James Brandon Lewis
Credit: Ben Pier

On his ANTI- Records debut, Eye of I, James Brandon Lewis chases raw energy and immediate melody. The acclaimed jazz saxophonist, composer, and Howard University graduate currently plays with Max Jaffe drumming and Chris Hoffman on the electric cello, often looking as much like a punk power trio as they do a jazz ensemble. Lewis’ parts are chaotic and dissonant on the punchy title track, but long, thoughtful, and lyrical on his cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” over Hoffman’s fuzzed-out bowing (an underutilized texture in all music, but 44 years after The Raincoats, punk bands especially would do well to take note). Lewis even teamed up with D.C.’s own fusion jammers the Messthetics for the record’s final track, “Fear Not,” and now he’s joining them on tour with an upcoming stop at Black Cat. Like everything else about his Eye of I era, it speaks to his bold approach to reinvention, and his recognition of the fact that when you get down to the gritty, underground roots, it’s a finer line between jazz and post-hardcore than you’d imagine. James Brandon Lewis plays with the Messthetics and Bat Fangs at 8 p.m. on March 18 at the Black Cat. blackcatdc.com. $20.