22nd November 2023
The acclaimed American saxophonist discusses spirituality, his gospel roots and appreciation for Mahalia Jackson plus what keeps him motivated as he skilfully teeters along the knife-edge of modern jazz.
James Brandon Lewis: tenor saxophone, arrangements
Kirk Knuffke: cornet
William Parker: bass
Chad Taylor: drums
Chris Hoffman: cello
'For Mahalia, With Love' is the highly anticipated new album by award-winning tenor saxophonist-composer James Brandon Lewis & his Red Lily Quintet, following on their groundbreaking and poll-sweeping 'Jesup Wagon'. This powerful work reimagines songs made famous by the gospel icon who galvanized a nation with her voice.
Whereas Lewis used his transformative talents to newly illuminate renaissance man George Washington Carver on Jesup Wagon, the saxophonist does the same here for gospel-music force of nature Mahalia Jackson. And this time it’s personal, because Lewis lived her music growing up, nurtured by a grandmother who had received Mahalia’s singing like a bolt from above. Much more than a tribute, this work is “really a three-way conversation between Mahalia, my grandmother and me.”
The challenge was to turn these songs into jazz, the 21st century variety. What James and the band [ William Parker-bass, Chad Taylor-drums, Kirk Knuffke-cornet, Chris Hoffman-cello ] conjure with this music is miraculous.