Marcus Strickland's 'Twi-Life'
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Marcus Strickland's 'Twi-Life'

Brooklyn, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | MAJOR

Brooklyn, NY | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 2006
Band Jazz Soul


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Marcus Strickland debuts 'Drive' video, talks about Jazz, Hip-Hop & why he makes 'Black American Music'."

Saxophonist Marcus Strickland can play the standards with the best of them -- just ask Roy Haynes and Ron Carter. But, especially after his April album Nihil Novi -- produced by multi-hypenate Meshell Ndegeocello -- he's far from just another jazz musician. Drawing from the worlds of hip-hop, R&B, and beyond, Strickland is part of a wave of artists applying the flexibility and openness of jazz to other genres, as is demonstrated here in the live video of Novi track "Drive," premiered exclusively on Billboard below.

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The video features Strickland alongside an all-star band, including drummer Chris Dave (Adele, D'Angelo). "He can play in a bar in the hood, and be just as comfortable as he is playing in Carnegie Hall," says Strickland.

Watch the video below, and read on to learn more about Strickland's thoughts on the ever-entwined worlds of hip-hop and jazz.

What are some of the things that influenced you during the making of this album that people might not expect?

Starting around 2004, I was just so excited about beatmakers: J Dilla, DJ Premier, and Madlib. It was basically all I was listening to at that point -- mainly because before that, people didn't really pay that much attention to the producers. They'd listen to A Tribe Called Quest, and be like, "Wow, Tribe is dope" -- but they didn't really understand why. Now, all people talk about is the producer. Once I discovered that it was J Dilla behind the music of Slum Village and later Tribe stuff, I just went on a rampage, listening to anything I could find by Dilla. He turned into this monster of an inspiration. I really loved Madlib too -- one of my favorite beats of his is "Meat Grinder."

The best thing to do to show your appreciation is just to try to do what they're doing, so I learned a lot about what makes those tracks sound so good. It opened me up to a whole other world of production. It's not really about genres anymore at all, and I think jazz artists in particular have been kind of stifled by the genre name. They think, "Oh 'jazz', I guess I have to swing, or I guess I have to take a 50 minute solo." I started to get tired of that.

Most of my records have traces of this, but this is definitely the strongest statement of all the different components of me as an artist. I had this drive to become proficient on my instrument as a saxophonist, but at the same time I'm over here messing with these beats -- sampling things and turning them around and EQing the hi-hat so it sounds just right in the listener's ear. It's great to finally find a natural place for this to all exist in the same habitat -- that's what this record is about.

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It really feels like jazz is coming full circle -- back into the mainstream, a little, as people start to see more that that's where the roots of so much contemporary music lie.

Yeah, it's incredible -- I love the many connections between hip-hop and jazz. When jazz came on the scene, it wasn't seen as "America's classical music." It was seen as devil's music, and it was played in brothels. Jazz was seen as this lowly thing because it wasn't made by the right demographic for it to be considered art made by geniuses. I think the same thing happened with hip-hop: they both had the same kind of curse at the beginning, but it's inevitable that eventually, it will be revered just as highly as jazz is now.

The thing that's very ironic is how many jazz musicians look down on hip-hop. That's just so turned around. I was born in 1979, so most of the music that surrounded me was hip-hop. A lot of hip-hop musicians, I feel, could have been great jazz musicians if they had instruments in their schools -- but they didn't. So they had to make music from other people's music. A lot of genius comes from needing something, and not having the normal means of attaining it.

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Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

But I revere hip-hop. Some jazz musicians and hip-hop musicians might cringe to hear me say that, to hear me use jazz and hip-hop -- but they're really connected. I played with Ron Carter in Brazil, and I was just asking him about all the samples that have used his bass lines. He was like, "Yeah man, I'm cool with all of them." He has all his paperwork done and everything -- no one's taking anything from him -- and he's cool with the music too.

Yeah, I had that conversation with Herbie Hancock a little -- he's really into Kendrick Lamar's latest record, To Pimp A Butterfly.

I've been in so many conversations with fellow jazz musicians who are like, "Why is everybody so hype about Kendrick's record? It's not even jazz!" Like, first of all, it has more swing on it than most jazz records this year. Second of all, why not? He represents what's around us right now -- to try to exist in a vacuum is the opposite of jazz. Jazz is supposed to be the present time. He's more of a jazz musician than these so-called jazz purists, in that respect.

