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For Mahalia, With Love - the highly anticipated new album by award- winning tenor saxophonist-composer James Brandon Lewis and his Red Lily Quintet, following on their poll-sweeping Jesup Wagon - reimagines songs made famous by the gospel icon who galvanised a nation with her voice
Whereas Lewis used his transformative talents to newly illuminate renaissance man George Washington Carver on Jesup Wagon, the saxophonist does the same here for gospel-music force of nature Mahalia Jackson. And this time it's personal, because Lewis lived her music growing up, nurtured by a grandmother who had received Mahalia's singing like a bolt from above. Much more than a tribute, this work is"really a three- way conversation between Mahalia, my grandmother and me."
The challenge was to turn these songs into jazz, the 21st century variety. What James and the band [ William Parker- bass, Chad Taylor- drums, Kirk Knuffke- cornet, Chris Hoffman-cello] conjure with this music is miraculous.