03 October 2009

Enthusiasms (26) ~ Marcus Strickland

Many of my favorite jazz musicians are gettng on in years - Billy Bang, Archie Shepp, Paul Motian, Randy Weston, Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, Tomasz Stanko, Charlie Haden, Fred Anderson .... and others like Max Roach or Andrew Hill have passed away in recent years. So I generally am on the lookout for younger people who are interesting and provocative. I recently read this review of a new release by Tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland in The New York Times:
(Strick Muzik)

On “Idiosyncrasies,” the jazz saxophonist Marcus Strickland is in no hurry, and so much the better. Now 30, he’s been moving ahead for 10 years in New York as an absorbent and confident player, rooting around in different styles, sometimes obscuring what his best one might be.

Here, form helps drive style: it’s just saxophone, bass and drums. So Mr. Strickland, on tenor and soprano saxophones, with Ben Williams on bass and his brother E.J. Strickland on drums, has to be bold with his melodies and sparing with his improvising. He must be grounded because a chordal instrument won’t do the grounding for him. (He’s not on the high wire all the way through: he multitracks with clarinets on “The Child.”) He uses five of his own terse songs, as well as others by several kinds of popular musicians: Bjork, Andre 3000, Stevie Wonder, Jaco Pastorius, Oumou Sangare and José González. But he’s not giving himself up to the character of any of these songs. This record, honest and stubborn, stands its ground.

For some reason 2009 has been a big year for saxophone-trio records: this one, along with J. D. Allen’s “Shine!” and Fly’s “Sky & Country,” feel like enough for a new wave. Since Sonny Rollins more or less defined the saxophone-trio format in 1957, it has broadened in all the ways that jazz in general has broadened: rhythmically, structurally and in the oratory and rhetoric of soloing. But the basic attraction remains the same: physical challenge and harmonic austerity. And all three of these albums sound unusually self-possessed, as if they’re vying for place beside the small number of similar landmarks in the 50-year interim, which include “Dark Keys” by Branford Marsalis, “The Window” by Steve Lacy, “Triplicate” by Dave Holland, “The Hill” by David Murray and “State of the Tenor” by Joe Henderson.

Mr. Strickland can be a conventional writer, sounding at times in the past like an averaging-out of the advanced younger New York bandleaders. But these songs are different, and this album, with Mr. Strickland distributing his intensity carefully over a subtle, flexible rhythm section, is of a whole other order. Here and there it carries light echoes — of Mr. Marsalis, of Henderson or John Coltrane — but that’s not a problem. The melodies are unaffected, almost stoic; there’s a kind of nonidiomatic breeze blowing through them. You don’t necessarily hear the slow-and-subtle ballad “Rebirth” or Mr. Strickland’s even slightly slower-and-subtler version of OutKast’s “She’s Alive” and think, that sounds like a jazz song. (Even “Middle Man,” with the hardest swing of the record, doesn’t prompt that feeling.) That’s good. It’s a record you can give to friends who aren’t keeping score with jazz. That’s good too. BEN RATLIFF
Well, today I got Idiosyncrasies in the mail (via the nice indie-music purveyor cdbaby) and it really is quite a good record. And Strickland released the record on his own label (actually shared with his brother, drummer Eric Strickland) Here is a sample:

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Blogger bastinptc said...

Depending on your definition of "provocative," you might want to check out Ken Vandermark.

05 October, 2009 00:40  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Vandermark passes through town periodically and I caught him one time. I thought I'd like him because I do quite like Hamid Drake who has payed with him in the past. The show was good but didn't really do it for me. Can't say why. And that was a while back, so maybe a fresh look is in order!

05 October, 2009 14:09  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

And, did I forget to say, thanks for stopping by?!

05 October, 2009 14:11  
Blogger bastinptc said...

You're quite welcome. I am glad I found your blog, which also led me to the New Photographics blog as well.

I lived in Chicago for a good many years and saw Vandermark many, many times, as that is where he lives. The guy is prolific, so much so that it is hard to keep track of all the projects he is in. The is a club in Chicago called The Empty Bottle, a good venue: rough and dark. Ken played there most Tuesdays. The Johnnie Walker, rocks, didn't hurt either.

I've put Strickland on my wish list.

11 October, 2009 13:25  

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