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Todd Marcus: Trio+ (Stricker Street)

A review of the fifth album from the bass clarinetist

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Todd Marcus, Trio+
The cover of Trio+ by Todd Marcus

Todd Marcus, one of the few bass clarinetists in modern jazz, has almost made a point of understating his skill as a player throughout his recording career. His first albums aimed to incorporate his ethnic heritage into his art, wedding Egyptian music theory with big-band jazz. On These Streets, his 2018 release, was an immersive, moving reflection of his work as an activist, organizer, and resident of West Baltimore. Marcus’ instrument was more his group than his horn on these records, as he used the ensembles to weave rich narratives through the arrangements.

However, the bass clarinet is front and center on Trio+, a strong postbop showcase for Marcus’ unquestionable command of the instrument in a small-combo setting. His ambition is announced swiftly and directly across the album’s four opening tracks, which make up the “Something Suite.” Propelled by the engine of Ameen Saleem’s galloping bass and Ralph Peterson’s piston-like attack on the drums, Marcus delves into his penchant for “sheets of sound”-style soloing. Visualizing the dizzying dance of his fingers across the valves as notes spill out will leave you winded and arthritic by proxy.

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Jackson Sinnenberg

Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He serves as an editor for Capitalbop, a non-profit that focuses on presenting live jazz and covering the D.C. jazz scene through grassroots journalism. He’s covered the city’s local jazz scene since 2015 but has covered national and international jazz, rock and pop artists for a variety of publications. He will gladly argue why Kendrick Lamar is a jazz musician. Follow him @sinnenbergmusic.