Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life ‘Nihil Novi’ CD/DIG (Blue Note) 3/5

marcus-stricklandSax man Marcus Strickland has been making some noise on the US jazz scene for a little while now and I first heard of him when he released his ‘Open Reel’ album back in 2007. He has obviously impressed someone at Blue Note as this is his proper debut release in conjunction with Revive Music.
The success of Robert Glasper still looms large at Blue Note and I am sure they hope to find the next Mr. Glasper. On first glance, this album does have 3 or so tracks with vocals on, does feature Robert Glasper himself on a couple of cuts as well as Robert’s sometime drummer & touring drummer with Erykah Badu – Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave. Plus a majority of the songs are nice and bite sized at under 5 mins a go. Not that those are negative factors but to the trained cynical eye, it could mean something.
My fears were mostly allayed due to the huge talents of Meshell Ndegeocello on the production duties. I wasn’t wrong there because what you have is a modern, hip jazz album with a subtly funk and hip-hop aesthetic (and I do mean ‘subtly’).
For those of you who want a jazz album where instruments are played and not simply played with, then this is your album. For those who like some soulful vocals, then that’s here for you also.

I think the strength of this album is that Marcus has not amassed a huge array of people in the studio. What you get for the most part is a quartet or quintet and the odd guest such as Glasper, Dave or the vocals of Jean Baylor.

Cuts to look out for are the first one ‘Tic Toc’ with its chanting vocals, ‘Alive’ with Ms Baylor on vocal and a lovely saxophone solo from Strickland; ‘Drive’ which is very nice instrumental showing off what the author can do.
‘Celestulude’ is also worthy of a mention – featuring Keyon Harrold on trumpet and Robert Glasper.

The album rounds out with ‘Mirrors’ with Ndegeocello on electric bass. This has a nice African dance feel to it before coming to a halt midway and taking the tempo right down to a slow soulful groove.

A good debut for Blue Note which should earn him some praise.

Sammy Goulbourne