Mark Lewis: Sunlight Shines In

Seattle-based woodwind man leads an LA rhythm section in a set of melodic, straight-ahead jazz, at one point evoking Roland Kirk


Seasoned saxophonist and flautist Mark Lewis is based in the Seattle area. He’s played professionally since 1972 and for 14 years worked as a first-call jazz musician in Rotterdam. Over the years he’s played with George Cables, Ted Gioia, Victor Lewis, Hein van de Geyn, David Friesen, Larry Grenadier, Randy Brecker and Bobby Hutcherson. Being visually impaired hasn’t stopped Lewis from composing a staggering 1700 songs and releasing over 20 albums.

On Sunlight Shines In he’s backed by the first-rate, LA-based rhythm section of Ron Kobayashi piano, Baba Elefante bass and Steve Dixon drums. The album’s recording engineer, Nolan Shaheed, plays trumpet on two of the numbers – Leaving Fall Behind, a contemplative tribute to Miles Davis and Swami’s Song, dedicated to another trumpeter, Steve Swanson. The latter is the only track where we hear Lewis on tenor sax. In four of the numbers Lewis leads on flute and in six he’s on alto. All 11 pieces are Lewis originals.

The album opens with the cheerful and melodic Lunar Escape. It’s followed by Mike’s Tango, a tribute to pianist Mike Renzi with Lewis infectious on flute. The jaunty Ghost Of A Chance isn’t a take on the standard recorded by Bing Crosby and others but something entirely different.

Elefante features quietly in the alto-led title track and drives a walking bass through the fast-moving Square B, with piano and drums trading quick-fire solos and Lewis ebulliently evoking the sound of Roland Kirk on flute. Julie’s Butterfly is soft and mellow while Rain is surprisingly perky considering the title. Lewis leads on alto in The H Is Silent, a buoyant dedication to his partner Rhonda and after Swami’s Song, the album closes with a catchy salsa beat in Lovely Dancer with Lewis lyrical on flute.

This is melodic straight-ahead jazz at its best.

Lunar Escape; Mike’s Tango; Ghost Of A Chance; Sunlight Shines In; Leaving Fall Behind; Square B; Julie’s Butterfly; Rain; The H Is Silent; Swami’s Song; Lovely Dancer (52.06)
Lewis (as, ts, f); Ron Kobayashi (p); Baba Elefante (b); Steve Dixon (d); guest Nolan Shaheed (t). Pasadena, 30 & 31 July 2019.
Audio Daddio RS1043