Sunday, June 20, 2010
E.J. Strickland Group at Small's
Next time you're in the mood for a night of phenomenal new jazz, check your local jazz calendar to find either the E.J. Strickland Group or Marcus Strickland Trio and go check them out.
Twins Marcus (on soprano & tenor sax) and E.J. (on drums) are phenomenal musical forces. Both are composers as well as players and at Small's on Saturday night E.J.'s group was happening— playing a late night set of cookin' cool jazz originals, plus a steamin' version of Wayne Shorter's ESP.
With Joe Sanders and bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Jaleel Shaw on alto, the band started the set with two of E.J.'s pieces dedicated to jazz drummer legend Elvin Jones. With intricate melodic lines and an underlying pulsing, inspired stickwork by E.J., the pieces set the packed house on fire. But it was a few more tunes into the set, with the ballad "In This Day," that the band really hit a groove. The song is the title track on E.J.'s 2009 CD debut (produced by Ravi Coltrane). On the CD, the track is preceded by and built upon a poem, as E.J. explained (during a long break in which Marcus' soprano broke, and--because Small's is so cool--someone in the audience happened to have a soprano sax for him to borrow). The tune is a real wonder.
Marcus plays with great tone and style on even an unfamiliar horn, swinging through an intelligent and soulful theme, with E.J. tripping around and over and under the beat with melodic stickwork. The tune elicits a feeling of a musical diary of a full urban day--starting slowly at sunrise, coming to live in an daytime rush hour mayhem, then relaxing into a gentle groove of luscious nighttime scenery, and sluicing into a final mood akin to a lullaby.
The set ended with special guest jazz guitarist David Gilmore sitting in on Shorter's ESP, with solos all around and E.J. in particular displaying extensive dynamic range.