James Brandon Lewis Trio
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James Brandon Lewis Trio

New York City, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

New York City, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"James Brandon Lewis -Moments"

Self-Released
8.6

How can one define fusion? This process, residing somewhere between a spiraling ball of chaos and a synergistic love affair shared between spirit and rhythm, has led to some of the greatest compositions, collaborations and debates in the field. Think Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and George Benson to name a few. It is difficult to define the nuances of this elusive concept. A hot button topic among jazz aficionados and musicians the world over, fusion has been pitted against “traditional” approaches to the craft among those who do not accept the folding in of other genres into the jazz canon.

Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, who refers to himself as a creative musician, successfully unhinges the stifling constrictions of genre on his debut album Moments and emerges with a sound that is both unique and expansive. Lewis, a native of Buffalo, NY, assembles Neil Kogan (guitar), Ben Shepherd (bass), Robert Holliday (piano), John Shebalin (drums and percussion) and Susan Allen (harp) on an album that bucks the traditionalists by bringing the richness of funk, gospel, r&b, and soul music into a project rooted in hard bop.

The album opens with “Reflection.” Shepherd creeps in on bass, almost as if cracking open Pandora’s Box. Then, listeners are greeted by a crescendo of cacophonous sounds from the rest of the group. The song progresses almost as a request to the ancestors to commence.

In the ensemble’s rendition of “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me,” Lewis and Shepherd conceive a prolific new take on a gospel classic.

The project’s tone shifts in the next composition. Listeners experience the love and affection a parent feels for a child in “Leilani.” The piece resembles a lullaby- tender and soothing. The title comes from a Hawaiian word which means royal child of heaven and features stand out performances from Lewis and Kogan. The two, working in concert, create a composition that seems to effortlessly dance with rhythm and light.

Listeners move from the church pew to the streets and country side of South Africa on the track “I Remember South Africa.” Laced with African rhythms from Shebalin on congas and another meditative solo from Lewis, the listeners gain entry into a narrative that reveals the saxophonist’s personal thoughts on complexity and beauty of this country.

The final song on the album is “Pressing On.” An energetic, fast-paced piece that draws on elements of funk and rock, the piece would be a perfect addition of a car chase in an action movie with its thumping rhythms and pulsating beat.

Quite possibly, fusion is the intentional or improvisational practice of blending elements-rendering them virtually indiscernible. Fusion could be described as the assimilation or amalgamation of disparate pieces into a whole new thing or idea. A journey to understanding the nuances of fusion may take you to the fields of nuclear physics, anthropology, politics or even dance choreography. One could, however, take a short cut and pick up Moments an experience reach and depth of what a fusion project has to offer contemporary jazz lovers. - http://revivalist.okayplayer.com


"Take Five With James Brandon Lewis"

Meet James Brandon Lewis:
Saxophonist/composer James Brandon Lewis was exposed to jazz, gospel, and R&B and at an early age began his journey into the realm of music. He attended Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts located in Buffalo NY. Upon graduating, James would continue his musical pursuit At Howard University, where he was blessed to have played with some of the finest musicians in the world, including Benny Golson, Geri Allen, Wallace Roney, Bill Pierce, and many others.

James has toured Japan with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble Performing Concerts to raise money for the tsunami victims. .James also played at the Kennedy Center Honors with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble, backing John Legend, k.d. lang, and Vanessa Williams . James Holds a B.M. from Howard University, a Master of Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts. James is an alumnus of the Banff Jazz Residency in Canada where he studied with Joshua Redman, Dave Douglas, Tony Malaby, Don Byron, and Hank Roberts. He has also been a featured artist on The Word Network, which boast about 30 million viewers.

James was selected by pianist Matthew Shipp to participate in the Atlantic Center for the Arts 141st residency. James released his debut CD, Moments, in 2010 and is currently working on his second Album Divine Travels, featuring William Parker, Gerald Cleaver and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis.

