Michael Marcus: Lotus Symphony (2008)
Michael Marcus is a multi-instrumentalist who has shown mettle on the manzello, the stritch, the saxello, as well as the alto, baritone and soprano saxophones and the clarinet. He has recently been gravitating towards the clarinet and has played solely on the Bb clarinet on Golden Atoms (Soul Note, 2008) and here on Lotus Symphony.
The high mark of this release is the way in which Marcus balances improvisation and composition. This is done through a shifting line-up which gives each tune a character of its own. Marcus' vision directs each path, showing that he is more than capable of taking sideward leaps, yet culminating each composition into a satisfying journey.
Marcus is particularly strong in the company of tenor saxophonist Antoine Roney on "Peace People Theme." Roney is a robust player, one who is always on the go and looking for the new. The composition is loosely structured which gives Marcus and Roney the room to converse and spar after bassist Rahsaan Carter has set up the pulse. Marcus weaves lithe lines in and around the tenor sax, his flex constantly bouncy but also has the ability to use the upper register adding sinew. Roney essays the melody and changes the dynamics with innate power while Taru Alexander's drumming cannot go unnoticed as he drives the beat and fills it with high energy. Put all these elements together and what comes off is a highly entertaining tune.
"Sumatra" has a compelling melody where Marcus drinks deeply from its fount and immerses himself into the sweetness. It would have been easy for Marcus to sustain the feeling but he adds more than a couple of impactful notches with the use of light swing and shifting timbre. His performance not only nails the moment, but enlarges it. The latter attribute can be applied to the album as a whole, making Lotus Symphony a worthwhile listen.
Track Listing: Our Blessings As Always; Seal Rock / Bird Rock; Peace People Theme; Elypsis; Sumatra; Seal Rock - Bird Rock; Lotus Symphony; As Always, Our Blessings.
Personnel: Michael Marcus: Bb clarinet; Antoine Roney: tenor sax (3); John Austria: piano (1,8); Radu ben Judah: bass (1, 2, 5, 7); Rashaan Carter: bass(3, 4); Taru Alexander: drums (1, 3, 5); Jay Rosen: drums (2, 4, 6, 7).