” is a genius of the stand-up bass who performed with grand-master Cecil Taylor for 11 years straight. He is also a renaissance man in his own right. Chad Taylor, “one of the most melodic drummers I’ve ever played with,” James says, is a Chicagoan who has gifted to New York some of the energy and drama the windy city is known for. Kirk Knuffke is one of New York’s rare cornet players, using that instrument’s impish tone to explosive effect on dozens of records by New York jazz heavies. Chris Hoffman made his bones playing Henry Threadgill’s demanding music in a few of the great alto saxophonist’s bands, and has worked with artists as diverse as Yoko Ono, Marc Ribot and Marianne Faithful.
James grew up in Buffalo, which he calls a “groove town” of “hard workers” like Grover Washington Jr., Charles Gayle, Rick James, and Ani DiFranco, among them. Starting out on clarinet when he was 9, James moved to alto sax at 12 then tenor at 15. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he studied jazz fundamentals, then enrolled at Cal Arts in Southern California, working with greats like Wadada Leo Smith, Charlie Haden, and Joe LaBarbara. Notching his MFA there, he did a residency at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music where he worked with trumpeter Dave Douglas, pianist Angelica Sanchez and saxophonist Tony Malaby, among others. It was in Banff where he dove into the world of free jazz, continuing in that vein at an Atlantic Center for the Arts residency led by iconic New York City pianist Matthew Shipp.
Shipp and a few others lured him to New York City in 2012, where he quickly fell in with the cutting-edge artists, including drummer Gerald Cleaver and William Parker, that populate the jazz scene there. His second album, 'Divine Travels', released in 2014, featured the latter two musicians. Two albums he made in duets with Chad Taylor – 'Radiant Imprints' (2018) and 'Live in Willisau' (2020) – demonstrated that James had no hesitation dancing on the same wild turf that John Coltrane entered with his latter-day records featuring Rashied Ali on drums, although James says the inspiration was more Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell’s duet, 'Red and Black in Willisau', recorded live in 1980. “Chad and I bonded over that one,” James says. Either way, it’s heady company.
Lewis also has an affinity for the spoken word, demonstrated on Jesup Wagon by a few timely placed short recitations. “Music is enough. But the older I get it’s important for me to have the listener hear my speaking voice,” he says. “Makes it more organic. I like to tell a story with an album.”
Poetry is just one of Lewis’ many obsessions, which also include painting, hip-hop and philosophy. “All of the people I admire have that kind of depth,” Lewis says. “William Parker, Oliver Lake, Yusef Lateef, all these amazing artists. George Washington Carver was a musician, a painter, a prolific writer, in addition to what most people know about him. Having a broad range just makes the cast iron skillet more seasoned.”
And now, in this fraught era, James soon delivers Jesup Wagon, essentially a collection of tone poems – or, as Duke Ellington might have called them, “tone parallels” – Duke being the instigator of this type of programmatic jazz. Poetry in music is what we get in this new masterpiece from James Brandon Lewis, who may well be crowned a master himself in the not-too-far future.
Red Lily Quintet:
James Brandon Lewis: tenor saxophone, composition
Kirk Knuffke: cornet
William Parker: bass, gimbri (on tracks 2 & 7)
Chris Hoffman: cello
Chad Taylor: drums, mbira (on track 6)
1. Jesup Wagon 06:22
2. Lowlands of Sorrow 07:02
3. Arachis 08:29
4. Fallen Flowers 06:48
5. Experiment Station 08:37
6. Seer 04:01
7. Chemurgy 09:52
wydano: May 7, 2021
more info: www.aumfidelity.com
- TAO Forms (USA)
- James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet
- tenor saxophone