The Messthetics & James Brandon Lewis

One of the most iconic rhythm sections in modern music, drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally were the insistent engine of DC post-hardcore legends Fugazi for over 15 years. In 2016, they formed Messthetics with guitar virtuoso Anthony Pirog, and released two albums of turbulent, propulsive, groove-laden instrumental art rock. Drawing on jazz, punk, dub, and free improv, they’re equally at home in an expansive take on Sonny Sharrock’s “Once Upon a Time” as they are in blazing, math-metal riff barrages.

In late-2021, they were joined onstage by acclaimed saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, and sparks flew. Lally recalls a full-throttle passage when Lewis and Pirog began trading solos. As the intensity escalated, the bassist felt simultaneously challenged and exhilarated. “You’re just holding on and going, it sounds great,” he remembers telling himself. “Just keep going!” Thankfully for fans of next-level, genre-defying music, they have. Called “one of the modern titans of the tenor” by All About Jazz, the ecstatic fervour of James Brandon Lewis’ playing points back to John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and the rich tradition of the Impulse! label–a tradition that the combustive quartet is now a part of with their eponymous 2024 release. For his part, Lewis relishes the chance to plug into the power of the Messthetics’ punk-adjacent milieu, calling their provocative real-time musical conversation a “high point of musical bonding and purely unapologetic energy! When you hear the Messthetics by themselves, that shit is cranking. And I’m always signing up to crank.”

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