James_B_Lewis_close_Vision21Words and Photos by Hank Williams | Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Main Photo: James Brandon Lewis
I’ve been covering the 2016 Vision Festival daily so far as part of Suga’ in My Bowl Radio’s on air coverage. If you missed it, check out the festival preview or the installments on the opening night highlighting bassist/violinist/poet Henry Grimes, day two’s report on the Sun Ra Arkestra’s set, or day 3’s report, Day 4’s report focusing on Michele Rosewoman’s New YorUba, and day 5’s report on Wadada Leo Smith. Suga’ host and executive producer Joyce Jones has been on the scene as well, and it’s largely her photos you see in the previous posts.
Today’s post is one that wasn’t really supposed to happen–at least not in its current form. I said at the end of yesterday’s report that it would be the last one and had planned to do a Vision review that included the final day. The review will still happen, though give me a few days on it.
Why? Well, there’s that whole economy of effort thing and the fact that I was covering the last night by myself, as Suga’ in My Bowl host Joyce Jones (who has the real photography chops) was busy editing sound for last night’s show with drummer Andrew Cyrille (which you should definitely listen to when we get it online). But then that magical thing happened of someone totally blowing you so far away that you just have to write something, especially if others are reading. And it does appear that a few people are reading these dispatches.
That’s a long way of saying that the trio of saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, electric bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Warren Trae Crudup III are the primary inspiration for today’s post. Blame it on them.
James Brandon Lewis Trio
Lewis is by no means a stranger to Vision, explaining to me after the set that he’d been a volunteer several years ago, has been following it for a while now, and I’d met him before, though don’t think I’d heard him play. I confess that his 2015 Days of FreeMan release had gotten by me too, even though it’s gotten some favorable reviews. There’s a lot of good stuff out there that I miss. The trio played earlier this year in Arts for Art’s January series, so they should’ve been on my radar.

James Brandon Lewis Trio at Arts for Art | Don Mount video
The three had an incredibly high energy set. Buoyed by Stewart on the electric bass and Crudup on drums, the evening took a turn to a party-like atmosphere. Crudup’s intense pulsing backbeat drove the trio forward, providing a solid foundation for Lewis and Stewart.
Lewis, his infectious energy seemingly uncontainable, at one point hopped back and forth like a prize fighter egging the rest of the group on. Lewis described himself in terms of an MC, except using a saxophone instead of words, trying to bring a similar feel of energy and improvisation to his work. He also stressed the importance of the collective and that while he’s nominally the leader, he wants to democratize the process of creating and playing music with the other members. Writing this now, I feel bad that I didn’t corner Stewart and Crudup after the set as well. Lewis reported that the energy on stage was good for the group, and he felt comfortable taking some more risks as the trust level between the musicians is increasing as they play together more.
(L-R) Luke Stewart and Warren Trae Crudup III
The good news is that (aside from getting their CD) there are a few immediate chances to see them: they’re playing the Red Hook Jazz Festival on Sunday the 19th and have a lunchtime set in Madison Square Park on the 29th as well as other upcoming dates. For me, the trio was one of the revelations of the festival and one thing it does well: expose you to new artists.
The set ended with a surprisingly calm, melodic coda, however: almost as if the trio realized the need to let the audience down easily after getting us so fired up. Lewis told me that he just wants to tell the truth as a musician. His honesty and enthusiasm was completely on display on Sunday night and it was difficult not to believe in him or in the future of jazz after seeing him live.
While Lewis’s set may have been the revelation of the festival (for me, at least), saxophonist William Edward Jordan, better known as “Kidd”, took the stage again to close out this year’s festival. Jordan, playfully referring to his now-outdated nickname as the “world’s oldest kid.” Jordan doesn’t play around when it comes to his music however, and–in his second appearance at this year’s Vision Fest and too many other Visions for me to collect right now–led the group in a rousing final set.
Kidd Jordan
Jordan is seemingly a Janus face of free/avant jazz: seamlessly incorporating the past, present, and future all in one persona. Jordan’s earlier forays this year drew the New Orleans native repeatedly back to the Blues; this set initially focused more on the free improvisation he’s brought to the festival repeatedly over the years–though soon detoured right back in the Blues when the spirit so moved him and he felt confident his collaborators could make the journey with him.

Jordan dedicated his set to the memory of the victims of the attack earlier that day in Florida, invoking the determination that “nobody else get [should] by messed up like that at any time”. And with that thought, he sent us off into the night.
This really does wrap up our daily Vision coverage, but we’ll check back in with a full review. Be sure to tune in to our next Suga’ in My Bowl show with drummer Andrew Cyrille this Sunday at 11 PM EST on WBAI and streaming worldwide online.
Hank Williams is an associate producer for Suga’ in My Bowl on WBAI Radio and webmaster for the Suga’ and Behind the Mic sites. He is also a PhD candidate in English and Africana Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and teaches at Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York.