Michael Marcus Trio: Ithem (2004)
A Bay Area native and veteran of Sonny Simmons and Jaki Byard, Michael Marcus recorded these trios in 1993 with bassist William Parker and the late great drummer Dennis Charles. The first three tracks were recorded live at the Old Knitting Factory and the remaining two in the studio.
The power listening trio opens with “Ithem, tk 1." After an Ornettey intro, Parker flies out the gate and never looks back. Soon Charles joins, riding the cymbal, while smacking the drums offbeat. Marcus finds volumes of stories to tell with an athletic tone and patience in the telling. Parker plays a capella with techniques informed by his zintir work. Charles begins a solo melodically before polyrhythms dominate. Marcus plays with yearning over Parker’s bow and Charles’ brushed cymbals on “Under the Wire.” Again solo, Parker gets slippery with the bow. Marcus flutters down, Charles accenting sticks on cymbals. The alto cuts loose and Marcus goes for truth with dramatic drums throbbing.
Luxuriating in his fine tone, Marcus initiates “Secret Oceans,” Parker and Charles joining tight on rhythm. The alto snakes through a labyrinth of variations, Parker engaging him throughout. Marcus switches to bass clarinet for “Here At!” Parker and Charles set up an exotic base, and Marcus wails an impassioned song. The animated bass clarinet draws tension from Parker’s drone. Like the previous take, “Ithem, tk 2” has Parker running for his life and Marcus ecstatic on alto. Charles maintains some patterns from the first take, also making up many more.
With Ithem, Ayler Records does its part to retrieve deserving free records from obscurity. With each player now part of a larger legacy, this recording has history and newborn freshness.
Track Listing: Ithem, tk 1; Under the Wire; Secret Oceans; Here At!; Ithem tk2.
Personnel: Michael Marcus, alto sax, bass clarinet; William Parker, bass; Dennis Charles, drums.