Marcus Strickland: Twi-Life (2006)
Twi-Life, an impressively packaged double album featuring two different bands headed by Marcus Strickland, is the initial release of Strickland's own label, Strick Muzik. The Marcus Strickland quartet plays on disc one, where the reedist is backed by pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Vincente Archer and his brother, E. J. Strickland, on drums.
Starting the disc with Wayne Shorter's "Oriental Folk Song (from the 1964 Blue Note record Night Dreamer) really sets the tone for the rest of the set. The music sounds and feels old, with a bit of modern sheen to update it. Strickland plays both of his horns (tenor and soprano) very well, but I just could not stay interested in the record. Mainstream can mean many things to many people, and the Canadian scene, for instance, has quite a number of vibrant, exciting "mainstream players with a personal voice.
The rest of the quartet also plays well, but it feels forced, especially E. J. Strickland, who, to my sensibilities, is just too busy, and actually overwhelms Glasper at times. After a while, Strickland's incessant cymbal crashes pushed me awayas he did on Myron Walden's This Way (FSNT, 2005), on which, by the way, Vincente Archer also played.
The Twi-Life band of disc two is an entirely different animal, with Lage Lund on guitar, Brad Jones on electric bass and Strickland again taking the drum seat. The rhythms are softer, but nowhere near smooth jazz territory, and Strickland is much less aggressive, since we are not in boiling post bop territory, allowing the music to breathe around his drums instead of having to break through them. Everything feels less congested, more open, and more engaging.
Strickland adopts a rounder tone on the tenor sax, complementing the playing of Lund, who is the real find here. While Lund plays a supporting role on this record and thus cannot be directly compared to such leaders as Samo Salamon and Sebastian Noelle, his guitar playing is quite refreshing and unpredictable. He lends solid rhythmic and harmonic support when he comps, and he spins solo lines that twist and turn as they build. Lund is a player to watch for in a leader role.
Given the two different sides of Marcus Strickland presented on Twi-Life, there should surely be something here for everyone to sink their ears into.
Track Listing: CD1: Oriental Folk Song; The Beast Within Beauty; Thump & Cadence; An Oasis of Bronze; Sesame Street; Smoothie; Brooklyn Street Fair; The Whole Page. CD2: Majesty; Shift; Haile Selassie; In Faith; The Nottage Cottage; Moon Ruler; Glitch; Paradigm; Twi-Life.
Personnel: Marcus Strickland: soprano and tenor saxophones; EJ Strickland: drums; Robert Glasper: piano (CD1); Vicente Archer: bass (CD1); Lage Lund: guitar (CD2); Brad Jones: electric bass (CD2).