Michael Marcus

Speakin' Out

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Michael Marcus' solo album impresses with its brevity, talent, and architectural structure. The reed player certainly has the chops; he performs on five distinct horns: the tenor and alto saxophones (each the straight version, as opposed to the conventional curved ones), clarinet, bass clarinet, and saxello. While solo albums rarely succeed fully because of the enormous demands on the listener and the performer, the very talented Marcus often rises above these natural limitations to produce some compelling and valuable work. Marcus' key selling points are his enormous self-discipline and pure tone. His solid technique lacks some of the pioneering innovations developed by some of his peers such as Evan Parker and John Butcher, and Marcus is much more a melodicist, which makes his music more accessible but also diminishes its biting edge. To his credit, he builds and releases tension easily and effectively, as he shows on his well-known composition "Speakin' Out," where his altissimo interlude and restating of the melody create visceral excitement. Sometimes, though, and even on this impressive title piece, he understandably has a little trouble sustaining the high quality of his improvisation for the length of the tune, resulting in a touch of self-indulgent, solipsistic bravado. Fortunately, that is the exception, not the rule, and overall this is a solid contribution to Marcus' discography.

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