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Second Voyage by Lewis Porter Quintet

There is a lopsided myth that academics know the music but can’t create it very well. They can comprehend the architecture of the composition; they can theorize why historical influences shape the way musicians play. And while a music scholar can play the piece technically, it isn’t always expected that one can be inventive or expressive. The right side, left side of the brain sort of thing.

At first blush examining Lewis Porter’s CD, I assumed his ‘Second Voyage’ would be intellectually interesting, technically proficient, but bereft of emotional content. Absolutely flat out dead wrong. I could not have been more wrong.

Porter is a highly regarded professor at Rutgers University and the founder and director of the Master’s in Jazz History. He has written two biographies of Lester Young, a volume on the history of jazz, and an award-winning book on John Coltrane.

And he is an accomplished jazz musician. The music on ‘Second Voyage’ is extremely rewarding and varied. He puts his heart and brain into each piece. There are different aspects of Porter’s life and scholarship in each of the pieces. There is a tribute to his wife on the title track. His research on Young appears on ‘Lester Young Samba.’ This is short and full of light; it sways and then roars. Coltrane is also explicitly represented by ‘Central Park West.’ ‘Karen’s Meditation’ is an introspective piano solo that is supple and gorgeous. ‘Three Blues’ is a multi-themed blues romp that has a lot of swagger and attitude ‘Irish Mantra’ is an Indian raga merging with an Irish folk melody, with reminiscent jabs of Coltrane, dense jams of Jerry Garcia, and gentle stabs of Bill Evans. Innovative and compelling. ‘Olivier’ refers to Olivier Messiaen, the 20th Century French composer whose pieces are still being re-discovered. This particularly piece is a fusion jam that is dark and chaotic and unsettling and loosely reflects Messiaen’s apocalyptic visions.

"Second Voyage" is an album worth pursuing.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lewis Porter Quintet
  • CD Title: Second Voyage
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Altrisuoni
  • Tracks: Second Voyage, Three Blues, Night and Day, Central Park West, Lester Young Samba, Irish Mantra, Olivier, Last April, Karen’s Meditation, Again and Again
  • Musicians: Lewis Porter (piano), Dan Faulk (saxophones), Ken Wessel (guitar), Harvie S. (bass), Marcus Baylor (drums), Dave Liebman (saxophone)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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