The Big Takeover: Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra

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Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra – In the Valley (Stricker Street)

June 28, 2022

Composer Todd Marcus has two things that immediately set him apart: he’s one of the few bandleaders to focus on the bass clarinet as his primary instrument, and he draws on his American Egyptian heritage for textures not typically found in the jazz idiom. In the valleythe Baltimore-based musician’s sixth album and second with his eight-track jazz orchestrarevisits the terrain of the 2015s Blues for Tahrir like an audio travelogue about Egypt, although less political and more intimate than this first Orchestral LP. Marcus doesn’t slam Egyptian folk music and jazz together, mind you – the tapestry is much more subtle than that, relying more on blues, swing and hard bop for lead melodies and weaving in threads of Egypt in the framework of. Thus Marcus greets the god “Horus” and leads a tour of the “Cairo Street Ride” with an Egyptian atmosphere around an offbeat jazz. “The Hive” and the elegiac “Final Days” (which changes location from Egypt to the New Jersey home Marcus last visited) are also at the forefront of music, but the strongest push comes from the epic closing title of the album, a tour de force of powerful melodies, scholarly arrangements, cutting solos and an overall air of an unfolding masterpiece. Beautiful and exciting, In the valley features a player and composer at the top of his game.

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Henry R. Wright