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 Title:               Lotus Symphony

 By:                  Michael Marcus

 Released in:   2008

 Format:          CD

 Catalog No:    MW 807-2

 Price :             12 EUR


1. As Always, Our Blessings [09:26]

2. Seal Rock - Bird Rock (trio) [06:37]

3. Peace People Theme [06:56]

4. Elypsis [04:40]

5. Sumatra [08:46]

6. Seal Rock - Bird Rock (duet) [03:50]

7. Lotus Symphony [06:12]

8. As Always, Our Blessings (reprise) [01:08]



Michael Marcus - Bb clarinet

Antoine Roney (#3) - tenor sax

John Austria (#1,8) - piano

Radu ben Judah (#1,2,5,7 - bass

Rashaan Carter (#3,4) - bass

Taru Alexander (#1,3,5) - drums

Jay Rosen (#2,4,6,7) - drums




A criminally under-sung multi-instrumentalist, Michael Marcus' collaborations with Ted Daniel, Frank Lowe, and Sonny Simmons over the past two decades have yielded some of the most enduring and adventurous sounds in modern jazz. A soulful stylist on soprano, alto, and baritone saxophone, Marcus is also an advocate of the more esoteric members of the saxophone family, such as the manzello, stritch, and saxello (all originally popularized by Rahsaan Roland Kirk). Lately however, Marcus has abandoned doubling in order to focus solely on the clarinet, recording with it exclusively for the first time on The Magic Door (Not Two, 2006) and most recently on Golden Atoms (Soul Note, 2008). Assisted by a rotating cast of players for his newest venture, Lotus Symphony features Marcus' clarinet in a variety of settings, alternating personnel line-ups from tune to tune. From freewheeling duets to adroitly arranged quartets, Marcus' supple woody tone and nimble phrasing serve as the date's focal point. Where most multi-instrumentalists use the clarinet to provide timbral shading or evocative nostalgia, Marcus explores the instrument's nuanced tonality over a four octave range, revealing an array of emotion and sonic depth. Nowhere is this more prominent than on "As Always, Our Blessings" which opens the album with the regal modal grandeur of mid-period Coltrane. Marcus extracts stirring fragments from a bittersweet melody, soaring over the modulated comping of pianist John Austria, transforming the tune into a timeless meditation that frames bassist Radu ben Judah's sinewy arco solo. Marcus revels in the strident, clarion quality of his instrument; "Seal Rock - Bird Rock (duet)" pits Marcus against drummer Jay Rosen in a vivacious duet—a roiling vortex of keening circuitous cadences and scintillating percussive accents. "Peace People Theme" finds the clarinetist in a rousing dialog with muscular tenor saxophonist Antoine Roney, as bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Taru Alexander set up a fulminating undercurrent for the two horn players to navigate. "Sumatra" offers a dynamic study in contrasts, veering from languid to vigorous. Beginning with an opulent melody and lilting rhythm, the tune undergoes a dramatic transformation at the halfway mark; Judah and Alexander kick the leisurely rhythm into brisk double time, inspiring Marcus to his most fervent playing of the set. Marcus reveals a sentimental side on "Elypsis." Pirouetting effortlessly between the chalumeau and altissimo register, Marcus maintains complete control, unveiling elegant variations on a winsome melody with tasteful restraint and a masterful technique. From the spirited to the soothing, Lotus Symphony offers a diverse and compelling journey. Expanding the conceptual reach of one of the woodwind family's oldest members, Marcus joins the ranks of such visionary jazz clarinetists as Don Byron, John Carter, Jimmy Giuffre, and Perry Robinson. 


(Troy Collins, AllaboutJazz)




Downtown multi-reeds wiz, Michael Marcus, has been concentrating on B-flat clarinet only on his past few discs. This is good thing since Mr. Marcus just gets better and better on his clarinet. Starting with "As Always, Our Blessings", Michael plays exquisitely and spiritually with strong piano, bass and drums around him. Somewhere in between Andy Statman and Ben Goldberg, Michael plays his clarinet most expressively, his solo here is just right. "Seal Rock - Bird Rock" is done as a duo and a trio with the great Jay Rosen (Trio X) on drums. Jay's cymbal playing is especially fine on both versions. Again, Michael's sly clarinet solo is something go behold. Three of these pieces feature a different rhythm team who are also truly fine. On "Peace People Theme", Michael is joined by Antoine Roney on tenor, both men swirl around one another in righteous tandem with a strong solo from Antoine. I dig the delicate sound of "Elypsis" with a long, inspired, playful (soprano sax-like) solo from Michael. The title track, "Lotus Symphony" is another calm yet inspired piece with a most enchanting theme and superb solo from Mr. Marcus. Over the past decade we've seen/heard more folks concentrating on the clarinet. On "Lotus Symphony", we find that Michael Marcus is one of the best clarinetists around. 


(BLG, Downtown Music Gallery)


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