Myron Walden (as), Marcus Strickland (ts), Brandon Owens (b), E.J. Strickland (d)
Bar code: 8427328421294
"Higher Ground" was recorded somewhat off-the-cuff in Barcelona while Walden was on tour with David Weiss' Sextet, this session finds him working an almost impetuous vibe and there's plenty of intellect at work when Walden sculpts the architecture of his solos. The rambunctiousness used in his interactions with this new group - tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Brandon Owens, and drummer E.J. Strickland - is a great way for him to communicate from both the brain and the gut."
"Another younger player that is getting a buzz amongst musicians these days of course is Myron's cohort here, the tenor player Marcus Strickland. Since this record, while under Walden's name, basically amounts to a co-billing of Walden and Strickland as featured soloists, it's appropriate to draw attention to Strickland for a moment. For those familiar with Strickland from either his work with Lonnie Plaxico or his debut recording (also on Fresh Sound) this is quite an interesting occasion to hear him play. It offers the opportunity to hear him in a more pared down, essential setting in which, also in lieu of many fast numbers here, his nuance as a soloist is shown in greater relief. He acquits himself very well in this setting, and it begs the question of him doing a trio record.
Hearing these two play against each other though is really the most fruitful thing of this recording. From the outset, they offer a unique contrast in style- Myron, an often-ecstatic, freely inventive soloist with a pointed tone v. Marcus- the more patient, steady improviser with a rather husky, mellow tone. It is perhaps a superficial comparison, but in some ways the contrast between these soloists on Alto and Tenor reminds of Eric Dolphy playing with John Coltrane. The influence of Trane is certainly apparent in Strickland's playing, in spite of the fact that he takes a more steady approach as a soloist. And it's clear that Walden has listened to some Eric Dolphy in his lifetime, in addition to what are probably healthy doses of Jackie McLean and Ornette Coleman. He has a sound that is far from derivative or merely the sum of its influences though, and this is why many are encouraged by his playing. Unlike a good number of neo-bop players out there, Walden actually does seem to have the mark of an original. This is a revelation that bears worth repeating when many question aloud whether there are any original voices anymore."
Gerard Cox -All About Jazz
"Alto saxophonist Myron Walden's fourth CD as a leader features a high-spirited young quartet, with Marcus Strickland on tenor sax, Brandon Owens on bass, and E.J. Strickland on drums. Once again, Walden showcases original material, seven tunes in all. With no chordal instrument, the predominant sound is that of the leader's raw, passionate alto and Strickland's husky tenor meshing on well-crafted harmonies and ferocious solo exchanges, buoyed by a strong rhythm section that also gets its share of solo space. The extended sax duel on "Slow and Steady" and the simultaneous forays on "When Time Stood Still" (both brooding grooves in three) are among the highlights. "Solid" kicks the album off with deep, in-the-pocket swing; in a particularly alert solo entrance, Walden quotes Strickland's final idea verbatim and takes it onward and upward. The tempo picks up on "Page One" and "Higher Ground," loosely based on Coltrane's "Mr. Day" and the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream," respectively. Walden stretches to his limits on the slow, heavy blues "You Dig," and closes with the dramatic rubato of "High Above the Clouds." An especially gritty offering from one of jazz's most powerful young alto players."
David R. Adler -All Music Guide