Jerome Sabbagh / Greg Tuohey - No Filter

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Jerome Sabbagh: tenor saxophone; Greg Tuohey: electric guitar; Joe Martin: acoustic bass; Kush Abadey: drums.

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French-born, New York-based saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh co-leads a new quartet with his longtime buddy and collaborator, guitarist Greg Tuohey. Both worked together in another quartet, Filpside, in which they teamed up with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Darren Beckett. However, for this new outing, the bandleaders are joined by bassist Joe Martin, a core member of Sabbagh’s quartet (together with Ben Monder and Ted Poor), and drummer Kush Abadey, a recent discovery.

No Filter, which was recorded in New York with no edits or overdubs, includes three compositions from Sabbagh and four from Tuohey. The journey is initiated with the former’s “Vicious”, where a relatable guitar ostinato is drawn from the power rock compendium, conveying a cinematic Mission-Impossible-like vibe. Moreover, eccentric guitar strokes are part of the comping as the saxophonist slides outside the diatonic scale without losing the nice melodic flow of the song. Whereas Tuohey discloses his jazz-rock technique, Abadey awaits the last section of the tune to improvise with brio.

A great harmonic treatment is given to Tuohey’s “Lurker”. The guitarist employs a slightly dirtier sound and delivers a personal statement enriched with motivic ideas. The atmosphere, which was built upon an amalgamation of post-bop and pop/rock, favors Sabbagh’s creative phrasing.

Possessing authentic compositional styles, the bandleaders have musical personalities that allow for an effective musical match. They are able to play with dynamism but are also proficient when cooking beautiful ballads. That is the case of Tuohey’s “No Road”, whose sweet contagious torpor invades and conquers with a strong lyrical sensibility. He totally changes posture on “Chaos Reigns”, a shifting composition that starts by waltzing discreetly with a feeling of near sadness, passing through an unconfined yet minimalistic atmosphere marked by saxophone cries, and ultimately, as the title suggests, delving into a more chaotic urbanity. That's when the electric guitar infuses gripping tension and a distorted toxicity.

Cotton” and “You Are On My Mind” are contrasting Sabbagh compositions. The former is a snail-paced lament stimulated by dark mallet propulsions, whereas the latter displays a joy-filled melody in a bright, saturated post-bop fashion.

No Filter provides an engaging experience filled with alluring melodies and harmonies and dexterous transitions. It translates into inspired, grown-up music with a fresh taste of youth.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Vicious ► 03 - No Road ► 04 - Chaos Reigns


James Brandon Lewis Trio - No Filter

James Brandon Lewis: saxophone; Luke Stewart: bass; Warren Trae Crudup III: drums + guests: Anthony Pirog: guitar; Nicholas Ryan Gant: vocals.

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James Brandon Lewis is a NY-based tenor saxophonist and composer with post-bop and avant-garde inclinations. Moving effortlessly with a scintillating articulation, he mixes elements of gospel (a strong background), hip-hop, and R&B.

After years playing as a sideman for renowned musicians of different genres, Lewis released his debut album, Moments, in 2010. However, it was with his sophomore Divine Travels, recorded with a powerhouse trio composed of bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver, that he gained more visibility from jazz aficionados and media.
The following step was Days of Freeman, another critically acclaimed trio work, featuring Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Rudy Royston on bass and drums, respectively.

Faithful to the trio formation, his new album, No Filter, was built in the company of bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Trae Crudup III. 
Impelled by an intoxicating natural force, “Say What” delves into a rock-inflated jazz where Lewis looses up striking patterns, showing off his considerable flair for incendiary improvisation on top of the thick carpet weaved by his trusty rhythm mates.

Cut from the same cloth, the title track adds a good slice of funk to the recipe. Lewis, questioning with vehemence and answering with exclamations, takes advantage of the natural disposition of Stewart and Crudup toward groove. The tune ends with Lewis’ voice saying ‘If the good Lord gave me these melodies, they need to be heard’.

Y’all Slept”, a hip-hop statement featuring the MC P.SO the Earth Tone King, also gives the first welcome to the guest guitarist Anthony Pirog, who embarks on an ostinato whose melody is partially uttered by the bandleader at a faster tempo. With strenuous brio, the latter cooks his improvisation with sultry inventiveness.
 
Raise Up Off Me”, relying on a provocative melody delivered almost entirely with a sax-bass unison, creates an in-depth, ardent, and passionate narrative flow.

The title “Zen” can be misleading. You won’t find this joyful chant so peaceful as the word might suggest. It’s pronounced with highly catchy melodies and upbeat refluxes of gospel and rock.

Pirog returns for the closing tune, the sweeter-than-bitter “Bittersweet”, which also features the mellow voice of Nicholas Ryan Gant.

No Filter is a thrilling record from a young saxophonist who has so much to give. Not limited in genre, he has this get-up-and-go attitude that communicates spirituality and freedom in a very intense way.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – What to Say ► 04 – Raise Up Off Me ► 05 – Zen