James Brandon Lewis: Divine Travels (2014)
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An auspicious major label debut for a young saxophonist, Divine Travels eschews flamboyance for a deferential, mostly unpretentious bluesy free jazz recording. Lewis, a thirty-something tenor saxophone phenom chose to record here in trio without the safety net of a pianist or accompanying horn.
He chose wisely though, enlisting two superstars musicians, bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Parker, the current godfather of the avant-garde in jazz, leads his own bands and has been a key figure in the careers of Matthew Shipp, David S. Ware, and Cecil Taylor. Likewise, Cleaver's drum-work intersects with Parker and artists such as Ivo Perelman, Craig Taborn, and Joe Morris.
Lewis goes about this session undaunted by his collaborators. The disc opens with the meditative "Divine," the saxophonist's breathy delivery part-John Coltrane spirituality and part-Sonny Rollins inventiveness. Throughout, he possesses an assured calmness of an old soul inhabiting his sound. Each piece ripens, unhurried and unruffled. Lewis weaves "Wade In The Water" and "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless" into one prayer, "Wading Child in The Motherless Water." With Parker's bass as choir the saxophonist's incantation blossoms with Cleaver first accenting, then driving the piece with his sinewy drumming.
He traces a bit of blues through the bebop convention of Sonny Rollins with "Tradition," works through a three-way open-ended improvised piece "Enclosed," and runs wind sprints with Cleaver and Parker on "A Gathering Of Souls," a display of his nimble touch. Two tracks "The Preacher's Baptist Beat" and "Organized Minorities" feature poet Thomas Sayers Ellis reading with the trio. Lewis assimilates every part of his experience into this spiritually infused jazz session.
Track Listing: Divine; Desensitized; Tradition; The Preacher’s Baptist Beat; Wading Child in The Motherless
Water; A Gathering Of Souls; Enclosed; No Wooden Nickels; Organized Minorities; Travels.
Personnel: James Brandon Lewis: tenor saxophone; William Parker: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Thomas
Sayers Ellis: spoken word (4, 9).
Record Label: Okeh
Style: Beyond Jazz