James Brandon Lewis announces new album ‘Eye Of I’

James Brandon Lewis announces new album ‘Eye Of I’



“When I listen to you, I listen to Buddha, I listen to Confucius, I listen to the deeper meaning of life. You are keeping the world in balance”
Sonny Rollins

“A saxophonist who embodies and transcends tradition”
The New York Times

Listen to ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ here:

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Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has today announced Eye Of I, his ANTI- Records debut album. Eye Of I swaps out the extra-musical research and cerebral high concepts of his critically acclaimed Jesup Wagon (Downbeat and Jazz Times ‘Album of the Year‘) and the aesthetic manifestos of An Unruly Manifesto for a lean power trio of tenor sax, electronic cello (Chris Hoffman) and drums (Max Jaffe) that follows a simple ethos: Chasing energy. Above all else.

With today’s announce Lewis has shared an interpretation of Donny Hathaway’s ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’, featuring Kirk Knuffke on the cornet. You can also watch Lewis and his trio energetically perform the track at a recent Jazz Is Dead concert here.

On covering the song and his relationship to Hathaway’s music, Lewis says:

“I have always loved Donny Hathaway, not only his voice but his piano playing, in-depth lyrical content, use of metaphor and empowerment. We both also went to Howard University. I truly learned how deep he was as a musician and about his background in classical, jazz and gospel while I was in school there. I also finally reached a point where I felt I could cover him in an honest way while still being myself. He is truly a genius.”

Eye Of I is a record alive with the messy contrasts of life in the United States circa 2022 – dissonant one minute and graceful/prayerful the next; animated by anger and contention as well as the possibility of resolution; holding equal space for expressions of steadfast faith and wild spontaneous skronk.

“What I’m interested in is the dance,” Lewis says, crediting the long-term mentorship of pianist Matthew Shipp for expanding his awareness of unspoken aspects of musical conversation. “That’s a fundamental dynamic – I take some, you give some, we interact, now we have something, now we can go someplace.” He adds that the Eye Of I “power trio” – Chris Hoffman on cello and Max Jaffe on drums – is particularly adept at this give and take: “The first time we played, things just lifted up right away. Everything that group does just feels fresh.”

Lewis’ melodic identity encompasses ancient and future, inside and outside, density and openness, church and street. He’s a master of the short infectious motif, and like Sonny Rollins, devotes long expanses of his improvisation to the stretching and refracting and mutating of short phrases. The son of a minister, Lewis grew up playing in church and hearing the titans of jazz at home, and then as he got older, encountering Buffalo artists like the free-jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle and the groove-minded saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. After moving to New York, Lewis pursued music in many different lanes, playing regularly with bassists William Parker and Jamaaladeen Tacuma from Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band, as well as trombone player Craig HarrisJaimie Branch and many others.”

James Brandon Lewis’ solos are like a jumbo jet”, enthuses previous collaborator and a staunch champion of Lewis’ music Marc Ribot, who was responsible for bringing Lewis to ANTI-. “You need to give them plenty of runway space to take off and land. Because they’re huge, not just in terms of sound, chops, soul, ideas, energy, and originality, (although they have all these in abundance), but because they’re carrying a precious cargo: the living legacy of John Coltrane. I’m not talking about some skillful ‘young lion’s’ reproduction of a historic jazz sound, but a young artist’s courage to take up the spiritual challenge—to channel what needs to be channeled now.”

Lewis begins a string of live dates in Europe next week, full listings and tickets are here

Listen to previously shared single ‘Fear Not (feat. The Messthetics)’ here:

Read Lewis’ beautiful recent tribute to Pharoah Sanders here:

Pre-order Eye Of I, which includes liner notes by Thurston Moore, here:

Photo credit: Ben Pier

High-res images can be found here

Eye Of I tracklist:

1. Foreground
2. Someday We’ll All Be Free
3. The Blues Still Blossoms
4. Middle Ground
5. Eye Of I
6. Within You Are Answers
7. Womb Water
8. Background
9. Send Seraphic Beings
10. Even The Sparrow
11. Fear Not (feat. The Messthetics)