July 20, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Todd Marcus: All good music is about taking your listener on a journey: Video

Jazz interview with jazz bass clarinetist Todd Marcus. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Todd Marcus: – I grew up in New Jersey and was engaged in music by my mother who took my brother and me first to piano lessons, then let us pick a horn in 4th grade.  From then on I was always playing, whether in the school band or at church.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the bass clarinet?

TM: – It was from listening to the Eric Dolphy record Outward Bound.  I heard Dolphy use the bass clarinet and felt it offered a greater range of possibilities than the regular clarinet which I’d been playing up till then.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the bass clarinet?

TM: – I’m pretty much self taught with jazz.  I didn’t go to college for music but learned the old school way by listening to records, reading about musicians, and figuring out theory and harmony at the piano.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TM: – I realized early on after switching to bass clarinet that it’s a pretty quiet instrument compared to saxophone.  So I had to work hard to develop more volume and projection.  For me it was a mix of lots of long tones, harder reeds, really open mouthpieces, and a bit of mad scientist exploration by creating my own baffles for my mouthpiece.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TM: – My routine has evolved over the years but I always felt I served myself well by making sure I worked my ideas through all keys.  In my earlier years, I would practice rhythm changes and blues with each month focusing on a different key.  Also working with a metronome has been important.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

TM: – I really like rich harmonies and have created a lot of my own over the years that are filed in a notebook.  Some became staples of my playing, others never seemed to permanently seep their way in past practicing.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

TM: – It is.  It’s just a particularly tough one.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

TM: – Expose them to the music early on. That has the biggest impact in creating interest to support the music once people are adults.  I still remember going on field trips in elementary school to places like a theater to see a play and a jazz concert at school. I remember being intrigued by both and think that kind of exposure is really important in cultivating awareness and engagement later on in life. Now it’s tough because we’ve lost a lot of that exposure in our school systems.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

TM: – Trying to keep playing as much as possible, releasing my new quintet album On These Streets in spring 2018, and recording new music I just composed for my jazz orchestra through a commission by Chamber Music America.  I also want to work with other musicians as a sideman more.  As a bass clarinetist, there aren’t as many calls for sideman work so I tend to work mostly as a leader.  But I love playing as a sideman with others and getting to see how they are approaching their music.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

TM: – Of course. All good music is about taking your listener on a journey.  And if you do that musically, you can succeed in really engaging your audience and creating a special experience.  And if the music isn’t very musical, then it’s going to be boring for the audience.  I think too often jazz musicians aren’t intentional enough about shaping a well-balanced set with good contrasts between tunes so that it achieves that musical journey and pulls in even non jazz listeners.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

TM: – I’ve been listening a lot to the files from my own recent recording session lately to get my new record On These Streets ready.  Some other albums I’ve had on lately have been by the reed player Ben Kono, the clarinetists Darryl Harper and Don Byron, bassist Linda Oh, and I’ve had a Jack DeJohnette Special Addition record on while doing this interview. I’ve also been rewatching a great live concert on YouTube of Roy Haynes, Kenny Garrett, Nicholas Payton, Christian McBride, and Dave Kikoski – it’s just them playing standards but it keeps reminding me of why I fell in love with this music.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

TM: – An old Selmer bass clarinet with a bell made by Lois Rossi, mouthpiece by Bill Street with my own baffle I created, a Peter Spriggs ligature, and Fibracell reeds.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Verified by MonsterInsights