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Remarkably dense timbre, thick sound, voluntarily torrential flow: James Brandon Lewis, in his fourth quartet opus on the Swiss label Intakt, continues to assert himself as one of the main heirs of Sonny Rollins’ tenor approach and John Coltrane’s playing with a band that has kept the same personnel for several years.

The saxophonist, now in his forties, offers here a repertoire entirely from his pen, dominated by up-tempo and medium-tempo pieces in which his mastery of the tenor tessitura is bluffing, not forgetting more soothing themes in which his lyricism works wonders. “Elan vital”, the title of the last track in French, could well describe the album as a whole.

Cuban Aruan Ortiz‘s piano plays an important part in the group’s overall sound, and the fact that he operates also as a trio with the same rhythmic pairing of the excellent Brad Jones and Chad Taylor contributes to the coherence of the saxophonist’s accompaniment.

One of the quartet’s main characteristics is its impressive rhythmic foundation. A few years ago, Lewis recorded a duo with drummer Chad Taylor, which clearly places him in the tradition of Rollins’ duos with Philly Joe Jones or Coltrane’s with Rashied Ali.

Like most of his Cuban compatriots, Ortiz‘s piano playing is brilliant, both harmonically and rhythmically. His understanding with his leader is palpable, and his solo interventions are always interesting. As for the rhythmic pair, they are constantly stimulating and play a pugnacious, refined style that contributes amply to the success of this recording by one of the leading jazz groups on the other side of the Atlantic.

Line up:

James Brandon Lewis: tenor sax

Aruan Ortiz: piano

Brad Jones: double bass

Chad Taylor: drums

Transfiguration was released by Intakt Records on February 16, 2024

©Photo Header Palma Fiacco

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