The title of James Brandon Lewis’s new album Divine Travels pays homage to his belief that the music contained within is an expression of his own spiritual journey, marking both distance traveled and experiences yet to unfold.
Lewis’ own travels began in Buffalo, New York in 1983. Lewis was raised in the church, which formed the core of the saxophonist’s spiritual outlook. While many musicians are inspired by the church, Lewis says that its most important impact was not musical but personal, laying the foundation for his creative approach.
After graduating from the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, Lewis attended Howard University, where he studied with Charlie Young, performed with the likes of Benny Golson, Geri Allen, and Wallace Roney, and backed John Legend, k.d. lang, and Vanessa Williams at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble.
In 2006, Lewis moved to Colorado and pursued a career in gospel music, working with Grammy® Award-winning singer Dorinda Clark Cole and the late “Queen of Gospel Music,” Albertina Walker. He relocated again to earn his Masters at CalArts, where he was mentored by Charlie Haden, Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, and Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson, who later hired Lewis to play in his ensemble.
Lewis released his debut album, Moments, in 2010, before moving to New York City in 2012. Since arriving in the city, he has performed with a wide range of artists, including Charles Gayle, Ed Shuller, Kirk Knuffke, Jason Hwang , Marilyn Crispell, Ken Filiano, Cooper Moore, Darius Jones, Eri Yamamoto, Federico Ughi, Kenny Wessel, Marvin “Bugalu” Smith, and Sabir Mateen, and has worked with the dance company CircuitDebris under the direction of Mersiha Mesihovic. He currently leads his own trio with Luke Stewart on bass and Dominic Fragman on drums.