James Brandon Lewis – For Mahalia, With Love (2023)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 01:11:35 minutes | 454 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Tao Forms
Gospel music has been a key influence on jazz throughout much of its storied history; on For Mahalia, With Love, the connection is explicit. Inspired by the life and work of gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, tenor saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis has created a fine tribute, and one that is personal: the singer’s impact on his grandmother in turn made an impression on her musical grandson.The album features the Red Lily Quintet: Lewis, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, cellist Chris Hoffman, bassist William Parker, and drummer Chad Taylor. Most of the tracks are newly arranged instrumental covers of traditional pieces that were part of Jackson’s repertoire. This top-notch band draws on the expressivity of the old songs, but ushers them into a new realm with its own spiritual and emotive power. There’s a great sense of focus and collective unity as the players dig into and expand on these classics.
A typical track finds the horn players riffing on the theme with feeling; an intimate connection to the material is clear. Knuffke and Lewis attentively shade each other—responding to shards of melody, extending each other’s lines, laying out long notes as support. Hoffman’s often spiky cello adds an intriguing texture to the mix, and Taylor’s drums and Parker’s bass provide an inventive and assured undertow, whether they’re leaning free or nailing a beat.
Taylor plays tambourine at points, adding an unassuming echo of the church services where these spirituals were often sung. Throughout, Lewis’s and Knuffke’s fervor brings a sense of exaltation out of the compositions. There are moments when the combination of free-jazz fire and a simple melody evokes Albert Ayler, even calling back to Ornette Coleman’s bands. But For Mahalia, With Love has its own sound: intimate, subtle, and quite moving.
1-1. James Brandon Lewis – Sparrow (04:00)
1-2. James Brandon Lewis – Swing Low (09:21)
1-3. James Brandon Lewis – Go Down Moses (09:52)
1-4. James Brandon Lewis – Wade In The Water (08:17)
1-5. James Brandon Lewis – Calvary (08:52)
1-6. James Brandon Lewis – Deep River (09:20)
1-7. James Brandon Lewis – Elijah Rock (09:02)
1-8. James Brandon Lewis – Were You There (08:35)
1-9. James Brandon Lewis – Precious Lord (04:12)
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