A Fireside Chat with Michael Marcus
AAJ: How does a straight tenor's sound deviate from that of a conventional tenor?
MM: Well, it's an elongated saxophone and it takes a little bit more of a flowing airflow to fill it because the air is going all the way down to the ground. It takes a little bit more time for the sound to come back to your ear. But I've been playing the straight horns for so long that I am used to that way of breathing into a horn. My ear just has adapted to that toneology. There's a new word, toneology. I just like that sound, but also at the same time, Fred, here I am coming up listening to Gene Ammons' tone and Booker Ervin's tone and Eddie Harris' tone and Stan Getz's tone, well, here's a way that I can contribute a new unique tone to the saxophone family. Being a woodwind aficionado, I love that here's a new instrument that has been contributed to the saxophone family for the first time in a couple of hundred years. There has never been one until this was developed in the last ten years. I think I'm really the only person. I don't think Joe now, who also gets a wonderful tone on it, I don't think Joe at this time has been playing it so much. I think right now, I'm one of the only people really playing it with a commitment to it. I'm really interested in going back to the straight soprano now, which also is completely straight. I've always been in touch with all the woodwinds. I've recorded with the bass saxophone and the baritone sax. I've recorded with Sonny Simmons on the C-melody, which is a lovely sound, so I'm committed to all the horns and the woodwinds in the woodwind family.
AAJ: You should play more bass clarinet.
MM: Thank you, that's what a lot of people have been telling me. You heard the version of "Serene" on Live In N.Y. ?
MM: Eric Dolphy has been a major inspiration to me and one of the first more adventurous jazz records that I ever owned, which was one that Sonny was on, Iron Man. But I love the sound of the bass clarinet because it has so many different octave ranges that you can be a part of. I hope to, on my next recording, go back and feature myself more on it.
AAJ: And the future?
MM: I'm working on doing another recording for Soul Note again. I'm going to do a quartet recording with bass and drums and one other horn. I think I might go back and work Joe Bowie again. We actually did a duet last night at the Knitting Factory. He's one I've been collaborating with even longer than Sonny. I met Joe in 1977. We've been collaborating for almost twenty-four years. We have a great duet called Dew-o-logy. We played the Eddie Moore Festival in '96. I think I'm going to do a quartet and use him along with bass and drums. I promise you, Fred, that I'm going to do at least two bass clarinet pieces. I've been working on playing flute now. On the bass clarinet, getting back to what we talked about at the beginning of the interview, I am really into the true tone of the bass clarinet and Dolphy understood that, the true tone of the instrument. I've really worked on trying to get a really clear, good tone. It is unbelievable. You can really get vocal acrobatics happening. I'm really looking forward to doing that again. You're not the first person to have said that. Jaki used to really like my bass clarinet.
AAJ: Then I am in good company.
MM: Hey, Fred, you're a really great writer. Thank you. I am grateful and happy that I have been lucky enough to be involved with the music and meeting so many great jazz musicians and artists.