Instrument(s):
Tenor saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences?
Wadada Leo Smith, John Lindberg, Matthew Shipp, Charlie Haden, Alphonso Johnson, Charlie Young, Fred Irby, Carol McLaughlin, Famoudou Don Moye, Paul Novros, David Roitstein and so many others

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I realized that music touched my emotional center as a kid, and then the discovery of the many greats of the past.

Your sound and approach to music:
"Music is the healing force" (Albert Ayler). I believe that to be true . My sound and approach are based in emotion and spirituality, having grown up in church, and not just being influenced by the music but observing the affects the music had on the people .

I am always pushing to play my experience, and speak that which I know of myself .

Your teaching approach:
Learn the fundamentals and the rest is up to you to discover, and enjoy.

Your dream band:
William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, and of course bands with my close friends.

Favorite venue:
Any venue that allows me to express who I am.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
The first jazz album I bought was: 1949 Concert & All Stars 1950 1951, by Charlie Parker.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
My sound and translating my emotion to music. There are other things in the works that I am developing.

CDs you are listening to now:
Ornette Coleman, The Complete Science Fiction Sessions(Legacy).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
That word is very interesting, "jazz," but things are progressing.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Allowing people to play their experience.

What is in the near future?
Recording more and touring with trios with William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, Joanna Malfatti and Eric Klerks. Also a woodwind trio I am in with Maryclare Brzytwa and Kevin Robinson.

By Day:
I am constantly in search of beauty and the meaning behind the notes, and am driven to play my own experience.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
scientist/inventor.


- All About Jazz


"A Thousand Words, and as Many Notes"

Writing about music takes a special kind of skill. You have to translate sound as recalled by memory into language and then hope that somehow the person reading your words will be able to hear what you’re tirelessly trying to describe. Honestly, I have no idea how Rolling Stone does it and it is for that reason that I tip my hat, step away from the keypad and make a move towards my handy dandy trusty camera.

On March 3, 2010, James Brandon Lewis had his Master of Fine Arts Graduate Recital in the Roy O. Disney Hall located inside CalArts. The two hour long performance drew in quite a crowd and with good reason: James’ s music and lively manner could be described as nothing less than amazing.

A few weeks before the performance, James came up to me and asked if I was interested in photographing the event for him. Being as awesome as I am, I said yes! Now, without further ado (unless you skipped this text and went straight to the photos, which in that case this entire sentence is now redundant), I invite you to look at the photographs I have taken for your (and James’s) viewing pleasure. - SEEN AND HEARD( writer jessica castillo)


"Featured Artist: James Brandon Lewis"

Featured Artist: James Brandon Lewis

Jazz CD cover CD Title: Moments

Year: 2010

Record Label: Self Published

Style: Progressive

Review: Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis presents a set of diverse jazz sounds on his debut recording Moments, recorded in Valencia, California where Lewis is a graduate student at the California Institute of the Arts. Featuring a first-rate young band, Lewis is able to showcase his huge, breathy tone on the tenor sax with lively compositions, ranging from hard-driving swing to full-out funk.

Lewis and company demonstrate open-ended group interplay on "Cinto," a bombastic, free-form meets urban groove piece. Here pianist Robert Holliday and drummer John Shebalin play with an edginess that spurs Lewis to deliver an inspired solo. In sharp contrast to "Cinto", the tune "Moments," featuring the electric keyboard work of Morgan Fitch, is a straight-up funker with commercial sensibilities.

One highlight of the disc comes with the addition of saxophonist Kevin Robinson, trumpeter Brandon Sherman and percussionists Aaron Chavez and Nate Coyne on "I Remember South Africa." The enhanced instrumentation adds a distinct dimension to Lewis' musical conception. Another shining moment of the recording is an improvised live duet between Lewis and harpist Susan Allen, recorded live at Roy O Disney Music Hall.

With a debut as strong as Moments, Lewis certainly has the potential to be a strong, innovative voice in jazz.


