Phoenix (Whirlwind Recordings)

Lakecia Benjamin

Released January 27, 2023

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2024

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2023

Jazzwise Top 10 Albums of the Year 2023

JAZZ.FM91 Best Jazz Albums of 2023




‘Phoenix’ is the highly-anticipated, expansive new album in the musical evolution of alto saxophonist and composer Lakecia Benjamin, due out January 27, 2023 via Whirlwind Recordings. The album was produced by the multi-Grammy-award winning Terri Lyne Carrington and features a star-studded line up of specially curated guests Dianne Reeves, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis and Wayne Shorter. The band is composed of trumpeter Josh Evans, Victor Gould on keys, Orange Rodriguez on synths, drummer Enoch (EJ) Strickland, percussionist Nêgah Santos and bassist Ivan Taylor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr, Rhodes organist Anastassiya Petrova and bassist Jahmal Nichols all join for one track each.
“When we came out from the pandemic we weren’t allowed to be broken,” Lakecia shares while describing the deeply personal outing Phoenix became for her. The record presents mostly original compositions written throughout the seasons: “we had to be these beautiful absorbent birds and get to work. I wanted to highlight each month of that.” By design, the compositions on ‘Phoenix’ are written around the skillsets of her triumphant guests, a handful of women in jazz who have had prominent influences on Lakecia.

Sirens herald the start of the record on ‘Amerikkan Skin’, featuring American political activist Angela Davis as a guest. ‘New Mornings’ was composed at the height of the summer: “it was burning up in New York and I felt I was going through the same day over and over again,” says Lakecia, “but the only thing that reverberated or changed was the level of sadness I kept getting every time I woke up. I’d spend my time dreaming of different mornings in new times.”
Title track ‘Phoenix’ features Georgia Anne Muldrow on synths. “For me, that was the period when I decided I had to find a new way. I figured I start with this track, trying to highlight that we’re coming out of this dark period and get on the dance floor,” Lakecia adds. The track ‘Mercy’ features vocal megastar Dianne Reeves, who digs deep into the song’s message of kindness with her signature soothing vocal quality. Lakecia highlights pianist Patrice Rushen’s multi-genre aptitude with ‘Jubilation’, honoring an artist who teaches other women how to rise up to an immense degree.

Tracks six and seven flow as a unit; the first part is a Haiku by poet Sonia Sanchez and the Benjamin-original ‘Blast’ features Sanchez again. ‘Moods’ has a more traditional jazz and harder-hitting vibe, while ‘Rebirth’ was composed as a personal tribute to Lakecia’s family who experienced several losses: “this is on the slower side, but it picks up at the end and has a more joyous feel.” ‘Trane’, an ode to Alice and John Coltrane, also nods to Lakecia’s previous project. ‘Basquiat’ is a suite inspired by the neo-expressionist artist and is preceded by a message from jazz giant Wayne Shorter. “He’s the ultimate guru,” says Lakecia, “it’s almost like he’s looking into your soul and only souls matter here.”
“I wanted people to not only feel what I’m saying through the songs and my saxophone, but to also verbally hear it so there’s no discrepancy on where we’re coming from,” Lakecia shares, explaining the concept behind her album which is imbued with spoken word. And there is no question that Phoenix marks yet another stratospheric rise for an artist who resolutely knows what she wants to say and how to say it, all the while honoring her mentors and the traditions that have come before her.

Track Listing:

1. Amerikkan Skin 9:01

Grammy Nominee for Best Instrumental Composition 2024

2. New Mornings 5:00

3. Phoenix 6:33

4. Mercy 5:58

5. Jubilation 6:33

6. Peace Is A Haiku Song 3:28

7. Blast 4:50

8. Moods 4:57

9. Rebirth 4:23

10. Trane 6:41

11. Supernova 1:25

12. Basquiat 5:41

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Performance 2024

13. Amerikkan Skin (Radio Edit) 5:50


Lakecia Benjamin: saxophone/vocals/synths/sound design
Victor Gould: piano, organ, rhodes
EJ Strickland: drums
Ivan Taylor: double bass, electric bass
Josh Evans: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 8, 12, 13)
Wallace Roney Jr: trumpet (7)
Anastassiya Petrova: rhodes, organ (5)
Orange Rodriguez: synths (1, 3)
Nêgah Santos: percussion (5)
Jahmal Nichols: double bass (2)
Josée Klein, Laura Epling: violin (4)
Nicole Neely: viola (4)
Cremaine Booker: cello (4)

Special guests
Georgia Anne Muldrow: vocals/synths (3)
Patrice Rushen: piano (5)
Dianne Reeves: vocals (4)
Sonia Sanchez: poet (6, 7)
Angela Davis: spoken word (1, 13)
Wayne Shorter: spoken word (11)

Recorded June 2 – 3, 2022, at The Bunker Studios, NY, & Sear Sound Studio B, NY String

Engineer: Joshua Keith
Tracking Engineer: Nolan Thies
Editing Engineers: Dean Albak, Jeremy Loucas
Mixing Engineer: Jeremy Loucas Mastering Engineer – Dan Millice
Produced by Terri Lynn Carrington, Lakecia Benjamin
Executive Producer: Michael Janisch
Photography Elizabeth
Lietzell Design: Rebecca Meek
Make Up Artist: Miyako Johnson 


Star of last year’s orchestral tribute to Charles Mingus at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Lakecia Benjamin has proved herself capable of fronting a large-scale project with a historical theme, but her own albums have not been short on ambition. Her previous offering, Pursuance: The Coltranes, inspired by the innovative husband and wife team, is followed by this new work that deals with rebirth and renewal, encapsulated by the myth of the phoenix, though the set is inflected towards contemporary realities both for African-Americans and a post-pandemic world.

Rhythmically, Benjamin’s songs move coherently from heavy, funky backbeats to zestful swing to Dolphy-like avant-blues, and her punchy, high-energy attack and growling, rasping tone lend authority and momentum to the material, which is helmed by a fine rhythm section.

That said, it is the input of a number of legendary black women from times past and present – activist-academic Angela Davis, poet Sonia Sanchez, keyboardist Patrice Rushen, vocalist Dianne Reeves and producer-singer Georgia Anne Muldrow – that gives the work a real sense of character. And the appearance of Wayne Shorter against type – reciting a spoken word interlude rather than playing saxophone– is an interesting curveball that lands on the right side of thought-provoking. Since her 2012 debut Retox Benjamin has been an impressive soloist with the chops to hold the biggest of stages, but, as this accomplished release proves, she has the equally important ability to make records in which socio-political content sits very well with musical nouse. Like the magical creature that is born of the ashes, Benjamin is on metaphorical fire.

Kevin Le Gendre (Jazzwise)