10 Fingers: Marcus Strickland

by Ella Campbell

Yesterday, after a fun and exciting Dave Holland Big Band concert, a friend and I cruised backstage to find some musicians to pester. Marcus Strickland was kind enough to let us ask him what he’s listening to.

The concert was so much fun to listen to, the band was very fun to watch and the level of communication between them was outstanding. The colors Dave Holland uses in his arrangements are beautiful: flute + soprano + harmon muted trumpets + trombone. trombone + tenor solos, then trombone + tenor combined improvisation. then trombone + alto + flugel combined improvisation and melody. Vibes and marimba instead of piano or guitar. 4 + 3 +3 +3 + 3, then 6 + 6 + 4, then 6 + 4 + 6. slow 7 where the rhythm section doesn’t give you beat one.  I never got my multiplication table down but my addition sure came in handy when I was trying to settle into their phrasing!

1. What was the first album you bought that you couldn’t stop listening to?
“Woo!” He threw his head back. “I think that I was 11 years old, and my dad had just bought me Crazy People Music, Branford. That was ‘91 I believe? And soon after that, it was My Favorite Things, Coltrane. Yeah. Both of those were on rotation the most.”

2. What was the music that was in your household, and that you listened to while growing up?
“Oh. We were very lucky that our dad was a very eclectic music lover. He had Parliament, he had Jimi Hendrix, he had Coltrane, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder…. Everything that you can think of that’s from the ‘70s and late ‘70s, he had that playing on his stereo all the time.”

3. What is your favorite music to dance to?
He laughed. “Well, I guess I’m not really much of a dancer these days. I’m much more of a head-nodder?”
Well… back in the day?
He laughed again, “Okay well maybe back in the day. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop like a lot of MC Hammer and stuff like that, but now hip hop has turned into kind of lounge, like, head-nod music. Less dancing going on to it. But when hip hop was dance music, MC Hammer I guess.” And he kept laughing.

4. What’s your favorite music when you’re just chillin?
“Oh.” He got real serious. “I always put on some J Dilla. I have a Donuts shirt. That’s my boy. J Dilla. I listen to a lot of Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kurt Rosenwinkel. It’s all connected.”

5. What music do you listen to when you need to calm down?
“There’s this one tune, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, ‘Shirk.’ Yeah. That tune always puts me in a nice place.”

6. What tune did you have stuck in your head today?
Water Babies. Wayne Shorter. That always haunts me. Forever. I played it not too long ago with Orrin Evans‘ band.”
[Those links are for Wayne’s recording on his Blue Note recording Super Nova, here are links for his recording with Miles 8 years later on Water Babies.]

7. Who is a young musician we should be looking out for?
“There are so many. They come every day. I think an alto player, he’s one of my favorites, this guy named Godwin Louis. He’s from New York and he’s just incredible. I can’t wait ‘till you hear him. You will hear him.”

8. Have you ever had a moment in a lesson that anyone said anything to you that has really stuck with you, and that you remember often?
“That’s very hard to answer actually. I have the most important thing from an audience member, but not really from a lesson. So after a performance, the most important thing that somebody said to me put things in perspective for me. As a jazz musician, you always have this stigma like, ‘Oh that’s some old music,’ and stuff like that, but I played this performance and this person that never really went to a live jazz show came up to me and they said ‘You know I figured I’d come listen to some nice serene music and then go out to the club afterward, but actually, the music you were playing… I’m good with that. I’m cool. I didn’t even have to go to the club afterwards.’ And that made me realize what my style was, and what the strength of it was. So that was an important thing for me to feel, it stuck with me for a long time. I never forgot it. But in lessons?” He paused, “it’s usually the same stuff, you know, what kind of reed do you use…” We started laughing.

Now I know to delete my reed question 😉

Until next time,
Swing sisters, swing!
– Ella