Artist's Website: http://www.jblewis.com

Reviewed by: John Vincent Barron
- www.jazzreview.com


"James Brandon Lewis Trio Dazzle On UK Debut At Ronnie Scott's"

After a stellar performance for a sold-out audience John McLaughlin had more than earned the right to an early night, but his presence at the side of the stage is a notable endorsement for the group that follows him. Put simply, the guitar legend is seriously feeling the James Brandon Lewis Trio. But the young Americans, making their UK debut, construct a formidably fierce wall of sound that is hard to ignore, even for superstar musicians enjoying the sanctuary of a dressing room.

Tenor saxophonist Lewis, bass guitarist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren 'Trae' Crudup make their intentions very clear by way of the title of their debut album in any case. No Filter unveils a raw, rugged, uncut and uncompromising aesthetic, and that is exactly what the players deliver. The sheer hardness of their attack has the front row initially leaning back, eyebrows raised and then heads nodding in hypnosis when the full force of the music really starts to kick in.

What JBL trio does so compellingly is show the roots of hip hop in funk and jazz, making the very important point that the kick drum-led 'boom bap', that heartbeat throb that has come to mould pop music in the millennium, is part of a wider rhythmic lexicon that includes a more fluid swing and the loose, floating 'free' metre associated with the avant-garde. The cohesion with which all these enduring historical elements are handled is enhanced by the 'live mixtape' format of the set whereby half a dozen pieces, which include 'Lament For JLew', 'Raise Up off Me', 'Zen' and 'Able Souls Dig Planets', form a suite that unfurls like a long exhalation of energy marked by careful hiccoughs.

Lewis, whose previous release Divine Travels saw him work with veterans William Parker and Gerald Cleaver, has a wrought iron tone and punchy phrasing that references as much the instrumental R&B tradition as it does jazz, and in many ways his ability to create riffs that have the feel of 'breaks' serves as a potent reminder of both the ingenuity of players like Eddie Harris in the 1970s and the visionary use of horn samples by Public Enemy in the 1980s. JBL's immersion in hip hop is reflected by a very personal way of sculpting timbres to create a distortion that sounds uncannily like a DJ's 'backward scratch'.

Bassist Stewart also pushes his sound into interestingly undefined spaces, using electronics to fashion sometimes very austere, spectral resonances that have an industrial rock flavour, but he also impresses for the sharpness of his movement between lower and upper register, and the expert timing with which he hits the unison lines with Lewis. As for Crudup, who drew such a broad smile from McLaughlin, he is a powerful anchor and agitator of rhythm, filling spaces with sufficient additional commentary on the beat without unhinging the ensemble voice. His snare and tom sounds are pleasingly dry, cementing the tough vocabulary of his partners. The closer 'Bittersweet' is a wry, downbeat lament, the calm after the storm, a soothing ballad for an audience that has greatly relished its time in the tremulous eye of the hurricane.

– Kevin Le Gendre - JAZZ WISE


"Premiere: The James Brandon Lewis Trio Rings All The Alarms With "Y'all Slept""

It’s not everyday one hears something as powerful as what we’ve been presented to hear. Thankfully, we are blessed with some new heat rock from the internationally renowned jazz saxophonist and composer, James Brandon Lewis. Following two critically acclaimed albums, the James Brandon Lewis Trio returns with another inventive song in the form of “Y’all Slept,” which features the lyrical prowess of P.SO the Earth Tone King. For those just getting familiar with the hard-hitting, jazz-inspired group, the trio consists of Luke Stewart (bass), Warren G. Crudup III (drums) and, of course, James Brandon Lewis (saxophone).


Combining elements of down home jazz, early ’90s hip-hop and imaginative riffs, “Y’all Slept” serves as an alarm clock notice to those who continue to snooze on this trio who has garnered great reviews from places like The New York Times. With P.SO the Earth Tone King playing clean-up to James Brandon Lewis’ home run hitting style, “Y’all Slept” is a fresh, dynamic and energetic cut to lead off the trio’s upcoming album, No Filter, which is set for release on October 28th via BNS Sessions.

