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Marcus Strickland's musical journey is one of discovery and of searching for an inner enlightenment. Deeply spiritual and profound songwriting separates Marcus from many of his generation. After last year's Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, in which he was one of the three winners, he is back with his latest CD, "Brotherhood", which refers to not only his brother E.J. on drums, but also his view of his fellow man. These new tracks follow on from his last Fresh Sound New Talent release "At Last" but also take his music a step further, with new sounds and ideas coming through all the time.
Her we have a stellar coast of young players: pianist Robert Glasper, who has also released a FSNT CD this year, "Mood", bassist Brandon Owens, E.J. Stricland on drums and special guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, author of last year's stunning "Profile" debut on FSNT. Not to be missed.
"If Marcus Strickland's blossoming artistry were judged on his sound alone, he would still merit the attention of the jazz community. That he is also a thoughtful composer and galvanizing force for a crack quartet of spirited young musicians are all the more reason to watch his every move."
Ken Hohman -All About Jazz
"Currently a member of groups led by veteran drummers Roy Haynes and Jeff Watts, Marcus Strickland is one of the most promising young tenor saxophone voices in jazz. On BROTHERHOOD, his second CD as a leader he returns to the studio with his band of equally promising young musicians, twin brother E.J. on drums, pianist Robert Glasper and bassist Brandon Owens, to perform 9 original compositions. Rising trumpet star Jeremy Pelt guest on 2 of the selections, and according to this writer, the promise first shown on Marcus' debut CD, "AT LAST", continues to be fulfilled.
As it is on AT LAST, this CD's focus is the group¹s sound and the quality of the compositions. Marcus, who wrote 8 of the 9 compositions on BROTHERHOOD, plays soprano sax on 5 of the selections, while Glasper plays electric piano on 4 selections, giving the group¹s sound some added flavor. With the exception of the hard-bop-with-a-few-twists "Values & Imperatives" and "Predator" both of which feature Pelt, and "Excerpt", an uptempo number based on one of Marcus' solos that features some intense trading from Marcus and Glasper, the music has an overall laid back quality that builds in passion as the selections develop. Other favorites include "Splendour", a feature for soprano and electric piano which begins with the rhythm in 4, melody in 3, that segues into a medium fast waltz with a hip ending, the exotic "Amen" featuring E.J. on frame drum and Marcus' Shorterian tenor solo, the beautiful melody of "Saouse", another feature for Marcus' soprano sax, and the relaxed groove of E.J's "The Unsung Hero", fueled by Owens' big toned bass.
Even though the musicians were in their early or mid 20's at the time of the recording this is not a CD of youthful muscle flexing. This is a great example of today¹s modern acoustic jazz, even with some electric piano, it represents a giant step in the evolution of these musicians and this band, and is one of my favorite CDs so far for 2003. My wish is that these musicians, Pelt included, don¹t get too busy playing with others to not play with each other.
Greg Turner -Jazz Review
"Twenty-something saxophonist Marcus Strickland is rapidly emerging as the preeminent voice of his generation on the instrument, showing a maturity belying his youth that is the combined result of theexcellent tutelage he received in the New Schools Contemporary Jazz Program, and the wealth of experience hes already gained through his touring with drummers Roy Haynes and Jeff Tain Watts.
Along with twin brother, drummer E.J., another New School graduate, the horn player is creating an identifiably fresh new sound that is strongly rooted in the richly diverse jazz tradition, but is so personal as to be obviously the modern product of the musics second century. Brotherhood is the sophomore effort for Fresh Sound by the quartet (which also features the phenomenal pianist Robert Glasper and talented bassist Brandon Owens) that was heard on the saxophonists excellent At Last debut disc.
Strickland is proficient on both tenor and soprano, devoting to each of the two instruments a deservedly different approach, and is an equally gifted composer with a developing personal voice. The opening title track is pleasantly reminiscent of Dave Hollands Conference of the Birds, exhibiting a pleasing fluid folkish melodicism on soprano similarly evident on Splendor, another straight horn feature. On tenor he exhibits a robust sound, smoothly hard swinging on the Messengerish Values and Imperatives (on which hes joined by guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt) and more strident on the exotic Amen (featuring E. J.s frame drum and tambourine). Pelt is also heard on Predator where he is effectively paired with leaders straight horn in an exciting recital propelled E.J.s aggressive drumming.
Sticklands legato soprano, the horn which may well be his primary instrument, is particularly moving on his Epiphany, where Owens arco bass and Glaspers Fender Rhodes provide a beautiful background and Saouse, on which hes evocative of Yusef Lateefs exotic lyricism. All eight of the pieces by Marcus and a ninth by E.J. (The Unsung Hero)
are extremely intelligently crafted, well developed compositions. Suffice it to say, this is music that is well worth hearing and will reward repeated listening with a timely insight into some of the directions that jazz will definitely be moving towards in the future."
Phil di Pietro -All About Jazz
"In his sophomore New Sound effort, Marcus Strickland again tugs at the loose threads of the progressive wing of mid-'60s mainstream jazz. He fronts the same quartet as in his debut, which includes his twin brother E.J. Strickland on drums, pianist , and bassist Brandon Owens Robert Glasper. When they get cooking with guest Jeremy Pelt's blistering trumpet on "Values & Imperatives" or "Predator," they show how passionate evocations of the past can facilitate musicians' search for their own voices. The leader displays that voice most effectively on the ballad "Amen." Unfortunately, the impact of several numbers is muted because of instrument choices. Strickland sounds much less distinctive when he wields soprano, as he does on five tracks, than when blowing the larger, more resonant tenor. Glasper plays the once-again fashionable electric piano on a number of tracks, blurring his usually intriguing lines. Just what this superb young pianist can do is evident on "Predator," where he launches the music into a higher orbit. Overall, Brotherhood offers more evidence that the Stricklands are a potent family act in line with the Marsalis clan."
David Dupont -All Music Guide