The Squid's Ear Magazine

Lewis, James Brandon Quartet (w/ Taylor / Ortiz / Jones): Molecular (Intakt)

Inspired by molecular biology, saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis developed a unique system of composing, creating a surprising and beautiful music for the debut of his new quartet with drummer Chad Taylor, pianist Aruán Ortiz, and bassist Brad Jones, bringing lyricism and joyful playing to his sophisticated approach to the jazz tradition.

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product information:

UPC: 7640120193508

Label: Intakt
Catalog ID: ITK350.2
Squidco Product Code: 29720

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Jewel Case
Recorded at Oktaven Audio, in Mount Vernon, New York, on January 13th, 2020, by Ryan Streber.


James Brandon Lewis-tenor saxophone

Aruan Ortiz-piano

Brad Jones-bass

Chad Taylor-drums, Mbira

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis possesses an inspiring energy. His deep curiosity and the thrill he gets from discovery are crucial facets of his personality, and qualities that guide his art. Over the last half-decade he's emerged as one of the most exciting figures in jazz and improvised music, a voracious listener who rejects stylistic hierarchies and one that has feverishly explored new ideas and embraced fresh motivations with every new project.

Inspired by molecular biology James Brandon develops a special system for a surprising and beautiful music with his Quartet with drummer Chad Taylor, pianist Aruán Ortiz, and bassist Brad Jones. He has taken the idea of a "Molecular Systematic Music" to heart in the formulation of the compositions featured on the stunning debut album by this quartet.

James Brandon Lewis says: "I wrote out everything, but the reason I feel like the music is still free is because the lines dictate the harmonic information. With this band the music is going to lift off the page." Listen to the recordings: The James Brandon Lewis Quartet takes off with an exuberant joy of playing and that rhythmic intensity and thematic beauty that is rooted in the jazz tradition."-Intakt

"James Brandon Lewis is a scholar. Of course, as a saxophonist, composer and bandleader, he's a student of music, but he also takes an active interest in agricultural biology (George Washington Carver), molecular biology (James D. Watson), science fiction (Isaac Asimov) and visual arts (Wassily Kandinsky). All of these fields of interest and more inform his music, influenced from that world by such high authorities as Leonard Bernstein and his former mentor Charlie Haden.

Lewis distills his avid interests in these fields into a vision for each of his projects: Divine Travels is an ode to spiritualism where he introduced his "enclosed" rhythmic system, while An Unruly Manifesto was dedicated in part to surrealism. For his latest product, Molecular uses the double helix DNA component structure as a compass to guide for Lewis' own harmonic map, and to help him fulfill this new blueprint, Lewis put together a whole new band.

Pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Chad Taylor are all respected leaders in their own right and have a ton of experience as sidemen for jazz visionaries. They can handle whatever Lewis throws at them and make it better staying within their own unique characteristics.

But back to this idea of applying the structural components of DNA to composition. What this all comes down to layman's terms is that Lewis can create a structure where freedom can thrive. Just take a listen to "A Lotus Speaks," an interesting, circular theme that Lewis takes outside and the whole band comes along, but easily returning to resolve the whole thing with a variation on that theme. "Of First Importance" is not just some pretty ballad, there's forward motion that brings it from one point to another, and the enjoyment you get from it lies in that journey.

Another aspect that sets Molecular apart from just a 'solid' jazz record is a special group dynamic amongst guys who love to take chances and willing to take roads lass traveled. Lewis makes the 6/8 flow of "Molecular" integral to the melody, and Jones' harmonic complement on bass gives it a nice groove, fertile ground for Ortiz and Lewis to solo over. "An Anguish Departed" smolders over a rhumba rhythm where Lewis doesn't even enter until halfway through, but until then Ortiz is holding down the fort forcefully, displaying a unique, confident style that perfectly parallels the leader's. "Loverly" is a delicate closing, and Jones steps up front to render a soul-probing passage.

Lewis has established his own language on the saxophone, and it's not just note choice, but in the small yet impactful ways he plays them. He rockets out the gate for the advanced bop exercise "Helix" but what's notable in that even in an animated state, he puts so much nuance in his notes, at one point smudging them. "Cesaire" has a Cuban feel, which suits Cuban-born Ortiz just fine, but it's also an occasion for Lewis to play with Latin-sized passion, throwing in tantalizing hints of late-period Coltrane for the final flourish. A longer expression of this kind of passion is heard on "Neosho," bolstered by Ortiz's on-point comping. Lewis' "Breaking Code" isn't the same as Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" in structure, but possesses much of the same wistful sentiment, and his saxophone's vibrato underscores this.

