In 2018, jazz musician extraordinaire X got an invite to bring his duo with drummer Jay Rosen to the Austrian venue Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf. And when he arrived, the promoter of their show sprung a novel idea on them: performing their set with fellow reedman Joe McPhee and another drummer. “It was a great concept,” Marcus remembers. “And the chemistry was really good.”
So much so that Marcus wanted to capture the sound of this unusual group—two horns and two percussionists improvising without a bass player or a piano or any other chordal instruments—on record. But with the drummer they played within Austria unavailable to travel, Marcus, Rosen, and McPhee called on their friend and collaborator Warren Smith. And the Blue Reality Quartet was born.
The name of this project has a little history behind it and multiple layers of meaning. 20 years ago, Marcus and Rosen recorded an album called Blue Reality as part of a trio with bassist Tarus Matteen. It was another one of those magical sessions with the right mix of players and energy that Marcus always wanted to revisit. But with Mateen busy working alongside pianist Jason Moran, that reunion has been put on the back burner.
At the same time, Marcus wanted to use the name of this group to acknowledge the time and circumstances in which the album was recorded. As the front cover should tell you – pictures of each player, their faces covered by a mask, the four men met up in a New York studio in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic. So Blue Reality is a nod to a terrible time in our collective history that had an incalculable impact on the music industry and resulted in the deaths of thousands of people worldwide.
“Bluer Than Blue” is a joyous tangle with McPhee and Marcus, playing tenor sax and bass clarinet respectively, spiraling around one other while Smith interjects with pointed hits of the vibes and Rosen dances through it all with a freeform fervor. The rollicking “East Side Dilemma” allows the two horn players and two drummers to square off with dueling solos and interlocked rhythms. And the languid “Warren’s Theme” is a perfect showcase for Smith’s vibes playing, accompanied perfectly by Marcus on bass flute and Rosen’s well-placed percussion jangles and splashes.
Throughout, the quartet switches up instrumentation, allowing them to set different tones for each track and to show off their acumen as players and artists. “It’s like being a painter,” Marcus says. “We just wanted some different colors.”
July 16, 2021 – Full Album
C L A N D E S T I N E L A B E L S E R V I C E S