13 James Brandon LewisTransfiguration
James Brandon Lewis Quartet
Intakt CD 400 (intaktrec.ch)

Putting an individual stamp on a common jazz grouping, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and his quartet of pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Chad Taylor stretch the configuration’s parameters, but maintain steadying cadences that balance exploratory flights.

Backed by bass pops, supple percussion chops and keyboard dynamics, like John Coltrane before him, Lewis is free to open up improvisations that undulate and advance to reed cadenzas that roar, ripple and reverberate into split tones and harsh smears. Yet no matter how many textures he crams into his solos, as on the session defining Per 6, other players’ timbres are there not to harness invention, but to mix tradition with transfiguration. Ortiz outlines melodies as often as his modal time suspensions or rhythmic note sprinkles impressively challenge the saxophonist’s pivots to double-tongued altissimo on the balladic Trinity Of Creative Self or to preaching glossolalia on the intense Empirical Perception.

Never exceeding tasteful boundaries, Lewis’ saxophone control means that his onomatopoeic cries, bites and peeps are harmonized as well as transformative. He harmonizes with the others throughout, constantly returns to the theme by tunes’ conclusions and somewhat manages to quote Rhapsody in Blue during his solo on the title track.

Transfiguration is the band’s third outing, each of which is sturdier and tighter and more coordinated than the previous one. If this trend continues this may become the most significant jazz quartet of the beginning of the 21st century.

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Author: Ken Waxman
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