Phoenix
Release date: January 27, 2023
Label: Whirlwind Recordings

Phoenix is the highly-anticipated, expansive new album in the musical evolution of alto saxophonist and composer Lakecia Benjamin. The album was produced by the multi-Grammy-award winning Terri Lyne Carrington and features a star-studded line up of specially curated guests Dianne ReevesGeorgia Anne MuldrowPatrice RushenSonia SanchezAngela Davis and Wayne Shorter. The band is composed of trumpeter Josh EvansVictor Gould on keys, Orange Rodriguez on synths, drummer Enoch (EJ) Strickland, percussionist Nêgah Santos and bassist Ivan Taylor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr, Rhodes organist Anastassiya Petrova and bassist Jahmal Nichols all join for one track each.

“When we came out from the pandemic we weren’t allowed to be broken,” Lakecia shares while describing the deeply personal outing Phoenix became for her. The record presents mostly original compositions written throughout the seasons: “we had to be these beautiful absorbent birds and get to work. I wanted to highlight each month of that.” By design, the compositions on Phoenix are written around the skillsets of her triumphant guests, a handful of women in jazz who have had prominent influences on Lakecia.

Sirens herald the start of the record on “Amerikkan Skin”, featuring American political activist Angela Davis as a guest. “New Mornings” was composed at the height of the summer: “it was burning up in New York and I felt I was going through the same day over and over again,” says Lakecia, “but the only thing that reverberated or changed was the level of sadness I kept getting every time I woke up. I’d spend my time dreaming of different mornings in new times.”

Title track “Phoenix” features Georgia Anne Muldrow on synths. “For me, that was the period when I decided I had to find a new way. I figured I start with this track, trying to highlight that we’re coming out of this dark period and get on the dance floor,” Lakecia adds. The track “Mercy” features vocal megastar Dianne Reeves, who digs deep into the song’s message of kindness with her signature soothing vocal quality. Lakecia highlights pianist Patrice Rushen’s multi-genre aptitude with “Jubilation”, honoring an artist who teaches other women how to rise up to an immense degree.

Tracks six and seven flow as a unit; the first part is a Haiku by poet Sonia Sanchez and the Benjamin-original “Blast” features Sanchez again. “Moods” has a more traditional jazz and harder-hitting vibe, while “Rebirth” was composed as a personal tribute to Lakecia’s family who experienced several losses: “this is on the slower side, but it picks up at the end and has a more joyous feel.” ”Trane”, an ode to Alice and John Coltrane, also nods to Lakecia’s previous project. “Basquiat” is a suite inspired by the neo-expressionist artist and is preceded by a message from jazz giant Wayne Shorter. “He’s the ultimate guru,” says Lakecia, “it’s almost like he’s looking into your soul and only souls matter here.”

“I wanted people to not only feel what I’m saying through the songs and my saxophone, but to also verbally hear it so there’s no discrepancy on where we’re coming from,” Lakecia shares, explaining the concept behind her album which is imbued with spoken word. And there is no question that Phoenix marks yet another stratospheric rise for an artist who resolutely knows what she wants to say and how to say it, all the while honoring her mentors and the traditions that have come before her.

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”

Read more in the full press release here.

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.

for Phoenix

MARCUS J. MOORE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Equally melodic and assertive, her sound feels rooted in tradition, yet broad enough to encompass R&B and Latin music; its pronounced funk suggests allegiances to hip-hop and dance." Read the feature story here.

LIV TOERKELL
NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION
"Endurance, perseverance, and sharp attention to technique and detail have always shaped the music of saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin.." Read the review here.

AYANA CONTRERAS
DOWNBEAT
"For Benjamin, a crucial objective of Phoenix was to use her platform to uplift the legacies of not just her elders, but also those of women creators in general." See Lakecia on the cover and read the full story in the February 2023 issue of DownBeat Magazine.

KEVIN LE GENDRE
JAZZWISE
"Play through pain is an expression frequently heard in the world of sports, but it resonates powerfully with musicians, too." Read the full cover story in the February 2023 issue.

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZ TRAIL
"Benjamin’s grandiose comeback is replete with energy, an astonishing fluency, and strong ideas." Read the review here.

NEWS
JAZZWISE
Read the album announcement news story here.

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARLBANK
"..the main focus alto saxist Lakecia Benjamin is soulful and highly persuasive." Read here.

