By the time saxophonist/flutist Mark Lewis got his band into the studio to record Naked Animals, he’d already established himself as a vitally creative artist via a series of acclaimed albums on his label Audio Daddio, which featured recordings by a variety of U.S. and European artists. What set the 1990 session apart is that it marked the first time he’d documented his Dutch quartet, an ensemble with an avid following across Holland, and particularly Rotterdam where he’d been largely based for more than a decade.
The Tacoma-born Lewis reintroduced himself to U.S. audiences with 2017’s The New York Session, a critically hailed album featuring piano great George Cables, veteran bassist Essiet Essiet, and the supremely swinging drummer Victor Lewis. Focusing on his rhythmically charged original compositions, Naked Animals is a very different kind of recording. With Lewis on alto sax and flute, pianist Willem Kühne, drummer Frans van Grinsven, and James Long on bass, the 1990 project came near the end of the working band’s long association. Put on the back burner when Lewis signed to a U.S. label, the album offers a startlingly beautiful glimpse into a working band with an expansive post-bop vision.
“I record really fast and don’t do a lot of takes,” Lewis says. “Jazz should be perfect in its intentions, but not in its execution. We had at least 100 songs in our book and after a while we got so tight we’d do big concerts and I’d pull out something that they’d never seen before. Just to keep things fresh.”