Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra

In The Valley
(Stricker Street)

Bass clarinetist Todd Marcus explores his Egyptian heritage during most of the selections on In The Valley, recorded in June 2019. His late father was Egyptian and, as a child, Marcus visited Egypt several times. He returned in more recent times to visit family and in 2015 and 2018, when he performed some of his originals from his previous album, Blues For Tahrir, during tours.

On In The Valley, Marcus contributed all five compositions, four of which blend together Egyptian scales and melodies with Western harmonies and jazz improvising. He utilizes a six-horn nonet for this difficult but successful task.

After pianist Xavier Davis plays a brief introduction, “Horus” (named after an ancient Egyptian deity) sets the standard for the program. The ensemble plays some fast lines that sound very Middle Eastern, Marcus creates a fiery bass clarinet solo and Alex Norris contributes some fluent trumpet over the swinging rhythm section.

Drum breaks, a brief tradeoff of the horns and the return of the speedy theme conclude the piece. “The Hive,” a tribute to modern-day Cairo, is most notable for trombonist Alan Ferber’s solo, which becomes increasingly more passionate the longer he plays.

The most colorful and accessible piece is “Cairo Street Ride,” which depicts the somewhat chaotic but ultimately logical traffic of Cairo. “Final Days,” which was written a few months after Marcus’ father’s death, is quietly emotional and somber.

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