ROBIN LLOYD
KNKX
"Benjamin is one of more than 400 musicians performing at the 2023 Winter Jazzfest in New York City." Full article here.

DAWN BURNS
WVPE
Listen to episode 23 of 'The Sauce' here.

LEONID AUSKERN
JAZZ QUAD
Read the review in Russian here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Read the 10 Albums You Need to Know: January 2023 article here.

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Earthen and defiant, Benjamin carries the old masters in her bones." Read the 4 star review here.

ANDREW GILBERT
SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE
"Dee Dee gave me the courage to start my own career as a bandleader.." Read the feature story on the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour here.

ROB SHEPHERD
POSTGENRE
"Phoenix showcases her continued prowess as a composer, forging her own path with guidance from the masters.." Read the review here.

ALLY J. STEEL
JAZZ REVELATIONS
January show features Benjamin 'On Rotation.' Listen here.

PHIL FREEMAN
STEREOGUM
"But the relatively short solos — and the way the rest of the band gathers together supportively — winds up making it about resilience, not resignation." Article here.

LANCE LIDDLE
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"I’m so impressed with this album.." Review here.

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
"..the album stands just as tall because this is definitively Benjamin’s saxophone voice and her own personal statement." Read the review here.

MICHAEL TOLAND
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"Benjamin spins a resonant, grooving song cycle, twelve songs covering twelve months of rediscovering creativity in the face of the pandemic." Read the review here.

for Pursuance: The Coltranes

RON SCHEPPER
POSTGENRE
Best of  2020. Read this article here.

 

NATE CHINEN
NPR
"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.

TRISH HENNESEY
BLOG TALK RADIO
This is a charismatic and STRONG saxophonist, bandleader, and composer. The strength cannot be emphasized enough. Listen to this interview  here.

 

ARI SHAPIRO
NPR
"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.

 

JEROME WILSON
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.

 

ANDREW FORD
ABC AUSTRALIA
"Her latest album Pursuance: The Coltranes pays homage to two greats: husband and wife John and Alice Coltrane. She assembled a cast of 40 musicians across three generations to pull off this ambitious project."Read the full feature here.

 

SIMON RENTNER
WBGO
A saxophonist and bandleader unmistakably on the rise, she admits being hesitant to step outside of her protective bubble. But on Friday morning she’ll lead a group at Roulette in Brooklyn, to kick off Jazzfest Berlin—New York.Read this article  here.

 

BRIANA YOUNGER
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

NATHANAEL COOPER
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
"Virtuosic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin turns her remarkable talent to the works of Alice and John Coltrane in an album to get any jazz lover’s pulse racing."Read the full review  here

 

RON SCHEPPER
TEXTURA
Best of  2020. Read this article here.

WILL LAYMAN
POPMATTERS
"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

 

MORGAN ENOS
JAZZTIMES
"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.

CHARLES WARING
RECORD COLLECTOR
★★★★☆
"This month's outstanding new album is by New York saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin...Pursuance: The Coltranes is an epic opus inspired by John and Alice Coltrane's music..."

DAN OULLETTE
DAN OULLETTE'S JAZZ & BEYOND INTEL
"Between sets at Dizzy’s, I talked to my longtime friend Regina who had come from Jersey to take part in Lakecia’s party. “Of course, I would come,” she told me. “Lakecia is one of the most important jazz artists in this new generation. She’s for real.”Read the full review  here

 

JIM HYNES
JAZZIZ
"Saxophonist/bandleader Lakecia Benjamin celebrates Alice and John Coltrane on her new album, Pursuance: The Coltranes. The title comes from John Coltrane’s composition of the same name from his 1964 masterpiece A Love Supreme, which she re-interprets alongside pianist Marc Cary, who channels the late great McCoy Tyner." Read the full review  here

 

MAL STANLEY
ABC
"Featured all this week is a Coltrane tribute unlike any other: Lakecia Benjamin not only looks to the music of John Coltrane for inspiration, but she's also remembering the jazz legend's wife Alice Coltrane – who was a key member of Trane's band in his later years and went on to forge her own legacy as a pianist and harp player." Read the full review  here

PIOTR ORLOV
AFROPUNK
"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

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"...all you need to know is that jazz's future is in sure, firm, and confident hands." Four star review here

DELA DET HÄR
JAZZ DESK
"Some listeners might think that Benjamin has taken too much liberty with John Coltrane’s music, but Alice Coltrane got that critique as well when she started to add new parts to her late husband’s original tapes.It is a nice tribute to both John and Alice Coltrane and their respective legacy." Read the full review here.

