For his first release as a leader, multi-reed player Michael Marcus presents a program of avant-garde sounds in the tradition of Archie Shepp, John Coltrane, Marion Brown, Cecil Taylor, Charles Mingus, and, most specifically, Ornette Coleman. This strong 1991 debut is the product of Marcus' formative experiences touring behind bluesmen Albert King and Bobby "Blue" Bland, studying with progressive reed legends Sonny Simmons, Ken McIntyre, and John Jenkins, and performing over the course of a decade with leading members of New York's free jazz scene. The Coleman influence is explicit, but not slavish. Marcus -- playing bass clarinet, soprano sax, and stritch -- and his piano-less quintet are at ease in moving from playing that, at least, loosely relates to chord changes to more Coleman-esque improvisations based on rhythm patterns and harmonic reference points. Like Coleman and Eric Dolphy, Marcus smears note definitions, sliding through the tonal spectrum to create a sinewy, vocalized style. Trumpeter Ted Daniel's darting, assertive approach inevitably suggests Don Cherry. Trombonist Joe Bowie performs chiefly on the ensemble sections. Bassist William Parker and drummer Reggie Nicholson prod, probe, and brace Marcus' structures with a wiry pulse. The pair evokes Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins' work with Coleman, but also Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones' Blue Note trio dates with saxophonist Joe Farrell. While the Coleman legacy figures prominently, it is Marcus' complete grounding in free jazz -- and the blues -- that distinguishes Under the Wire as the work of a mature and questing artistic spirit.
AllMusic Review by Jim Todd