True testament to the growing popularity of Dante Lewis in the contemporary urban jazz and jazz/gospel realm, multi-talented Columbia, South Carolina based saxophonist Dante Lewis shared a picture of the artwork for his new album with his fans online – and held a contest asking them for title suggestions for the project. Hands down, the perfect title for his highly anticipated follow-up to his 2010 recording Set The Mood – and the one that grabbed him immediately was No Cover Charge. “It’s very catchy,” he says, “and it’s as if I’m extending an invitation to come here and have a great time that won’t cost you much”. Lewis also used the title for one of the 10 track album’s standout cuts, a funky and infectious, horn section fired tune featuring the blazing guitar of genre star Nick Colionne; Lewis first met Colionne when the two were headlining at the Low Country Jazz Festival in Charleston, SC in the Summer 2014 with various top smooth jazz names, including Brian Simpson, Joey Sommerville and Bob Baldwin. Expanding upon the aesthetic that made Set The Moodan independent hit, Lewis remains committed to the concept of “groove
comes first” and continues to draw sax inspiration from the likes of the late Grover Washington, Jr. and Lewis’ personal hero, jazz/gospel great Kirk Whalum. While last time half the album was comprised of cover songs, No Cover Charge only has two – Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” and After 7’s Babyface-penned hit “Ready Or Not”. The saxophonist, also a popular presence in the church and gospel world who released the gospel jazz album Songs of A Servant in 2011, enjoys doing covers live, but knew that the best way to expand his influence in the genre is securing radio airplay – and that comes with the kind of sparkling originals he’s got on No Cover Charge. Helping him achieve this soulful melodic magic is writer/producer Byron Counts, who also helmed Lewis’ debut. A renowned producer, Counts became a big fan of Lewis and began filling in occasionally on keyboards. Counts, who has worked with, among others, CeCe Peniston, was also the one who convinced Lewis to branch out andbecome a recording artist—a vision he helped Lewis fulfill with the release of Set The Mood. Counts wrote and produced five songs on No Cover Charge. Lewis also wrote and produced tracks with Rod King (who also contributed to his debut album) and Lew Lang, whom Lewis met through SoundCloud. “It’s funny the way songs came to me for this project,” says Lewis. “It was usually in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 a.m.
I’d jump out of bed with a melody in my head and run to the bathroom and record it on my phone just with my voice. When I woke up, it usually still sounded pretty good to me and then I could bring it to the studio and work out the melody with the sax. The real story of No Cover Charge is that my composing has improved a lot and I feel like I’m sharing the real Dante Lewis with the world.” In addition to the Low Country Jazz Festival where he met Nick Colionne, Lewis has performed at other high profile venues, including opening for Jonathan Butler as part of the Charlotte, NC jazz series in 2013, the Cool Jazz Cruise (via a private promoter) and Charlotte’s Bearden Birthday Bash, headlining the event along with rising contemporary jazz stars Elan Trotman and Oli Silk. Closer to home, he has held court these past five years every Friday night at the popular restaurant Travinia’s. The saxophonist has also performed on stage with numerous R&B and contemporary jazz greats, including Boney James, Ashford and Simpson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Will Donato, Paul Jackson Jr, Pieces of a Dream, Angela Winbush, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Lamar Campbell, Daniel D, and Marvin Sapp.
He has performed in Columbia at The Rowan Arts Festival, The Koger Center, Township Auditorium and Midland’s Tech Theatre, in Omaha, Nebraska at Metro Community College and opened a show for Kirk Whalum at Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the gospel side, he performs at churches everywhere from North Carolina and Georgia to Indiana, and performs at the Newburgh Seminary graduation every spring. Though he’s recording more original tunes, Lewis is, more than ever before, embodying his motto “groove comes first”. No Cover Charge kicks off with the soulful urgency, old school finger snap cool and low toned sensuality of the cleverly titled “Breezy Clairaudience”, which he penned with Rod King. The title cut featuring Nick Colionne is followed by a graceful and passionate take on “Saving All My Love For You” and the breezy romantic adventure “Ride”, featuring the wordless vocals and then low toned lead voice of Karen Alexander, head of the Auntie Karen Foundation, which awards scholarships to deserving young students. Lewis also had a hand in composing (with Lew Lang) the dreamy and sensual soprano led “Night Hawk”, which features a dynamic piano solo by Byron Counts. Lewis adds some down home bluesy funk to the mix with “The Funkster”, explores mystical soul on “Ready or Not” and provides an old school, soulful romantic showcase for Kevin Whalum’s lead vocals on “Very Well”. It’s a match that could only happen in the modern age. Lewis is a huge fan of Kirk Whalum and became a fan of Kirk’s brother Kevin, and approached him on Facebook about the possibility of working together. Kevin loved the song and agreed immediately to sing it.