Keith Marks
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Keith Marks

Irvington, New Jersey, United States | INDIE

Irvington, New Jersey, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Funk

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"The Run-Off Groove:"

Keith Marks has taken his masterful musicianship of the flute around the world, and with Foreign Funk (Markei) he demonstrates why he is one of the best flautists around.

For some, the flute has had a good and bad reputation in jazz. It was an instrument one didn't expect to hear, but with people like Herbie Mann and Yusef Lateef bringing it into the mix and developing its own unique voice, the flute became something that more artist wanted to bring into their music and compositions. I'll admit, when the album began with a cover of Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F", I was a bit concerned. It's a pop song, a hit one at that, and at first he played it as is. As the song moved on it was noticeable that Marks was trying to do something more than just a direct cover, otherwise it would be nothing more than smooth jazz fodder. All of a sudden, he steps off of the song while remaining in it, and it showed me that this guy wasn't about to make this album in cruise control. The song goes for 5:09 and about a minute before the end, he starts doing that breathing thing, where he catches his breath in between notes. As I've said before, I've always been sold by that sound, and I don't know why, I guess it's adding a human element as if to say "I'm here" and perhaps this album could be something good.

It was more than something good. His covers are well chosen, and you're able to hear him play at his best in versions of "Summer Breeze" (Seals & Crofts), "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (the late Joe Zawinul track made famous by Cannonball Adderley), "Eleanor Rigby" (The Beatles), and for a mellow approach, "Always" (Atlantic Starr). As an album closer, I wish he had done "Mission: Impossible" in the original 5/4 time signature but instead takes the safe route and does it in 4/4. Had he done it in 5/4, I think it would have been a nice brush off to the naysayers who may find reason to pass this up. There's no reason to pass this up at all, and he also takes time to introduce two original compositions, "Patsy" and the title track. Sample heads take note.

Foreign Funk is available through CDBaby

Reviewed by John Book - JazzReview.com®


"The Jazz Review:"

The Jazz Review:

Flautist Keith Marks has been leading his quartet in a variety of performances at major festivals, colleges and universities, clubs and corporate events for over 30 years. His studies include time with classical flute virtuoso Karl Kraber and music theory with Eric Ewazen at the Juilliard School. Other teachers include Reggie Workman, Michael Carvin and John Hicks. Some of the artists Marks has worked with include Ron Carter and Dave Burrell.

Foreign Funk is a hip trippy collection of fun and funky music. The rhythm is so solidly in the pocket it's obvious Marks is well studied both in terms of intellectual knowledge, how to put his sound together, and in terms of the history of the art with regards to forbearers Grover Washington Jr. and Hank Crawford.

For those who miss the CTI and Kudu sound of the 1970s, it is alive and well on this astonishingly good CD. By following the tenets Creed Taylor incorporated into his best releases -- a mix of pop, jazz standards and original tunes performed by a soloist of unquestionable musical character supported by a top-flight rhythm section -- Marks sets himself apart from the pack with an original sound that pays respect to the tradition. With concrete backing by a topnotch rhythm section, Marks has total freedom to allow the music to go where his muse will take him, and those thoughts soar.

Every cut is a winner with no one track dominating. Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze" has a down-home beans-and-rice vibe that wafts along beautifully. Supported by Pete Levin's Fender Rhodes-ish keyboards and great fills by Lou Volpe's guitar, the pop tune becomes a remarkably good vehicle for Marks' flowing lines. The sports-stadium stands' cheer "Axel F" opens the disc with a ripping funk feel. Donald Nicks' bass pops and jumps at all the right places with such a joyous and infectious ambiance the whole band can't help but be swept along.

Throughout the disc Wally "Gator" Watson's drum set work is as tight and solid as a ballerina's calf muscles. His instincts of knowing when to lay back, as on the Cannonball Adderley associated Joe Zawinul composition "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and when to push forward, as on "Sho' Off," are spot on.

The best moments may be those where you don't expect magic to happen. Jonathan Lewis' pop tune "Always," punctuated by a Volpe's heartfelt solo, is so sweet you don't want it to end, and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" has been rarely handled as well in a jazz vein. Watson's backbeats line up with Nicks' bass lines to perfection. Few artists are deserving of more recognition than Marks; let's hope this disc does it for him.

