Strickland Bros: In This Day & Idiosyncrasies
Listening to a new record often demands a cost-benefit analysis from the listener. Will working hard and long at understanding an entire album be rewarded in the end or will it lead to an unlocking of track after underwhelming track? The Strickland brothers produce music that, the more time spent with the songs, the greater the listeners' understanding of music that is complex and full and novel. It's an ideal economic outcome.
E.J. Strickland's In This Day is a joyous album, startling in the way you don't have to work hard forlike finding money in an old winter coat. The first track, "Abandoned Discovery," is full of nervous energy mediated by the leader's disciplined drum playing and his assured brother Marcus on sax. "Find Myself" is an engaging treatment of soft, nuanced lines and throbbing, threatening beats. "Wrong Turn" begins gorgeously, with a pulsating groove and ends triumphantly. It's not difficult to like this album and to know its promise before popping the disc into the player: Ravi Coltrane produced it.
More magic is front and center in Marcus Strickland's album Idiosyncrasies. He articulates influences so clearly in his liner notes that listeners can get a glimpse into each track's genealogy. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts is the inspiration for "Cuspy's Delight;" Thoreau and Emerson for "Into the Wild"; "a very dear and intimate friend" for "Rebirth". His musical comrades and forbearers are also given credit, though the omnivorous range here is more surprising: Bjork, J Dilla and Quasimoto, Jose Gonzalez, Andre 3000. Strickland is obviously no genre purist, but neither is he an indiscriminate aggregator of sounds that work. He is an identifier of rhythmic excellence whether in the form of grooves or beats and his technical masterfulness allows him to bring everything in without the end result being clunky or gimmicky.
The album also stands as a reminder of how outside-the-box thinking of this kind can be intercepted. "The Child" is described as a piece using several instrumental samples, as well as one of a Ghanaian tribe field recording. Those segments were sadly cut out due to "licensing issues." "Middle Man," a bold, loopy, breathless number that rides the sax up and down and is murderously teased by the drums, is "about the entity I cut out by starting my own record label". Good for him and good for us that he did. Creative detours of the kind he's taking should be applauded and encouraged.
Tracks and Personnel
In This Day
Tracks: Abandoned Discovery; Asante(for the tribes of Ghana); Eternal(intro);Eternal; Pedrito's Prelude; New Beginnings; In Faith (In This Day); In This Day; Angular Realms; Find Myself; Wrong Turn; Illusions; Robin (intro); Robin Fly Away.
Personnel: E.J. Strickland: drums; Jaleel Shaw: alto sax; Marcus Strickland: soprano & tenor sax; Luis Perdomo: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass.
Tracks: Cuspy's Delight; Rebirth; Scatterheart; The Child; Middle Man; She's Alive; Portrait of Tracy; Set Free; You've Got It Bad Girl; Time to Send Someone Away.
Personnel: Marcus Strickland: saxophone; Ben Williams: bass; E.J. Strickland: drums.