Saturday, October 24, 2020

James Brandon Lewis Quartet - Molecular (Intakt Records, 2020)

Saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis is one of the most exciting young players on today's modern jazz scene. For this album, he puts together an excellent band with Aruán Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums and mbira. Inspired by science and biology, he produces a fresh and vibrant album. "A Lotus Speaks" opens the album with heavy bass and drums, followed by confident saxophone and piano accompaniment. Lewis's saxophone takes charge, rising in tone and playing powerfully with the rhythm group in support, and he branches out nicely as the drumming drives him forward until things slow down for the conclusion. A fast complex theme is developed on "Helix" with all hands playing briskly. Smeared saxophone sounds take the music in a more experimental direction, along side tough love drumming that really ups the ante. The tenor and drums interaction is fantastic, dropping down to a nervous sounding rhythm section feature, getting faster and more viscous, unleashing fine sounding bass and drum solos then a quick full band out. The title track "Molecular" starts slow and reflective, with a beautiful theme, loose and open piano, bass and drums are quite mellow, with a gorgeous piano feature. Lewis enters with a strident saxophone tone, gradually building the volume and speed of the piece with a steady hand. There is a dynamic slowdown and then up-tic keeps the music flowing with renewed energy. "Cesaire" draws on an interesting rhythm from the cymbals as saxophone blows across it, gliding over subdued piano and bass. Everybody joins in for the short performance, forming a fine theme and quick improvisation for Lewis over complex rhythm foundation. Rippling piano quietly opens "Neosho," adding bowed bass and percussion. As the temperature rises, Lewis playing with a longing tone that evolves as the elegant backdrop changes, like a drum solo wrapped in piano. Lewis returns with long dark tones of saxophone that reach out and grow in potency, with peaks of raw overblowing. The full band takes a choppy approach on "Per 2" growing tight, this one that really hits hard and then releases, the short running time working in their favor. Bright piano comping and solid saxophone playing make this a winner."An Anguish Departed" shows piano and drums developing a firm foundation, playing robustly, with the leader's tenor saxophone entering rather late, but building focus and developing a strong solo statement that is fresh and timely. Finally, "Loverly" has a mood that is quiet and spare, allowing the band a chance to take stock. A bass feature grounding the performance and adding a reflective air that Lewis confirms with his saxophone solo. Molecular -

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