We meet Michael Marcus during his recent tour in March through Europe. We talk, among many subjects, about his new band, the Cosmosanatics, and about his new recording sessions.
All About Jazz: It is a couple of years that you work with the Cosmosamatics. With Sonny Simmons is a longer story. May you tell us about the idea behind this band?
Michael Marcus: Well actually Sonny and I have been collaborating for many years together on various musical projects and during one of Sonny's' recordings that I was a side man on - Transcendence on CIMP Records (recorded in 1996 - 7 years to this day almost!), Sonny wrote a tune and called it" Cosmosomatics"-I guess that was the birth of "The Cosmosamatics" - though after some gigs and a couple years of intense practicing daily hear in N.Y.C., we decided to put our energies together and co-lead the band known as THE COSMOSAMATICS, thus using the title to that tune, but ironically we are spelling it a little different than the way it was spelled on that superb recording. Sonny gets credit, as I say on our gigs as "the founding father of the Cosmosamatics"
He had a conception to have a band with this type of sound and I was the right musical comrade for this ensemble. Sonny and I work very well together and have a common telepathic approach to playing with another horn. While blending in tonalities and especially understanding the harmonic movements happening during improvisation, we are also able to compliment each other with spiritual support. Lester Bowie once told me" Marcus, if you want to work in this business, be part of a band under a group name besides your own group, so when your band is not working, you will have another outlet for work and creation". Lester, thanx, I took your advice!
AAJ: You have recorded on Boxholder with James Carter as special guest. What did he bring to the band's music?
MM: The Cosmosamatics currently have two releases on Boxholder Records: Cosmosamatics I & II. There will be a third one in the late fall, also on Boxholder. James and I have worked together over the years in an other co-lead-group founded by Frank Lowe, called "The Saxemble". Besides that group, James and I have practiced many times together over the years and have a common love for the unique and beautiful voices of the woodwind family.
When it came time for our first recording under the name of the Cosmosamatics, I suggested to Sonny that we have James on the recording as a "special guest" on Bass Saxophone. We all agreed it would be a great idea. Listen and you will hear how beautiful his Bass sax soars with spiritual soul with the Cosmosamatics during improvisations and ensemble work voicings.
AAJ: How was the tour through Europe? How did you like public in Germany and Austria?
MM: Our tour through Europe was magnificent! I am playing Baritone sax with this group now and it was great traveling with it in Europe on the trains and all. WE performed in seven countries. We ended up in Milan recording for the great Italian label BlackSaint/SoulNote. Everywhere we went the audiences were very supportive and loved the music with an enormous amount of enthusiasm. Its wonderful to perform to such appreciative audiences, especially in times like now, where there is so much global turmoil. Every where we went, we were treated with respect and warmth. Our message to the European audiences was that we were bringing a message of "Peace and Love" through our music. WE said this great American art form could contribute to the healing needed on this planet.
Jazz musicians need more support from Goverments-grants-Record companies, etc. We need to continue to work - be employed- as William Parker says "In Order To Survive"
AAJ: What are you working at now?
MM: After a creative and productive month tour of Europe with the Cosmosamatics (Sonny Simmons-Michael Marcus-Tarus Mateen-Jay Rosen) including two recordings while we were in Europe, I am back in NYC writing new music for different projects that I am involved with. I am writing a suite for Baritone sax. As you recall, my first professional gigs on the road, was playing Baritone sax with Albert King, Sonny Rhodes and Bobby "Blue" Bland. I am continuing my learning knowledge for writing music augmented by strings and other members of the wood windwind family.
My dream, probably like many horn players, is to record my original music with a string quartet. I have performed with this concept in the past with lovely results in sound and beauty. I currently have two new releases out: a trio Blue Reality on Soul Note Records and a "solo" outing - Speakin' Out - Drimala Records.
AAJ: How do you feel your music is evolving?
MM: Music is an extension of our life experiences along with our dedications in the growth/practice/process of being an artist-jazz musician-an improviser in music-a composer of music in Art. I have entered into these realms and am enjoying the experience immensely!! I now am just starting to feel these realities in evolution in a satisfying way!
AAJ: How you would describe these two recent CDs? The dialog with yourself and the one with a rhythm section?
MM: My new trio recording on Soul Note Blue Reality (with Tarus Mateen-Bass & Jay Rosen-Drums) was fortunately recorded at the end of a European tour. By the time we arrived in Milan, the trio was tight - we developed a spiritual rapport being on the road together, traveling from city to city, doing "one nighters". Tarus Mateen is simply one of the finest contemporary bassists on the scene.
Thanx to Nasheet Waits, I was introduced to this great artist. He has huge ears and an infinite technical flow which contributed to making my new compositions so fresh and shining. Also in this trio is the consummate drummer/percussionist Jay Rosen. Jay can hook up with anyone. He is consistently creative and easy to work with. With Jay, all you have to do is play. I was extremely comfortable with the chemistry of this trio. I performed exclusively on this recording on Straight Alto and Saxello - all my original compositions, except one written by Tarus and myself: "T & M"
As for the solo recording Speakin' Out , I performed on five different woodwinds, expressing my thoughts through my compositions, on that day - wait, it was two separate days!
The challenge in recording a solo record, and it's not a easy thing to do, is of course to keep the listener's interest. I like to keep a groove as I improvise. Call and answer. Refresh and spice the tunes or improvisations with the most important basic ingredient - the blues! I like to tell a story and with the contrast in using different woodwinds, I believe the pallet of sound will let you ride with the sequence of the recording.
Bb clarinet - what a challenge - such a expressive instrument. God bless: John Carter-Jimmy Giuffre-Tony Scott-Dolphy-Alvin Batiste & Rolf Kuhn.
Lastly, I just want to express my gratitude to the people who support my belief that this music is so necessary for this planet EARTH' "well being" Then it will spread through all the extended dimensions of the Universe with its golden light.
The Cosmosamatics II
The Cosmosamatics II