[Soul Note, www.blacksaint.com]

Whether in his trio, quartet or sharing the bill in The Cosmosamatics, over the last couple of decades reedman Michael Marcus has been a potent force in the world of progressive jazz. These two sessions highlight his more recent accomplishments in two separate scenarios.
With the trio, Marcus seems to be more controlled. "Soulifications" is evidence he has a firm grasp of his horns, though he does tend to go off on tangents from time to time. This is when the playing gets interesting. Sure a slower piece like "News From Sedna" is good in its mood setting quality, but when it comes to overheated blowing, nothing quite matches the whirl-wind sensational huff'n'puff of "Talk-Walk". Through its melodious core, peeps the head of a brutal, mean horn player who wants to brutalize the listener with his machinations on the tenor. This isn't over-blowing in any sense or form. Rather, Marcus is simply extending his hand for you to follow him along on a journey of self-discovery, to a place where horns sound more brisk, where players take chances, where three people sharing the same stage can communicate perfectly without the use of words. Rhythm section is especially fit to follow Marcus along on his quest. Percussionist Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen create a firm wall of semi-rhythmic pulsations. Waits is especially effective as he uses mallets and hi-hats to the max, while Waits' use of electric bass is a welcome change of scenery, which gives the trio a more funk-filled sound. Marcus is a dragon who knows how to breathe the perfect breath of fire into his horns. No matter whether he's extending his technique on the tenor, saxello or clarinet, the sound is unmistakably his and his alone.
Going on ten years strong, The Cosmosamatics is a vehicle for reedmen Sonny Simmons and Michael Marcus. More than half a dozen records later, they release "Magnitudes", a session dating back to 2003. Having heard their previous efforts, I still can't get over how tight the musical interaction is between Simmons and Marcus. It's as if the two were equal parts of the same brain. When Simmons spews out melodic phrases on his alto, Marcus follows suit with something that is equally as lovely on his baritone or clarinet. Sometimes, Marcus will challenge Simmons to play from a different perspective than he's used to playing. Simmons is a brave soul and takes the challenge each and every time. Listen to the way the duo interacts on "Tonal Magnitudes - take 1" - Sonny is swirling in his own little world, while Marcus pursues a more melodic path. All throughout the album the rhythm section of percussionist Jay Rosen and bassist Tarus Mateen make a solid ruckus. Their dissonance is a nice change especially when the two leaders get into more melodic sections. Another great number is "Avant Garde Destruct - take 2", as Marcus and Simmons trade off on some fiery duos, attacking their perceptions as well as whatever preconceived notions a virgin listener may have had about their music. The album ends on another high note, with a bare-boned interpretation of Monk's "'Round About Midnight". Solid effort through and through, which further establishes Michael Marcus as a major player on the jazz scene today.

- Tom Sekowski

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