“Every track undoubtedly and uncompromisingly brings hard hitting, smack-you-in-the-face beats and rhymes to life,” JBL shared in a press release. The six-track LP features guest performances by Nicholas Ryan Gant, Anthony Pirog and the aforementioned P.SO the Earth Tone King. Listen below as “Y’all Slept” continues to build on the trios journey of free-form experimental jazz, pre-order No Filter by clicking here and get your tickets as the James Brandon Lewis Trio heads your way in the next few months. - OKAY PLAYER


"The Playlist: Shakira Takes Charge and Protest Rap Is Still Alive"

James Brandon Lewis is a tenor saxophonist who made his first impression in the context of free jazz, with a sound recalling the burly, sanctified wail of Albert Ayler. But there’s a groove-minded side to Mr. Lewis, and he pushes it to the forefront on an arresting new album, “No Filter.” The album features a trio with Luke Stewart on electric bass and Warren Trae Crudup III on drums, as well as guests like the rapper and producer P.SO the Earth Tone King. The opening track, “Say What,” finds Mr. Lewis more or less breathing flames over a ragged funk drone, sounding righteous and furious even after the tempo downshifts, four minutes in. N.C. - The New York Times


"James Brandon Lewis crashing at times in Tilburg"

Rarely, an artist was enthusiastically applauded at the North Sea Jazz Festival as tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, last year. That is why it is great that the American with his trio for no less than four performances in the Netherlands. The first concert, Wednesday in Tilburg, was overwhelming at times.

During two sets of an hour, Lewis raced through Hurricane on hurricane strength. The band was playing hard and was even more strengthened. No escape from this Lewis who constantly spewed fire. Short, pointed punches that you expect from an altist rather than from a tenorist. More Ornette Coleman than John Coltrane, with a nice tribute to Colemans buddy Don Cherry.

What a force, what a tone and what a tempo

There were also pieces passed as Say What from his last year appeared, but for now only available as a download album No Filter. Pause between the pieces did not allow the trio themselves. They played constantly on the edge of the cut. Long improvisations, always as a trio without solos.

Drummer Warren Crudup kept the pace constantly high, while the electric bass of Luke Stewart harassed the situation even more intimidatingly.

But the most impressive thing was the fiery play of Lewis himself. What a force, what a tone and what a tempo. He barely allowed himself time to breathe. A bit of a bite, a tap against his glasses, and thinking through. Occasionally a ballad or just a nice melody would have been welcome, but James Brandon Lewis did not. Two hours of fireworks, with especially pop and little decoration, that's what you get these days.

Earplugs - and surrender to one of the most exciting jazz trios that have been shown here lately. - Volkskrant


Discography

-Divine Travels - Featuring William Parker , Gerald Cleaver , and Thomas Sayers Ellis to be released soon 2012
-MOMENTS 2010

Photos

Bio


Saxophonist/composer James Brandon Lewis was exposed to jazz, gospel, and R&B and at an early age began his journey into the realm of music. He attended Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts located in Buffalo NY. Upon graduating James would continue his musical pursuit At Howard University where he was blessed to have played with some of the finest musicians in the world Benny Golson, Geri Allen, Wallace Roney, Bill Pierce, and many others.James has toured Japan with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble Performing Concerts to raise money for the tsunami victims.James played at the Kennedy Center Honors with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble backing John Legend, KD lang, and Vanessa Williams . James Holds a B.M. from Howard University, a Master of Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts. James is an alumnus of the Banff Jazz Residency in Canada where he studied with Joshua Redman, Dave Douglas, Tony Malaby, Don Byron, and Hank Roberts. He has also been a featured artist on The Word Network, which boast about 30 million viewers. James was selected by pianist Matthew Shipp to participate in the Atlantic Center for the Arts 141st residency .James Recorded debut CD Moments 2010 and is currently working on his second Album "Divine Travels " Featuring William Parker , Gerald Cleaver ,and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis

Works with a Few groups - Brzytwa , Robinson Lewis- Improv Woodwind trio

Also James Brandon Lewis trio with Erik Klerks and Joanna Malfatti and other formations .