Hey Jazz Lovers!
On Sunday afternoon we were treated to the amazing music of Ben Williams who had as his saxophone player, Marcus Strickland. I immediately left there and headed over to The Black Box Theater to then listen to Marcus as the front man for his own concert.
Marcus Strickland is one of the most accomplished saxophonists in the industry today, playing soprano, alto and tenor sax. The great Miles Davis once said, “The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas?” If these are indeed the canonical essentials of a jazz artist at his best, then saxophonist Marcus Strickland is one of today’s truest exemplars” He was voted Downbeat Magazine’s Critic’s Poll ‘Rising Star on Tenor Saxophone’ [2008 & 2010], and JazzTimes Magazine named him ‘Best New Artist’  – all 3 by readers’ poll -indicated he is a community favorite. He also placed 3rd in the 2002 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.
I watched him as he prepared to go onstage, saxophones in hand, stands, and music. No effects, handlers, or entourage. Just a man and his music. He was also very warm and friendly, joking about all of his “stuff” that he had to carry. The really cool thing about these concerts being on the same day, is that I got to see both of them [Marcus and Ben] as front men and accompaniment to the others gift. Chronologically they have been working together for years, but even with that, there is a harmonious union between the 2 of them that lends to their execution of their music. It’s that brotherhood that made each concert distinctly unique alongside the difference in their catalogs.
The music? WOW!. Marcus was accompanied by David Bryan, Keys/Piano, Ben Williams, Double-bass, and his brother, E.J. Strickland on the drums. Every composition executed, whether recognized as a standard favorite or from his new project has us in a cacophony of expressions.
What I both love and am intrigued about with the jazz audience, is that we are for the most part, very silent. I love that. There is a total absorption of the music, every nuance. I look around and see eyes closed, feet slowly tapping. Fingers of musicians in the crowd move in harmony with those of the instruments they play, while directors such as myself move ours to the time signature. The intrigue of it comes in because more often than not, I have to contain myself! lol. I mean, how can you be silent? It is INCREDIBLE music! There are some artists, like Trumpeter Sean Jones, who encourage the crowd to be free to dance, clap, yell, cheer, etc. We are a refined class in this genre. Full respect and appreciation is given to those who play.
Like I have said before, I am not one to just listen to Saxophone Jazz. Many play, but few master. It’s an instrument which if not skilled at, can come across stilted and choppy. But Marcus is a Master. His etymology was still being spoken of 2 days later by those who had been in attendance as fluid, crisp, full of energy and highly charged with passion. I concur on all points!
This was really a great night of music, and laughter, and we all left with a piece of him [he completely sold out of his new CD “Truimph of The Heavy: Volume I & II]. I know that had it been video’d, a few of those whoops and whistles belong to yours truly!
The Tri-C Jazzfest is only halfway over. YOU CAN STILL ATTEND! Be sure to check out the remaining concert lineup, and treat your soul to some good musical medicine. You will NOT be disappointed!
See You There!
In Rhythm and Blue
2012 Tri-C Jazzfest