The word modern is defined as: of, pertaining to, or characteristic of contemporary styles of art, literature, music, etc., that rejects traditionally accepted or sanctioned forms and emphasizes individual experimentation and sensibility. Since graduating from New York's New School University in 2001, Miami-raised soprano and tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland has been at the forefront of emphasizing his individual experimentations and sensibilities in defining and creating the modern jazz of today.
Strickland’s career has been entwined with fellow contemporary player the likes of; Dave Douglas (performed on the Grammy nominated CD Keystone), drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts (Detained at the Blue Note), and was a longtime member of the Roy Haynes group (Haynes CD Fountain of Youth was also nominated for a Grammy). Strickland has two recordings as a leader, At Last (2002), and Brotherhood (2003). Characteristically of the present trend, Strickland has formed his own label, Strick Muzik, to emphasize his musical sensibilities. Twi-Life marks the unveiling of Strick Muzik and is a two disc set that contains two different ensembles, one acoustic and one electric; both individual and highly musical.
Disc one features Strickland's longtime quartet, which consists of Robert Glasper (piano), Vicente Archer (acoustic bass), and his twin brother, E.J. Strickland on drums. Strickland’s playing is strong and full of melodic and rhythmic developments that exemplifies the current modern jazz genre of today. Strickland has a strong foundation in the Wayne Shorter school of thought. However, Strickland definitely has his own sound and direction of musical experimentation and his playing will be enjoyed by any modern jazz listener or even the more traditional mainstream minded listener that enjoys a sense of restless excitement and a few more straight eights than their usual listening choices.
Disc one contains all originally penned compositions with the exception of the first track, "Oriental Folk Song," which is a Wayne Shorter tune. The music on disc one continues in an active comprehensible groove format. Strickland demonstrates his playing ability on soprano and tenor saxophone on the song "The Beast Within Beauty." This song is also a good example of how the ensemble works together to build the musical story line to a climax that make sense and is musically rewarding. "Sesame Street" will give the swing junkies their fix, definitely guaranteed to take the listener on an exciting musical trip that will build the mind not fry it! Pianist, Robert Glasper does a fine job on this cut, excellent rhythmic left hand work that propels his right hand lines and when the two hands work together to form cascading arpeggios, it is really affective.
Disc two features Strickland's new Twi-Life quartet. Strickland is joined by Lage Lund (guitar) and Brad Jones (electric bass), with E.J. Strickland remaining on drums. The resulting personnel changes bring an even greater modern edge to the music. There is an emphasis on funkier and groove oriented material, again, all but one song is penned by Strickland. Strickland's playing remains vibrant in the new contexts and demonstrates his creative direction is ever evolving and causing him to strive to reach his full potential.
Strickland’s playing on both CDs is energetic and musical. His compositions are also fresh and creative and should appeal to a wide jazz fan base. Lund, who won the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition, is very enjoyable. Lund’s solo on "Shift," is full of wide interval's leaps building sixteenths and motif development that fits right in with Strickland’s style and musical concepts. Electric bassist, Brad Jones takes a very inventive solo on "Paradigm." E.J.'s drumming is a constant factor on both CDs and adds to the cohesiveness of both projects as well as being a true delight to listen to.
Strickland’s playing and compositional style is without a doubt shaping the soundscapes of the modern jazz world and is reflective of his generation and the world we live in today. This project is a great opportunity to explore a wide varieties of modern jazz styles, from swing to funk and even some ska! Over all, the project delivers over two hours of great music that is highly recommended.