By Ammar Kalia
This year, James Brandon Lewis will turn 40 and his restless sense of creativity shows no signs of slowing. He just released Eye of I, his 10th album since 2010’s debut, Moments, and has a forthcoming project celebrating the work of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, For Mahalia, With Love.
By Cree McCree
Meeting to discuss Pieces of Treasure, Jones and writer Cree McCree continued a conversation that’s been going on for several years — ever since Jones became a fellow New Orleanian. On the last deep dive, Jones had just released her compulsively readable memoir Last Chance Texaco (Grove Press UK, 2021). But Pieces of Treasure is about a series of characters she created to get inside the skin of every song on the album.
By Ted Panken
Walter Smith III finds compositional inspiration in unexpected — and amusing — places. As an example, consider the opening track of the 42-year-old tenor saxophonist’s Blue Note debut, Return to Casual, a whirling line called “Contra,” after the 1980s Nintendo video game he played as a child in Houston, Texas.
By Josef Woodard
It may come as a surprise to find that the artist known as Taj Mahal — born Henry Fredericks Jr. —has officially jumped into the realm of jazz for his new album Savoy. Classic tunes from the jazz standard book are treated with Mahal’s gravelly-yet-sweet vocals, delivered with a supple sense of swing and marinated with choice scatting interludes.
At 68, Joey Baron has been a lifelong connoisseur of the nuances of groove and melody-oriented drumming. Over his half-century in the trenches, he’s covered a 360-degree spectrum of stylistic expression — a resume that includes, as a very short list, Carmen McRae, Hampton Hawes, the Vanguard Orchestra (when Mel Lewis was incapacitated), Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, John Zorn, Ron Carter and Dave Douglas. Based in Berlin in recent years, Baron often plays with MixMonk, a collective trio with pianist Bram de Looze and saxophonist Robin Verheyen, which performed in March at the Bergamo Jazz Festival, where he sat for his second DownBeat Blindfold Test.