STEVE FEENEY
ARTSFUSE 
"Benjamin shares her spirited homage with a large coterie of first-rate musicians. Among the saxophonists are Gary Bartz (a Benjamin mentor), Steve Wilson, Marcus Strickland, and Greg Osby.  Vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Jazzmeia Horn also contribute to an album that successfully builds on some of the wonders in the Coltrane source material." Read the full review  here

GEORGE GRELLA
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"She honors tradition not by repeating it but expanding upon it. That makes for an album that is stylish and for the most part strong."Read the full review  here.

DAVE SUMNER
BANDCAMP DAILY
"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.

 

GILLES PETERSON
WORLDWIDE FM
Playlisted. See full Worldwide Rotations: March here

JOHN SHAND
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
"Benjamin has elevated Pursuance: The Coltranes beyond mere tribute status in many ways, including by uniting multigenerational players, among them bassist Reggie Workman, a revered Coltrane alumnus." Read the full feature here.

 

ERIC SNIDER
JAZZIZ MAGAZINE
"At first, alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin was ambivalent about recording a Coltrane tribute album, but ultimately pulled the trigger knowing that her concept was materially different than the scores of Coltrane projects that preceded hers". Read the full feature here.

SUZANNE LORGE
DOWNBEAT
Lakecia Benjamin Pursues a Spiritual Quest. Feature article here.

RON NETSKY
ROCHESTER CITY NEWSPAPER
 Read full review here

RON SHEPPER
TEXTURA
"Though Benjamin's got many years ahead of her, Pursuance: The Coltranes will no doubt be one of the hallmarks of her career, perhaps one of many... For now, there's more than enough pleasure to be had from this riveting collection." Read the full review here.

ANDREW JERVIS
BANDCAMP WEEKLY
Featured on Bandcamp Weekly. Listen here.

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"Benjamin was a rigorous apprentice of the Coltrane-isms, but don’t think this is a by-the-numbers rip-off of the pair’s art, since she inducts a lot of her own ideas into the mix." Read the full review  here.

 

HÉCTOR MARTIN GONZÁLES
CANCION A QUEMAR ROPA
"We have been pleasantly impressed with Lakecia Benjamin's new album, Pursuance the Coltranes. In it she leads us to celebrate in an honest, frenetic and delicious way the life and music of the marriage formed by Alice and John Coltrane." Read the full review here.

THOMAS REES
JAZZWISE
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

SHAE FONTANA
BLEU BOP
"Lakecia Benjamin is an extremely talented young artist who has the respect and insight from her elders as well as a fresh outlook on where the genre is going. The history and future of jazz seems to be alive and well in the hands of this exceptional artist." Full feature here. 

MIKE HOBART
FINANCIAL TIMES
★★★★☆
"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

KEANNA FAIRCLOTH
WBGO
"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.

PHIL FREEMAN
STEREOGUM
"There’s some bebop to be heard, but plenty of exultant freedom, too, and the rhythm section, which includes Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Darrell Green on drums, is absolutely explosive." Read the full review here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Included in "The Week In Jazz". See here

J. HUNTER
NIPPERTOWN
 "Pursuance: The Coltranes is mind-blowing in its complexity and imagination, as Benjamin fearlessly puts her own spin on Trane classics like “Acknowledgement”, “Central Park West” and “Alabama” while giving both the music & its composers the deep respect they have always deserved." Read the full review  here.

STEPHANIE JONES
DOWNBEAT
Feature on Winter Jazz Fest performance here

ANNA M. NELSON
BLACK GROOVES
"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

LAB.FM
"Seven of the songs on Pursuance were composed by John Coltrane, and the remaining six by Alice. All of them were compositions that resonated with Benjamin upon first listen." Read the full article   here.

ROB SHEPHERD
POSTGENRE
"Pursuance is a fantastic release. Not only does it provide a long-overdue honor to Alice Coltrane’s work, but it also restructures decades-old songs to present them in breathtaking new ways." Review here

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARLBANK
Read news story here.

