The inspiration is moving enough, and that’s before we reach the music, itself. Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has penned a suite in tribute to US visionary, scientist, inventor, educator and artist George Washington Carver. In 1906 Carver hit upon the idea of the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, a kind of mobile knowledge centre, which spread learning and farming products among the South’s impoverished farmers. Lewis tells this extraordinary man’s story in an idiom in which jazz, folk and the very earth seem to combine to make music that is completely organic rather than mannered in any way.
Those who’ve been gobsmacked by Kamasi Washington’s playing should hear Lewis take tenor saxophone artistry to an altogether higher plane of consciousness. His sound his vast, and his ideas have a deep beauty independent of the need for a veneer of prettiness. His brilliant Red Lily Quintet is fully attuned to the music’s innate story-telling, with Kirk Knuffke’s sprightly cornet, the double bass of one of this music’s most momentous practitioners, William Parker, Chad Taylor’s infinitely open drumming