James Brandon Lewis
Buffalo-born James Brandon Lewis began to explore music as a self-taught clarinetist, before obtaining a degree from Howard University. After graduating from 2006, Lewis moved to Colorado where he became active in the gospel music community, but then moved again and earned a master’s degree from CalArts, where he studied under Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, and Alphonso Johnson. His first recording, Moments (2010) attracted critical attention and was followed by a series of albums featuring musicians such as bassist William Parker and drummer Chad Taylor, but it was his 2021 Jesup Wagon, inspired by the mobile agricultural education efforts of inventor George Washington Carver, that established him as one of the most stimulating musical voices of his generation, garnering Album of the Year awards in Jazz Times, DownBeat, and elsewhere. The music was infused with a variety of sources, including brass bands, folk-like melodies, and gospel, the music of his youth. While eschewing traditional harmony, he is at heart a melodist and the rich, full sound of his tenor saxophone matches his emotive sincerity.