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Meet Lucious Crawford

A few years ago, I went to a school concert at my son’s school. Closing out the show was the jazz band. They were fantastic and in the middle of all of it was a ridiculously talented saxophone player. He had the whole auditorium hanging on every note. His name is Lucious Crawford and he recently released his first album, Ballads N’ Blues.

Crawford first started playing instruments when he was three, picking up the violin at a very young age. He then picked up the saxophone at age nine. He played strictly classical with the DC Youth Orchestra Program until he moved to saxophone, which he taught himself. He studied under Denis Malloy, the multi-instrumentalist and composer, until 2020 when he again became self taught and figured out most of the jazz theory he now knows.

Other than the obvious influences on his music (Benny Golson, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and Paul Desmond), he’s been influenced by his hero Stevie Wonder his whole life. “Wonder has fundamentally changed the way I think about harmony within music,” says Crawford. “Not only that, but his method of spreading love, peace and unity through music is something I hope to do one day.”

The album, Ballads N’ Blues, is a fantastic mix of jazz standards leading off with the Lou Donaldson track “Blues Walk”. Lucious’ playing is smooth and classic and he plays off so well with his backing band, stepping back to let them shine throughout.

Crawford’s take on the classic “Lullaby of Birdland” is nothing short of brilliant. It may have been recorded in 2024, but this could have appeared on any jazz standard album from decades ago. 

Ask Crawford who the one musician he’d love to have played with and he’ll tell you it’s saxophonist Horace Silver. “He has a unique and frankly almost insane understanding of the correlation between harmony, melody and dissonance.” He goes on to say that he thinks “he would be the most interesting to play with and I think I would be able to learn from the experience and move with more knowledge.”

“Cry Me A River” is simply stunning. A rework of the American torch song made famous by artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Julie London. Crawford and company sound like jazz veterans and invoke a throwback sound.

This song in particular employs the best advice Crawford ever got - play as if to sing. “A lot of people focus too much on the notes themselves, and from experience I now can say that it’s very true. Rather than thinking of the notes as notes, to think of them as words to poetry was always so much easier to me.”

What’s next for Lucious Crawford? He’s working on another project with his friends, hopefully releasing something late this summer. And while he’s not planning on studying music at college in New York City, he’s sure to find some spots to jump on stage to wow the NYC crowds. 

Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy Ballads N’ Blues. A jazz album worthy of your time from one of the most talented saxophone players I’ve heard in years.


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