Marcus Strickland (saxophones/compositions),
David Bryant (piano),
Ben Williams (bass) +
E.J. Strickland (drums)
It's all about potency with saxophonist Strickland, whose combination of gravitas and groove often proffers a Joe Lewis punch. The new Triumph of the Heavy finds him adding alto to his arsenal, (he's built his rep on tenor and soprano) and that extra horn will give tonight’s program even more breadth. Although the album’s two discs also document his terrifically agile trio, it'll be a frierce piano foursome that rocks tonight's gig.
Marcus Strickland’s seventh recording Triumph of the Heavy, Vol. 1 & 2 (available on Strick Muzik, September 27, 2011) is a definitive statement from the critically-acclaimed and world renowned saxophonist. This ambitious two-CD set takes the listener on a journey from the studio to the stage alongside a highly-developed Marcus Strickland; one who is very sure of what he’s doing on the saxophones (soprano, alto and tenor), and very comfortable taking risks.
On Volume 1 (laid down at Systems Two in Brooklyn, NY) Strickland records on the alto saxophone (his new P. Mauriat alto) for the first time (on tracks 4, 6, 7, 9, 10), and recorded the band while the music, a whole new set of originals, was still new to the musicians. This half of the recording is the documentation of the birth of his new quartet, featuring David Bryant, who fully embraced Strickland’s percussive writing and approach for the piano in a quartet setting, the third Strickland “brother,” Ben Williams on bass, and twin brother E.J. Strickland on drums. “In a way I added more excitement to the studio process by recording while the music was fresh, while it was close to the beginning of its development and interpretation,” explained Strickland.
In contrast to Volume 1, on Volume 2 the trio displays the incredible results of extended touring together as they stretch and reinvent their repertoire, spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT. The musical conversations and interactions are on an extraordinary level, only possible with time and trust. Strickland explains further, “The biggest development is trust: we trust each other more on this record than on Idiosyncrasies (StrickMuzik, 2009) because that was towards the beginning of the trio. And when trust is at such a height, it allows many spontaneous things to happen. It’s very exciting. Playing with E.J. and Ben gets a performance out of me that’s like no other with anybody else. While playing the track ‘Surreal’, for example, I remember we were very in tune with the groove. It was swinging extremely hard and I did some things on the horn that I didn’t know I could do before the session. And that’s what it’s all about. That feeling is like no other!”
The title, Triumph of the Heavy, grew out of an experience Strickland had with his girlfriend. The saxophonist explains, “once upon a time, some months after I started seeing my girlfriend Dawn, we were in the car listening to my iPod. We’d never listened to her music in the car, so I said to her ‘hey, why don’t you put on your iPod?’ So she does. And her immediate reaction after hearing her music was, ‘You know what? This sounds kind of light compared to the music you listen to.’ And that really stuck with me because often times many things have been extracted from commercial music so it can appeal to the masses. Quite often in the music industry, there’s an entity (a producer, manager or A & R guy) trying to get artists to adulterate their sound so it’s more ‘accessible. After that day in the car I wanted to associate the title of my next recording with weight, because I wanted to express that music with substance, a strong sound and which takes risks can triumph, it can move people. It can, in fact, appeal to a greater audience. But, as demonstrated through my girlfriend’s experience, only if we give it a chance through exposure. So that’s what I call it: Triumph of the Heavy.”
On Triumph of the Heavy Volume 1 & 2, a double CD release, we are hearing one of the most in demand and respected saxophonists/composers on the scene today, playing and composing near the pinnacle of his artistry – “near” because, as this music clearly and strongly indicates, Marcus Strickland is a musician intent on continuously evolving and expanding, technically and creatively.