Monday, April 20, 2020

James Brandon Lewis / Chad Taylor - Live in Willisau (Intakt Records, 2020

Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and drummer / percussionist Chad Taylor certainly made the most of their closing slot at the 2019 Willisau Jazz Festival. Playing a mix of music from jazz masters and highly original music of their own they created combustible and exciting music that truly resonated. The opening track is "Twenty Four" which dives right into a rich and potent uptempo improvisation, with Lewis's raw toned saxophone well matched by Taylor's wide ranging drum work. The music has a strong and steely foundation allowing the two players to branch off into which ever directions they feel appropriate, while still being adequately supported. Taylor's drum solo is captivating and rhythmically compelling, taking the music in interesting new directions, which Lewis capitalizes upon as they link back up and drive to the finish line. "Radiance" begins slowly, building its momentum gradually, with Taylor creating a very interesting rhythmic base, and Lewis extrapolating upon it, building the music layer upon layer, gradually louder and faster, until they let loose into a devastating free jazz improvisation that is thrilling to hear. The dynamism of this performance is most impressive, moving from full throttle free to sections of thematic and rhythmic music which keeps the track fresh and moving consistently forward. "Imprints" cuts sharply through the air as the two musicians are locked in on a singular goal playing fast, complex music that is raw and captivating. Taylor's drumming slashes across his kit while Lewis digs in his feet and delivers deep scouring lines of sound, maintaining a deep level of interactivity. This track is where they seem to be channeling the John Coltrane / Elvin Jones dynamic and it works really well, the music is not derivative, but part reverential and part exploratory. "Willisee" has a choppy opening that the duo develops into a neat, slightly funky performance which incorporates some long bellows of saxophone and crisp drumming to create a powerhouse performance. This was an excellent album, capturing a hot live performance between two simpatico jazz musicians. Lewis and Taylor were at the top of their game on this night, and their brand of progressive jazz is wonderful to hear. Live in Willisau -

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