Home Read Albums Of The Week: The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis | The...

Albums Of The Week: The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis | The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Instrumental trio The Messthetics join forces with acclaimed jazz saxophonist James Brandon Lewis for their new self-titled album.

The Messthetics formed in 2016 and is made up of the rhythm section from renowned D.C. punk band Fugazi, with Joe Lally on bass and Brendan Canty on drums, along with experimental and jazz guitarist Anthony Pirog. Praised saxophonist Lewis hails from New York City and first joined the trio on stage in 2019 and again in 2021, which sparked inspiration for the quartet to create an album together. The nine tracks of The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis were recorded in just two days in Maryland with engineer Don Godwin. The album captures the combustive chemistry the four musicians felt on stage while performing together and expands on the collaboration in all directions.

Though the configuration heard on The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis is relatively new, it builds on long-standing musical relationships. Lewis and Pirog first met around a decade ago at a session led by free-jazz drummer William Hooker and instantly hit it off, going on to work together extensively in Lewis’ own groups. “Since Day 1 of knowing Anthony, me and him just fit,” says Lewis, now widely acclaimed as one of the most compelling bandleaders on the contemporary jazz scene. “We looked at each other after that William Hooker session, and we was like, ‘Damn, this shit is on point.’ ”

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Lally and Canty of course share a similar brotherhood, rooted in the 15 years they spent touring the world as the supple yet rock-solid rhythm section for Washington’s iconic Fugazi. “I play differently with Joe than I play with anybody else,” Canty says. “He creates this foundation that I call a very sturdy jungle gym for all of us to play on. He keeps it dubby and rhythmic, and there’s a lot of times where there’s a sixth sense — there’s things that happen between us when we’re playing that there’s no accounting for except for the fact that we’ve been playing together for 30 years.”

Lewis likens the experience of playing with Lally and Canty to his work with various jazz elders. “The way I revere them is the same way that I revere playing with Jamaaladeen Tacuma or playing with William Parker,” he says, citing a pair of esteemed veteran bassists. “It’s a certain road experience that you can’t get in school.” He also appreciates that he can hear the rich musical heritage of their hometown in their sound. “Growing up in the D.C. area, Brendan and Joe are familiar with go-go, with all of the stuff from the area,” he says. “So I will say that the time feel — it don’t get no better than that. It’s like a well-oiled machine playing with them.”

That steady rhythmic backbone, coupled with Pirog’s omnivorous guitar approach — which draws freely on jazz, punk and everything in between — gave The Messthetics a huge sonic palette right from the start, showcased on both their self-titled 2018 debut and 2019’s Anthropocosmic Nest. But Pirog had always been curious what his friend Lewis might add to the band, leading to him extending the invite for the saxophonist’s initial 2019 sit-in, which took place at New York’s Winter Jazzfest.”


Photo by Shervin Lainez.