Mar 27, 2020
I liked Lakecia Benjamin’s first two CDs. They were fun - funky and swinging. But they were not that memorable.
I love her new CD.
Pursuance: The Coltranes, pays homage to two of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century, John and Alice Coltrane. That’s some pretty tough company to put yourself near, given the married couple are among the greatest improvisers and creators of spiritual jazz. By wisely bringing together new and old jazz masters – from her mentor (and the album’s co-producer) Reggie Workman, who was a regular Coltrane collaborator, and his peers Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter, and Dee Dee Bridgewater to Ms. Benjamin’s generational stars Meshell Ndgecello, Steve Wilson, Marc Cary, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger and Jazzmeia Horn, Lakecia has created a perfect storm of talent and desire.
The result is truly memorable.
Ms. Benjamin has studied and played with Workman and Coltrane alumnus Rashied Ali, so she has the background to build upon. What was not apparent form her previous recordings was the depth of her sax playing, which captures the spirit of the adventurous couple without trying to mimic or copy their tone or style. Among her strengths are mixing lyrics and spoken word with her playing, most notably on “Acknowledgement” from A Love Supreme. Dee Dee Bridgewater and hip-hop pioneers The Last Poets allow Lakecia to take the tune to new places, all of them thrilling. Pursuance is a strong and memorable album, featuring exciting takes on seven John Coltrane tunes, and six from Alice.
Lakecia has been a major part of singer Gregory Porter’s band for the past few years, and she has appeared with Stevie Wonder , the David Murray Big Band , Vanessa Rubin , James "Blood" Ulmer and Craig (TV’s “The Office”) Robinson and the Nasty Delicious . Benjamin’s usual set up with her band, Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad , presents music that is immersed in the vintage sounds of James Brown , Maceo Parker , Sly and the Family Stone and the Meters as well as classic jazz.
Podcast 737 is my conversation with Lakecia Benjamin, where she remembers first hearing the Coltranes (spoiler alert – she heard Alice first), her delight at bringing multigenerational talent to play on the album, and what she plans on telling people – like me – who are surprised by sudden turn in her recorded work. Musical selections from Pursuance: The Coltranes includes “Liberia”, featuring her old instructor Gary Bartz; “Central Park West,” featuring Jazzmeia Horn; “Acknowledgement”; and “Om Shanti,” featuring Georgie Anne Muldrow and Meshell Ndegecello.