Audio Daddio, March 2023
BY DAVID BENEDICT
Mark Lewis’ latest album, Sunlight Shines In, is another result of his time-crafted musicianship and ability to create a classic, compelling, and enjoyable jazz record experience. Released on March 24 under the Audio Daddio label, this album highlights Lewis on saxophone and flute alongside a quality lineup of musicians featuring pianist Ron Kobayashi, bassist Baba Elefante, and drummer Steve Dixon.
For those unfamiliar with Lewis, the veteran saxophonist, flutist, and composer is a Pacific Northwest native with almost two dozen albums to his credit. Navigating his musical career legally blind, Lewis has been a staple on the jazz scene since the 1980s and has played with the likes of jazz musicians like Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, and Dizzy Gillespie.
From the opening track, “Lunar Escape,” to the final echo of beats on the last, “Lovely Dancer,” Lewis takes listeners on a musical tour that showcases his musical versatility. Featuring a set of original compositions, the tracks on Sunlight Shines In are all penned with Lewis’ unique yet classic style, voice, and approach to jazz music.
One standout track, “Leaving Fall Behind,” is a beautiful ballad dedicated to Miles Davis and features trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, who contributes an emotive muted solo, while Lewis showcases his talent on the flute with his rhythmic voice and melodic abilities. In the upbeat and energetic composition, “The H is Silent,” Lewis showcases his crafty alto sax skills on a track that swings through a classic jazz landscape.
Perhaps what stands out most throughout the album, is the obvious chemistry between Lewis and his bandmates as the group works together to create a cohesive and thoughtful sound that is both calm and direct. The seasoned musicians leave each other enough space to navigate the tunes and provide plenty of opportunity to shine without overcrowding, with Kobayashi’s and Elefante’s interplay standing out in particular. “Square B” is an upbeat tune that gives listeners a prime example of the hardworking trio behind Lewis. Without stepping in front of one another, Kobayashi and drummer Steve Dixon trade call and response solos, while Elefante drives a steady walking bassline through the song.
Any music lover, especially those who love jazz, can appreciate the quality effort and approach Lewis puts into this release. Sunlight Shines In is a testament to Lewis’ chops as a musician, bandleader, and composer. The artists playing alongside him are nothing short of exceptional, as they each work their style and voices together to accentuate the already quality compositions crafted by Lewis, creating a satisfying music-listening experience.