FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION FOR THE 63rd GRAMMY AWARDS
LAKECIA BENJAMIN - PURSUANCE: THE COLTRANES (Ropeadope)
Lakecia Benjamin - Pursuance: The Coltranes
Best Instrumental Jazz Album
Lakecia Benjamin - "Liberia"
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
Lakecia Benjamin - "Going From Home"
Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella
Lakecia Benjamin - Pursuance: The Coltranes
Producer of the Year
Lakecia Benjamin - Pursuance: The Coltranes
Best Recording Package
Pursuance: The Coltranes
Release date: March 27, 2020
Label: Ropeadope Records
A cohesive walk through the lineage of the jazz artform, Benjamin’s third full-length release as a leader pays homage to two of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century, John and Alice Coltrane. As Abiodun Oyewole iterates as part of Benjamin’s rendition of Coltrane’s classic “Acknowledgment” off of the groundbreaking album ‘A Love Supreme’, “John Coltrane was a vessel, taking us to the house of god, he spoke to god in the language god knew, in the language of sound.” With this release, Benjamin opens herself up as such a vessel, speaking timeless truths through her horn over the medium of Coltrane’s classic compositions alongside elders of this artform who bore witness to the conception of this material. Under the tutelage of jazz luminary and co-producer Reggie Workman whose supple bass lines underscored countless Alice and John Coltrane’s recordings, Benjamin has assembled an astonishing cross-generational ensemble of over 40 jazz heavyweights that includes Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Meshell Ndgecello, Steve Wilson, Marc Cary, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger and Jazzmeia Horn -- Three generations of musical titans gathered to celebrate and further the message of the great maestros of this improvisational artform, John and Alice Coltrane.
There’s always been an undeniable mystical, enticing element to the music of the Coltranes and on Pursuance, Benjamin is mindful of retaining the underlying spirituality of these compositions - “they were writing songs to indian gods, to christian gods, to muslim gods - their whole idealogy was that every religion is one and we’re all one with god.” In this regard, Pursuance speaks to the unifying nature of the jazz artform. Every member of this cross-generational recording ensemble welcomed the opportunity to collaborate and pay homage to each other. “Music is a reflection of our times; a reflection of the spirit of our times,” Benjamin continues. “In our current social and political climate, we need music to heal the soul.” Just as the timeless compositions of the Coltranes connected with audiences of yesteryear, Pursuance brings this material into 2020 with carefully conceived modern arrangements. Each of the thirteen tracks on Pursuance are tunes that instantly resonated with Benjamin upon first listen - seven of which originally composed by John, with six credited to Alice. The selection includes “Liberia”, “Prema”, “Central Park West”, “Walk With Me”, “Going Home”, “Syeeda’s Song Flute”, “Spiral”, “Om Shanti”, “Alabama”, “Acknowledgement”, “Pursuance”, “Turiya and Ramakrishna” and “Affinity”.
On the album’s opening track, “Liberia”, Benjamin conjures up every bit of intensity and fervor possible from her stellar lineup of legends. A regal rubato gives way to a bright-tempoed swing, over which both bandleader Benjamin and consummate saxophonist Gary Bartz take flight. Acclaimed vocalist Jazzmeia Horn shines on Benjamin’s stunning R&B-tinged rendition of John Coltrane’s classic “Central Park West”. Horn’s beautiful performance of Benjamin’s original lyrics paired with Chris Rob’s organ playing delivers a soulful take on this ballad. Benjamin goes on to deliver an incendiary performances of “Syeeda’s Song Flute” and “Spiral” off of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1959 album Giant Steps. The bandleader is joined on “Syeeda’s Songflute” by bass legend Ron Carter. Carter is one of the only members of this lineup to have performed with both Alice and John Coltrane. To Benjamin, these particular musicians and their unique experiences contributed hugely to the articulation and delivery of this project - “the best part of creating this record was embracing this first-hand knowledge that these jazz heavyweights brought to the studio - they know the chords, the spirituality of the music, the mindset they were in when they first performed some of these tunes.”