Tracks: Axel F, Foreign Funk, Sho' Off, Summer Breeze, Patsy, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Always, Eleanor Rigby and Mission Impossible

Reviewed by Thomas Erdmann
Copyright © 2008 JazzReview.com®. All Rights Reserved - JazzReview.com®


Discography

from FOREIGN FUNK (Markei Records)
Axel F
Foreign Funk
Sho' Off
Summer Breeze
Patsy
Mercy Mercy Mercy
Always
Eleanor Rigby
Mission Impossible

from IN IT (Kimu Records)
In It
Ain't Nobody
La La (Means I Love You)
Sahara
Hipsippy Blues
Ooh Child
Boo Boo
You Don't Know What Love Is
African Drums
South African National Anthem, "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"

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Bio

Keith Marks
Biography

Keith Marks was born in the South Bronx, the original source of rap, break-dancing, and much of the hip hop culture. Through his mother, aunts and uncles, he was exposed to gospel music, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and, from his own neighborhood, the rehearsals of Eddie Palmieri and various African and Caribbean musicians. At 14, he studied flute with Eddie Forte. Following graduation from Morris High School and periods at Mannes College of Music and Berklee, he continued private flute studies with Karl Kraber and theory with Eric Ewazen at Julliard. His education continued as a sideman with the society orchestra of Ross Carnegie and the 360 Degree Music Experience, where he played and recorded with jazz giants Beaver Harris, Dave Burrell, Jimmy Garrison and the steel drum virtuoso, Francis Haynes. He also worked at the 109 Gallery in Spanish Harlem with musicians like John Hicks, Patato Valdes, Michael Carvin, and the late Albert Dailey.

Keith started his own quartet in 1974 and, after a series of successful club appearances, began to seek venues where his music could educate, heal and communicate to a broader audience. A perennial favorite on the college circuit, Keith has often graced the main stage at the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) and played return engagements at colleges throughout the East including Howard University, Princeton, Temple, Rutgers, and the Culinary Institutes of America. He has performed in Hawaii for over 35 years, bringing his smooth sound to the many campuses of the University of Hawaii, Kapi’olani Community College, Brigham Young, Hawaii Pacific University, Chaminade University, and more recently a performance and master class at the Punahou School and a promotional performance at Borders bookstore for his CD Foreign Funk. His social conscience has led him through tours of correctional facilities in New York and Pennsylvania, engagements at Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Festival, and countless appearances at hospitals and homeless shelters for Hospital Audiences, Inc. (HAI). His corporate engagements have been sponsored by the New York Times at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Japan Art Association at Kykuit in Tarrytown, and have included a tenth appearance at the African-American Institute and a private party honoring Nelson Mandela at Rockefeller Center.

Keith has recorded two CD’s entitled “In It” for Kent’s Island Music (Kimu Records) and “Foreign Funk” for Markei Records. Accompanying him on “In It” are some of New York’s finest studio musicians, including the rhythm section from the Apollo Theater. The material, reflecting Keith’s broad background, ranges from soul favorites (“Ain’t Nobody”, “Ooh Child”) through Caribbean styles (“Boo Boo”) and jazz (“Hipsippi Blues”) to a funky dance version of the South African national anthem. One of the musicians from the sessions remarked, “Wait ‘til the people hear this! It’s Keith’s time…” On Foreign Funk, Keith has surrounded himself with a team of worthy veterans to put his stamp on popular songs, such as Axel F, Summer Breeze, and Mission Impossible, and introduce three new songs, including Foreign Funk, a funky blend of jazz, R&B and Caribbean. In short, the CD “Foreign Funk” is a toe-tapping, finger-popping universal sound with a spiritual groove.

“My flute is connected directly to my central nervous system,” Keith Marks stated in a recent interview, and over the years, thousands of fans have joyously shared that connection. In the tough, street-wise worlds of R&B and Jazz, Keith has forged a unique and commanding rhythmic voice from a seemingly delicate instrument. He has become, in the words of George Kanzler of the Newark Star Ledger, “an infectiously funky Pied Piper of jazz flute.”