Currently a member of groups led by veteran drummers Roy Haynes and Jeff "Tain" 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 group’s 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 group’s 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 today’s 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, don’t get too busy playing with others to not play with each other.