There was quite an amount of intellectual inspiration that went to the making of Molecular, but in the end, it's really not that important to understand the non-musical, cerebral sources for the material. Lewis himself realized this: "Is the system present? Can you hear a system? And then I realized, who cares? It's a good record."

A very good record."-S. Victor Aaron, Something Else! Reviews

Get additional information at Something Else!

Artist Biographies

"James Brandon Lewis (b.1983 Buffalo NY) is a critically acclaimed saxophonist, composer, recording artist and educator . Lewis has received accolades from New York Times, Q Magazine and cultural tastemakers such as Ebony Magazine, who hailed him as one of the "7 Young Players to Watch" in todays scene. Lewis has shared stages with Ken Filiano, Darius Jones, and Jason Hwang, William Parker, Hamiet Bluiett , Hamid Drake , Ravi Coltrane , Jimmy Heath Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Joe Lovano Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Anthony Coleman and many others. James Brandon Lewis Lewis has been endorsed by Jazz legend Saxophonist Sonny Rollins " Promising young player with the potential to do great things having listened to the Elders". - Jazz Magazine (France). New York Times had this to say about Lewis " James Brandon Lewis , A Jazz Saxophonist in his 30's, Raw Toned But Measured, Doesn't sound steeped in current jazz academy values There's an Independence about him." James Brandon Lewis Leads numerous ensembles and is the Co- Founder of Poetry Music Ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders Lewis attended Howard University and holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts."

-James Brandon Lewis Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist, violist, and composer Aruán Ortiz has written music for jazz ensembles, orchestras, dance companies, chamber groups, and feature films. His work incorporates influences from contemporary classical music, Cuban-Haitian rhythms, and avant-garde improvisation; and consistently strives to break stylistic musical boundaries. He has been called "the latest Cuban wunderkind to arrive in the United States" by BET Jazz and "one of the most versatile and exciting pianists of his generation" by Downbeat Magazine.

He has received numerous accolades such as the Doris Duke Impact Award (2014); Composers Now Creative Residency Award at Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (2014); the Jerome Foundation Travel & Study Grant (2013); Latin Jazz Corner's Arranger of the Year (2011) for his contribution on the album, "El Cumbanchero" by flutist Mark Weinstein (Jazzheads, 2011); Fundación Autor, SGAE, and Generalitat de Catalunya Grant study grants (2002); Semifinalist, Jas Hennessy Piano Solo Competition, Montreux, Switzerland (2001); and Best Jazz Interpretation, Festival de Jazz in Vic, Spain (2000)."

-Aruan Ortiz Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"New York born Brad Christopher Jones is a bassist, composer, and educator. He has recorded, performed, and toured around the world with a diverse array of artists that include Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Elvin Jones, David Byrne, Muhal Richard Abrams, Sheryl Crow, Deborah Harry, Dave Douglas, Vernon Reid, John Zorn, Don Byron, Marc Ribot, and The Jazz Passengers.

Brad has released three recordings under his own leadership with two seperate projects:"UNCIVILIZED POISE" and "THE EMBODIMENT" with his band Aka Alias, and"POURING MY HEART IN" with the Brad Jones Quartet.

Brad is also an experienced educator who has taught workshops and master classes in France, Italy, Canada, and Mexico and is part of the music faculty at Columbia University in New York City."

-Brad Jones Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Chad Taylor (b. 1973) is a composer, educator, percussionist and scholar who is a co-founder of the Chicago Underground ensembles. Originally from Tempe, AZ, Chad grew up in Chicago where he started performing professionally at the age of 16. Chad has performed with Fred Anderson, Derek Bailey, Cooper-Moore, Pharoah Sanders, Marc Ribot, Peter Brotzmann, Malachi Favors and many others. Chad leads his own band Circle down which debut recording was given a 5 star review by All music:

"What is remarkable is that there is no wasted motion, no histrionics or grandstanding, as pure emotion is translated to superlative music making on this most highly recommended recording, one for the ages."

Chad has a BFA from the New School in Jazz Performance and a MFA in Jazz Research and History from Rutgers University."

-Chad Taylor Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. A Lotus Speaks 4:31

2. Of First Importance 3:58

3. Helix 4:45

4. Per 1 1:45

5. Molecular 6:24

6. Cesaire 2:18

7. Neosho 7:00

8. Per 2 2:11

9. Breaking Code 5:33

10. An Anguish Departed 5:09

11. Loverly 3:19

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Quartet Recordings
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
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