James Brandon Lewis - Eye Of I


“An artist with so much fire in his sound.” – WBGO

“…devilishly swinging bop and a cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free” that grafts the R&B original to post-rock’s bombast and fuzz.” – Paste

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

A tenor saxophonist that has a “balanced a deep, gospel-informed spirituality with free-jazz abandon and hard-hitting funk-meets–hip-hop underpinnings” (via Rolling Stone), James Brandon Lewis is releasing his ANTI- Records debut ‘Eye of I’ this Friday. This music swaps out the extra-musical research and cerebral high concepts of his critically acclaimed ‘Jesup Wagon’ and the aesthetic manifestos of ‘An Unruly Manifesto’ for a lean power trio of tenor sax, cello and drums that reaches for singable melodies and a simple punk-band-in-the-basement credo: Chasing energy. Above all else. Ahead of Friday’s release he has shared a new short documentary today, also called ‘Eye of I’, that is about his creative process and the making of this album. Watch it below.

“It’s important to know the fabric of an artist, you know?” Lewis says early in the doc. “What they go through day to day. How vulnerable you have to be to play this music.”

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 skronkage. 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.

James Brandon Lewis’ solos are like a jumbo jet,” enthuses Marc Ribot. “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.”

Next month Lewis will co-headline a month-long run of tour dates with the postpunk group The Messthetics, an instrumental trio featuring guitarist Anthony Pirog, who is joined by former Fugazi members Joe Lally (bass) and Brendan Canty (drums). See the tour dates HERE and contact us with any requests!