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The Messthetics: The Messthetics And James Brandon Lewis

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The Messthetics: The Messthetics And James Brandon Lewis
There are few examples of ranking jazz saxophonists collaborating with rock bands, and even fewer that are as successful as this one featuring tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and the instrumental trio The Messthetics. One notable precedent is the partnership of Ethiopian tenor saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya with Dutch punk band The Ex, which exploded into life in concert and on record periodically between 2006 and 2012. In the mid-1950s, Mekurya, who wore a lion's mane headdress when appearing in Addis Ababa dancehalls, forged a style which was akin to, but predated, that of Albert Ayler.

Mekurya claimed never to have heard any jazz until the 1960s; his music was based on traditional Ethiopian warriors' battle songs. Chancing across Mekurya and The Ex at a Dutch music festival in 2006, the great tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, now resident in Brooklyn but then living in London, said the experience was "like tripping." Some of Mekurya's early work, including the 1959 single "Shellela Besaxophone," is collected on the album Negus Of Ethiopian Sax, originally released in Ethiopia in 1972 and reissued in Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series in 2002.

James Brandon Lewis' double CD For Mahalia, With Love (Tao), made with his Red Lily Quartet, was one of the deepest jazz albums of 2023, with Lewis referencing his early childhood experiences listening to Mahalia Jackson records with his grandmother. He brings a similarly devotional intensity to his work with The Messthetics, albeit in a secular context. The Messthetics themselves—guitarist Anthony Pirog, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty—are at heart a hardcore rock outfit but one capable of subtlety and nuance. "That Thang," on the YouTube below, is indicative of much of the album, but the waltz-time "Boatly," which comes halfway through the disc, resembles for its first four-and-a-half minutes a gentle lullaby before it cranks up for the final three minutes. No composer credits are given on the liner, but "Boatly" sounds like something Lewis might have written.

The album demonstrates that there is less separating jazz and rock than is often supposed, but that the remaining divide between the two kinds of music is still river deep, mountain high. Vive la difference.

Track Listing

L'Orso; Emergence; That Thang; Three Sisters; Boatly; The Time Is The Place; Railroad Tracks Home; Asthenia; Fourth Wall.

Personnel

Anthony Pirog
guitar, electric
James Brandon Lewis
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: The Messthetics And James Brandon Lewis | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Impulse! Records


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