Saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis presents his new band the Red Lily Quintet, and releases a new song Chemurgy from their forthcoming album Jesup Wagon:
Voted Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist in the 2020 DownBeat Magazine International Critic’s Poll, James Brandon Lewis supercharges his remarkable evolution with Jesup Wagon, a brilliant and evocative appreciation of the life and legacy of turn-of-the-19th century African-American musician-painter-writer-scientist George Washington Carver. This album consists of seven pieces that create a portrait of stunning clarity and depth. Performed by the Red Lily Quintet, an exceptional & singular inter-generational ensemble feuturing tectonic rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Chad Taylor, and rounded out by cornetist Kirk Knuffke and cellist Chris Hoffman. The album will be released on 7th of May 2021 via TAO Forms.
Poetry is just one of Lewis’ many obsessions, which also include painting, hip-hop and philosophy. “All of the people I admire have that kind of depth,” Lewis says. “William Parker, Oliver Lake, Yusef Lateef, all these amazing artists. George Washington Carver was a musician, a painter, a prolific writer, in addition to what most people know about him. Having a broad range just makes the cast iron skillet more seasoned.”
Watch the video of James Brandon Lewis & Red Lily Quintet new single Chemurgy from their forthcoming album Jesup Wagon:
James grew up in Buffalo, which he calls a “groove town” of “hard workers” like Grover Washington Jr., Charles Gayle, Rick James, and Ani DiFranco, among them. He was working with greats like Wadada Leo Smith, Charlie Haden, Joe LaBarbara, Dave Douglas, or pianist Matthew Shipp. Shipp and a few others lured him to New York City in 2012, where he quickly fell in with the cutting-edge artists, including drummer Gerald Cleaver and William Parker, that populate the jazz scene there. His second album, Divine Travels, released in 2014, featured the latter two musicians. Two albums he made in duets with Chad Taylor – Radiant Imprints (2018) and Live in Willisau (2020) – demonstrated that James had no hesitation dancing on the same wild turf that John Coltrane entered with his latter-day records featuring Rashied Ali on drums, although James says the inspiration was more Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell’s duet, Red and Black in Willisau, recorded live in 1980. “Chad and I bonded over that one,” James says.
James says that William Parker “has looked out for me ever since I arrived in New York City,” is a genius of the stand-up bass who performed with grand-master Cecil Taylor for 11 years straight. He is also a renaissance man in his own right. Chad Taylor, “one of the most melodic drummers I’ve ever played with,” James says, is a Chicagoan who has gifted to New York some of the energy and drama the windy city is known for. Kirk Knuffke is one of New York’s rare cornet players, using that instrument’s impish tone to explosive effect on dozens of records by New York jazz heavies. Chris Hoffman made his bones playing Henry Threadgill’s demanding music in a few of the great alto saxophonist’s bands, and has worked with artists as diverse as Yoko Ono, Marc Ribot and Marianne Faithful.