Twenty-something saxophonist Marcus Strickland is rapidly emerging as the preeminent voice of his generation on the instrument, showing a maturity belying his youth that is the combined result of the excellent tutelage he received in the New School’s Contemporary Jazz Program, and the wealth of experience he’s already gained through his touring with drummers Roy Haynes and Jeff “Tain” Watts. Along with twin brother, drummer E.J., another New School graduate, the horn player is creating an identifiably fresh new sound that is strongly rooted in the richly diverse jazz tradition, but is so personal as to be obviously the modern product of the music’s second century.
Brotherhood is the sophomore effort for Fresh Sound by the quartet (which also features the phenomenal pianist Robert Glasper and talented bassist Brandon Owens) that was heard on the saxophonist’s excellent At Last debut disc. Strickland is proficient on both tenor and soprano, devoting to each of the two instruments a deservedly different approach, and is an equally gifted composer with a developing personal voice.
The opening title track is pleasantly reminiscent of Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds, exhibiting a pleasing fluid folkish melodicism on soprano similarly evident on “Splendor,” another straight horn feature. On tenor he exhibits a robust sound, smoothly hard swinging on the Messengerish “Values and Imperatives” (on which he’s joined by guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt) and more strident on the exotic “Amen” (featuring E. J.’s frame drum and tambourine). Pelt is also heard on “Predator,” where he is effectively paired with leader’s straight horn in an exciting recital propelled E.J.’s aggressive drumming.
Stickland’s legato soprano, the horn which may well be his primary instrument, is particularly moving on his “Epiphany,” where Owens’ arco bass and Glasper’s Fender Rhodes provide a beautiful background and “Saouse,” on which he’s evocative of Yusef Lateef’s exotic lyricism. Eight of the pieces by Marcus and a ninth by E.J. (“The Unsung Hero”) are extremely intelligently crafted, well developed compositions. Suffice it to say, this is music that is well worth hearing and will reward repeated listening with a timely insight into some of the directions that jazz will definitely be moving towards in the future.