Winter Jazzfest, New York City, Day 1: January 7, 2011
Saxophonist Marcus Strickland has a lot of experience in the jazz world, and no shortage of influences, but his quartet seemed to be all Strickland, all of the time. The saxophonist's set was a comfortable bag of original compositions that all seemed to flow from the same sourcewhich, while having its merits, provided the one complaint about this quartet: many of the compositions seemed very similar, if only from the way they were arranged in the set list.
Strickland's band was a wisely chosen group. David Bryant was a bluesy, conversational pianist that covered Strickland's compositions, hand-in-glove. The prodigal Ben Williams ate up the bass lines that set up Strickland's compositions, his soloing one of the quartet's highlights, as he proved more than capable of holding his own as an improviser, next to the piano and saxophone. E.J. Strickland's grooving drums were supportive and complimentary of the entire ensemble. There were moments of smart interplay, specifically on the tune "Dawn," where Bryant made perfect echoes of Strickland's melodies and improvisation. Marcus Strickland, himself, was a classy and tasteful player who has crafted a strong sound concept that he never betrayed in his solos. He demonstrated a unique sense of melody, and subservience to "riffing," that managed to avoid sounding clichéd.
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