“Cool and confident, James Brandon Lewis might be one of jazz’s more promising new players, but his music shouldn’t sound too unfamiliar. A sure-footed improviser pursuing the melodic contours of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, the young saxophonist is joined on his handsome 2014 major label debut, “Divine Travels,” by the seemingly ubiquitous bassist William Parker and the esteemed drummer Gerald Cleaver.
Halfway through the program, another voice appears. It belongs to the District-raised poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, who dusts off an old poem that describes the latent tension of a Sunday morning church service: “A mixed congregation: sinners, worshipers, hustlers, survivors, all that terrible energy locked in, trying to blend . . . ” At this point, Lewis, Parker and Cleaver have established their rapport — and Sayers Ellis sounds like a welcome guest.”