Visionary composer and tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’s bravest, yet most palpable artistic feat, Days Of FreeMan, opens with a poignant and profound introductory monologue from a maternal sage. She says, “The best thing of living is living who you are. You can’t be somebody else; you gotta be what God gave you to be and who you are. You look in the mirror and see yourself and say ‘I’m James Brandon Lewis.”’Next, bass and drums congeal around the sapphire melodic motif of “Brother 1976,” recalling one of those jazzy jewel-like hooks from a 1990s Native Tongue hip-hop jam. The effect is like 1990s hip-hop’s fascination with jazz being spit back by a prodigious jazz innovator. Welcome to Days Of FreeMan.
James Brandon Lewis is one of the modern titans of the tenor. He’s received accolades from mainstream cultural tastemakers such as Ebony Magazine who hailed him as one of “7 Young Players to Watch,” and earned the respect of a diverse cross section of esteemed artists. James has shared stages with such icons as Benny Golson, Geri Allen, Wallace Roney, Grammy® Award-winning singer Dorinda Clark Cole, and the late “Queen of Gospel Music,” Albertina Walker. In bold contrast, James has also worked with such intrepid artists as Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, Charles Gayle, Ed Shuller, Kirk Knuffke, Jason Hwang , Marilyn Crispell, Ken Filiano, Cooper Moore, Darius Jones, Eri Yamamoto, Federico Ughi, Kenny Wessel, Marvin “Bugalu” Smith, and Sabir Mateen. In addition, he has collaborated with the dance company CircuitDebris under the direction of Mersiha Mesihovic. James attended Howard University and holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.
Currently, James resides in New York City where he actively gigs as a sideman and leads his own ensembles. In NYC, he is a co-founder of “Heroes Are Gang Leaders” with poet Thomas Sayers Ellis—a collective of poets and musicians—and he is a member of the collective “Dark Matter,” a conceptual musical collaboration exploring that which is invisible but is detected by it’s gravitational effects. Outside NYC, James is an active national and international touring artist with a highly respected profile. Some career highlights are playing such esteemed festivals as Winter Jazz Festival /Sony Okeh records Showcase with William Parker and Gerald Cleaver; The Eric Dolphy Festival with an ensemble featuring Grachan Moncur III, Richard Davis, Andrew Cyrille, Angelica Sanchez , Ted Daniel , and Alfred Patterson; and Princeton University as part of Fred Ho’s “Journey to the West,” an interdisciplinary dance and music project.