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The Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra in Graffiti Alley
August 22, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm
THIS IS A FREE EVENT. MASKING & SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIRED.
Baltimore bass clarinetist/composer Todd Marcus is one of the few jazz artists worldwide to focus their work primarily on the bass clarinet. Though use of bass clarinet in jazz typically leans heavily towards avant-garde and free-jazz styles, Marcus’ straight-ahead playing has carved out a unique voice for the instrument in modern jazz. His music swings hard with both a fiery and introspective intensity but also maintains a strong lyrical sensibility.
Marcus has annually been voted a Rising Star in Downbeat Magazine’s Annual Critics Poll since 2013 on “clarinet” and “miscellaneous instrument” categories and the New York Times writes, “Mr. Marcus is probably the most inventive bass clarinetist working in straight-ahead jazz today.” JazzTimes magazine adds, “In Marcus’ hands, the bass clarinet is no longer a specialty instrument. Its unique timbral richness becomes incisive, fully capable of forceful expression.”
Self taught in jazz theory and composition, Marcus’ compositions draw largely on straight-ahead jazz and classical influences but over recent years have also increasingly explored the Middle-Eastern sounds from his Egyptian-American heritage.
His album Blues for Tahrir portrayed Egypt’s 2011 revolution and was named one of the top 40 albums of 2015 by JazzTimes. His 2017 suite In the Valley was commissioned by Chamber Music America and also integrated influences from classical Middle Eastern music in his jazz compositions to portray both ancient and modern dynamics of Egypt.
Marcus’s fusion of Middle Eastern music with jazz offer a unique sound within modern jazz and still swings. “I’ve been interested in incorporating Middle Eastern musical influences, as a way to pull something unique from my culture and fuse it with my music.” Marcus explains. “It’s been challenging because jazz and Middle-Eastern music are so different. While jazz uses a lot of rich harmony, Middle-Eastern music tends to be a lot of unison playing or over drones and if you try to add chords, it diminishes the Middle-Eastern feel of the music. So it’s taken a lot of experimenting to find ways to make this fusion of the two musics work.”
Marcus’s work includes regular performances in Baltimore, Washington DC, New York, and Philadelphia as well international performances, clinics, and radio play. He was a featured artist in 2017 Jazz Tales Festival in Egypt, 2015 Cairo Jazz Festival in Egypt, and in 2005 at the 1st World Bass Clarinet Convention in Rotterdam, Holland. He has worked with other jazz artists such as Gary Bartz, Bennie Maupin, Don Byron, Larry Willis, Gary Thomas, Joel Frahm, Tim Warfield, Ralph Peterson, Warren Wolf, Sean Jones, Orrin Evans, Xavier Davis, and George Colligan.
Marcus balances his music career by running Intersection of Change, a nonprofit addressing poverty related issues in his Baltimore neighborhood. The organization runs a community arts program for children & adults, a recovery program for women overcoming drug addiction, an urban farm, and has achieved significant community revitalization by renovating abandoned building and vacant lots.