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Marcus Strickland Twi-Life Group: Open Reel Deck

The jazz-funk of Marcus Strickland’s crack Twi-Life Group is a surprise from the saxophonist who, with twin brother and drummer E.J., was once the Marsalises’ heir apparent. Indeed, Open Reel Deck plants the group firmly onto a continuum with hip-hop. Both funk and hip-hop are for dancing and partying, but this disc (recorded live at Jazz Standard) targets the intellect even as it makes the head bob. It’s fun and engaging, though slightly ham-handed.

Open Reel Deck celebrates both Strickland’s old reel-to-reel stereo and the music he first heard on it. The latter homage features a rich, laid-back groove that might pass for lounge-jazz if not for E.J. Strickland’s relentless beats. Bassist Carlos Henderson and guitarist Mike Moreno seem intent on absorbing the drums’ impact-on “Freaky Deaky,” Moreno creates a cushion of sound that recalls U2’s the Edge-but E.J. wins out, helped by the powerful accents in his brother’s tenor solos. Also dominant is the booming voice of Malachi, delivering spoken-word poetry on five tracks. Strickland insists that Malachi’s style isn’t rap, but it’s hard not to hear the hip-hop underground in his cadences and relationship to the music.

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