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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Michael Marcus - Lotus Symphony (Not Two, 2008) ***½

I have always liked Michael Marcus' knack for lyrical improvisation, and on this album he does it again, but now restricting himself to the Bb clarinet. The album is a mixture of line-ups and styles, starting and ending with the beautiful "As Always, Our Blessing", a tune which could have been composed by Coltrane, magnificent in its expansiveness and paced development. The musicians are Antoine Roney on tenor sax, John Austria on piano, Radu ben Judah on bass, Rashaan Carter on bass, Taru Alexander on drums, and Jay Rosen on drums, and this, in various configurations. The second track is more boppish trio, with an angular theme. The third is a quartet with Antoine Roney on sax, a great theme, but the volume between sax and clarinet is unfortunately not quite right. "Elipsis", is a slower ballad-like tune, nice but nothing more. Apart from the title track, two other tracks are great : "Sumatra", and "Lotus Symphony", both trios, and built around long and beautiful themes, and it is on those pieces that Marcus is really at this best, expanding on the theme, improvising freely and without boundaries, yet still focused and in line with the theme. Starting and ending the record with the same tune, is a nice trick to give an impression of unity, yet it's unfornutately absent, not only because of the variety of line-ups, but also of the compositions and sound quality. Yet there are great moments.

© stef