Benjamin then moves on to pay tribute to Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme with her performance of “Acknowledgment” and “Pursuance”. Alongside the bandleader, several generations of musicians, all of whom moved by Coltrane’s masterwork, paying homage to the great master. Dee Dee Bridgewater sings lyrics she wrote to Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement”, adding her signature effortless elegance to the track. “Pursuance” features pianist Marc Cary who channels McCoy Tyner on this classic track. The final track on the album, “Affinity” was composed by Alice Coltrane and features special guests Reggie Workman and Greg Osby. This track’s passion and force ends the album on a high, displaying the stunning facility of each of the improvisers and the enduring power of these timeless compositions.
With a final reflection on this project, the saxophonist and bandleader brings light to her utmost admiration for the Coltranes and their collaboration that, musically, spiritually and emotionally culminated in one, whole, complete unit - “as an artist, it’s difficult to balance your personal life and career. This is a perfect example of a couple who had the best of both worlds - they took care of themselves, took care of the music, worked together, played together and they exemplified a completely functional, amazing relationship. You don’t need to sacrifice your art or your love - you can be one complete whole individual.”
Derived from liner notes by John Murph.
More about Lakecia Benjamin
Endorsed by Vandoren, Yanagisawa, Key Leaves, and Conn & Selmer, Lakecia Benjamin’s electric stage presence and fiery sax work has appeared on the work of Gregory Porter, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, the Clark Terry Big Band, Reggie Workman, The Roots, Macy Gray, Talib Kweli, Anita Baker, Rashied Ali, the David Murray Big Band, Vanessa Rubin, James "Blood" Ulmer and Craig 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.
Press for Pursuance: The Coltranes
"An Alice Coltrane chant turned Afrofuturist soul jam, with Benjamin's saxophone and Meshell Ndegeocello's bass backing Georgia Anne Muldrow's authoritative vocal. Peace, meet Power. Playlist here.
"Ari Shapiro talked to her at length about the record, which reinterprets the work of John and Alice Coltrane with the help of a staggering ensemble cast, and about an artist she is grateful for: James Blake." Read the full feature here.
THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE
"The alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin plays jazz that is sprinkled with the rich flavors of funk and soul—she’s a crafty traditionalist who remains in step with the rhythms of the young generation." Feature here.
"The saxophonist infuses a spirituality into the foundation of these renditions, and this quality, in addition to an appealing propulsion and unerring melodicism, makes this a pretty easy recommendation to make to fans of the Coltrane songbook."
Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"There are a lot of musicians and a lot of different musical approaches on this album but the powerful alto voice of Lakecia Benjamin holds it all together. She plays with appropriate majesty whether moaning over soulful beats or roaring in high energy duels with other alto players, like Gary Bartz on "Liberia" and both Greg Osby and Bruce Williams on "Affinity." This is an amazing and ambitious tribute to the long-lasting influence of John and Alice Coltrane."Read the full feature here.
"And with Muldrow’s growling voice and Ndgeocello’s bass mixing Benjamin’s alto, it is both purposefully uplifting and fiercely defiant. Yet now, today, it somehow feels even more pertinent." Full premiere of "Om Shanti" here.
"All that said, when the spotlight is firmly on Benjamin—as on a straight quartet performance of "Pursuance" from A Love Supreme featuring pianist Marc Cary, the results are only lukewarm. Still, it's a heady blend of sounds." Read the full review here.
"Their presence is mere proof that she is on the pulse of what's next: the future of jazz. Lakecia embodies the spirit of Sankofa in her creative approach. Her genre-blending style acknowledges the spirit of those who came before her, while infusing the flavor of her generation." Listen to the full interview here.
Lakecia Benjamin Interview: Our Job is to Heal and Spread Joy Throughout the Planet. That's the Reason I Play Music. Read full feature piece here.
"On alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin’s new themed album of John and Alice Coltrane covers, Pursuance: The Coltranes, she doesn’t just pay homage to jazz’s most intimidating power couple. Benjamin also enlisted a dizzying assemblage of guests, from the Coltranes’ colleagues to rising players to genre-blurring innovators." Read the full feature here.
"The album also showcases Benjamin’s jazz roots. Her previous album Rise Up delivered pithy phrases and grooves influenced by Prince, but here she stretches out with jazz heavyweights playing their heart out just for the joy." Read the full review here.
ANNA M. NELSON
"Pursuance: The Coltranes showcases Lakecia Benjamin’s command of the jazz idiom while highlighting the music of two of the late and great jazz luminaries, Alice and John Coltrane. Benjamin’s spirited commemoration surely does her icons justice while putting the music world on high alert for what’s to come next from this talented young artist." Review here.