ELZY KOLB
HOT HOUSE
"What are the chances that a multitude of the most acclaimed jazz musicians on Earth would all be in New York—and available for a recording session—in the middle of summer festival and touring season? Alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin achieved the unbelievable last August by recruiting close to three dozen players from across the generations to record the music of John and Alice Coltrane during two marathon 12-hour days." Feature here

DOUG COLLETTE
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"...the players stretch their respective and collective capabilities as musicians in the process, so the ethereal tones are pervasive here from the first notes of Liberia." Read the full review here

NATE CHINEN
WBGO
"Speaking of keening and imploring saxophonists: Lakecia Benjamin has been working for years toward a statement as powerfully self-assured as Pursuance: The Coltranes". Read the full review here.

RICHARD KAMINS
STEP  TEMPEST
"Lakecia Benjamin pulls no punches, cuts no corners, and plays with great emotion and dedication.  The album is a giant step forward in her maturation, music that will serve as a blueprint to continued growth as an artist."
Read the full review  here.

WULF MUELLER
WULF'S MUSIC + BLOG
"With stunning results – Regina Carter in ‘Walk With Me’, Dee Dee Bridgewater and The Last Poets in ‘Acknowledgement’ and Benjamin’s performance  throughout the album make this a contender for album of the year! One not to miss!" Read the full review  here.

 

CHRIS COOKE
KIOS 91.5
"Her recording is Pursuance: The Coltanes and it is a powerful experience of inspired performances." Read full feature here

 

WOMEN IN JAZZ
Listen to full interview here

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
"Benjamin beautifully channels the spirit of the Coltranes, demonstrating versatility and respect for jazz tradition that is revealing considering her main gig is leading her own soul-based band, Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad, reflecting the music of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly & the Family Stone and the Meters as well as classic jazz. This recording will certainly have many mainstream jazz critics and fans taking greater notice." Read the full review  here.

ALLY J STEEL
JAZZ REVELATIONS (UK)
"Titans within jazz, Alice and John Coltrane have had a seismic impact on the music world. The pair’s lure on Lakecia from a young age, who has played with figures like Stevie Wonder to Gregory Porter, is clear." Read the full feature interview here

RUI MIGUEL ABREO
RIMAS A PARTE
Read the Portuguese feature here

MATT SILVER
WRTI
Read full feature here

 

MORGAN GREENSTREET
CHAMBER MUSIC AMERICA MAGAZINE
Read full feature here

BILL MILKOWSKI
THE ABSOLUTE SOUND
"From start to finish, Benjamin takes listeners on a magnificent journey." Full feature here

SCOTT HAAS
BAY STATE BANNER
"Resiliency is a hallmark of her music and serves to inspire those listening in." Read the full article here

FRANCISCO NORONHA
PUBLICO
Feature here

AYANA CONTRERAS
DOWNBEAT
"Given her musical pedigree, though, it makes perfect sense for Benjamin’s first recorded homage to be conceptually inventive, yet rooted in heritage." Read the full feature here

AARON STEAIN
JAMBASE
"Benjamin does the Coltrane catalog her way, looking back, looking forward, looking within. It’s a winner and a must for any Coltrane fan, big or small. A love supreme, indeed. Until next time!"Read the full feature  here

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
Pursuance: The Coltranes was named one of the years top 20 jazz albums. Read the full article here.

NPR
"Going Home" from Pursuance: The Coltranes was listed among NPR's top 100 songs of 2020. See the full list here.

THOMAS REES
JAZZWISE
"Her alto sound is one of the first things that grabs you about the album. It’s rich, soulful and drenched in the blues. She plays with such passion and such commitment you know she means every note, and it’s hard to think of a more fitting tribute to the Coltranes than that." Review here

TONY ZAMBITO
JAZZ BUFFALO
"The music echoes Coltrane while unleashing the impressive talent of Benjamin and other next-generation jazz stars." Read the full 'Best Jazz Albums of 2020' article here. 

FRANCIS DAVIS
NPR
Pursuance: The Coltranes was ranked among The 2020 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. Read the full article here.

ADAM FEIBEL
JAZZFM
"The third album by New York altoist Lakecia Benjamin pays a fitting tribute to the work of John and Alice Coltrane with her faithful, impassioned playing and a huge, intergenerational cast of jazz heavyweights." Read the full review here.

JEFF WILSON
THE ABSOLUTE SOUND.

Featured on Bill Milkowski's Ten Best Jazz Albums of 2020 list here.