James Brandon Lewis Trio Debuts Their Funky Jazz Odyssey, “Say What”

James Brandon Lewis Trio by Kay Hickman
James Brandon Lewis Trio by Kay Hickman

It’s nothing short of a damn shame that all too often, people dismiss jazz. Like poetry class in middle school, broad claims abound: “I just don’t get it,” or, “it’s not for me.” In the past it’s been easy to say, well, all the more for the rest of us fans, but the truth is, that mentality seems to be changing. From Kendrick Lamar’s critically lauded To Pimp A Butterfly, to Kamasi Washington and BadBadNotGood making the festival rounds, jazz and its instrumentation is creeping into the mainstream. Enter James Brandon Lewis, an internationally renowned jazz saxophonist and composer who, with his newest trio, seems primed to win over both worlds– the world of hardcore jazz lovers and that of newer listeners, recent converts to the power of sax.

The James Brandon Lewis Trio is rounded out by bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren G Crudup III, and their debut LP, No Filter— set for release on October 28th via BNS Sessions—also features guest performances by Nicholas Ryan Gant, Anthony Pirog and P.SO the Earth Tone King.

Today, Elmore is premiering “Say What,” a track from the trio’s upcoming experimental jazz release. Lewis says of the piece, ““Say What” is a nod to being curious and always asking “why?”– to never settle on one answer or box. It’s hard-hitting, in your face rock, hip-hop and free jazz all in one.” Clocking in at over eight and a half minutes, it’s as much an odyssey as a song, starting off with a wild burst of energy, leaping into a sonic confusion of powerful sax and the pulse of drums, overlaid with an audio sample.  “Would you ask a painter to paint with one color?” The speaker questions. “Say what!? You lyin’! You would never ask that… the painter is not only confined to canvas.” Lewis’ rich, soulful cry on the sax sets out to prove that claim, leading the trio as they dip and soar with frenetic energy, the players’ improvisations striking against each other in discord, emerging to coalesce in moments of intense, melodic beauty.

Pre-order No Filter here, and keep up to date with Lewis and the trio via his website and Facebook. Catch the guys at their release show at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall on Sunday, October 30th before they head off to Europe.


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