What are you listening to these days?

The thing that's playing most on my iPhone right now is Anderson .Paak. He's been on the radar for a while. The Internet. KING. Ambrose Akinmusire -- these are all my homies, too. Theo Croker. Victor Gould. Those guys are on smaller labels. Marc Cary.

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Anything I missed?

The thing is, with combining these kinds of music...they were never really separate. They just came out of each other. R&B, soul, hip-hop, jazz, funk, rock -- it all came from the blues. It's from the black American experience. It's for everybody, but that's where it came from. A lot of the naming was not done by us, so it's almost like we're finding out the truth about something that's existed for a long time. That's probably the most profound thing for me. The more I learn about music, the more I find out about my culture and my people.

Do you prefer the term "black American music" to "jazz"?

I mean it's all music to me, at the end of the day -- but yeah, I prefer black American music to jazz because once you say jazz, people have this idea. Like, "Oh, it's gonna be Frank Sinatra tunes." It doesn't really describe what I'm doing -- it's a fuller scope than that. Jazz is part of it, I don't denounce that part -- but it's part of a greater thing. I think to be the most descriptive I can about what I'm doing, I have to call it black American music. - Billboard

"Premiere: Marcus Strickland & Meshell Ndegeocello talk 'Nihil Novi' LP trailer"

Marcus Strickland and Meshell Ndegecello are back behind the boards for an intimate journey into the making of the highly-anticipated Nihil Novi LP, which landed on Friday via Blue Note/REVIVE. The 14-track project fronted by Strickland’s Twi-Life and produced by Ndegeocello is brimming with standouts performed by a who’s who of powerhouse talents including Keyon Harrold, Robert Glasper, Charles Haynes, Mitch Henry, Chris Dave, Masayuki Hirano, Jean Baylor and Pino Palladino. Shot at NYC’s Quad Studios, the clip opens with an explanation of the album title that finds Strickland translating the concept of the project – a healthy nod to his predecessors and muses that also acknowledges the singularity he seeks to achieve with his own work – from Latin to English.

Nihil novi sub sole. Non potest esse nisi unum.
…There is nothing new under the sun. There can be only one.

Marcus Strickland & Meshell Ndegeocello Talk The Finer Points Of His 14-Track 'Nihil Novi' LP In The Official Trailer For The Album, Out Now via Blue Note/REVIVE.

Continuing, Strickland details the chain of events that ultimately prompted Meshell Ndegeocello’s involvement in the project. Discussing their creative differences, respective hopes, collective moments of sonic triumph – the addition of celebrated engineer Bob Power in particular – and overall joy at the release, the pair provides an in-depth primer for the emotionally dense and irrefutably bright gut punch that is the Nihil Novi LP. Check the footage below to view the Nihil Novi LP trailer. Purchase the Nihil Novi LP via iTunes and Amazon. Get more on the project and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life via - Revive Music

"Marcus Strickland: Vision and Execution"

Nihil Novi, the title of saxophonist-composer Marcus Strickland’s latest album, translates from Latin as “nothing new.” But rather than being an indictment of the state of jazz music, that phrase, a biblical reference he absorbed as a boy, refers to Strickland’s philosophy on how good music gets produced: by combining pre-existing elements in new and inspired ways.

“A lot of times, we get so caught up trying to create something new out of the blue. I think nothing really manifests itself that way,” Strickland says. “I think most of the things that we consider novel are really just a composite of three very important ingredients, one of the ingredients being somebody had a vision, the second being that person trying to imagine how that vision relates to the world around them. And the third is, of course, execution. As long as people apply that to anything they’re trying to do, they’re not caught up in trying to come up with something absolutely new; they’re trying to come up with something that’s genuine.”

For his new album, his first for Blue Note/Revive Music after releasing several projects through his own label, Strickland had a genuine combination of ideas in place. A fan of the hip-hop production of J Dilla, Madlib and White Lotus, he created beats of his own and used a set of them as the foundation of a new batch of songs. He asked musician Meshell Ndegeocello to produce the sessions, which feature a rotating cast of players including singer Jean Baylor, pianist and fellow Blue Note artist Robert Glasper and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. The results yielded some heavy, live grooves, with ample room left for both blowing and thoughtful commentary on timely issues.

Raised in Florida and based in New York, Strickland, 37, has worked as a leader of groups of varying sizes, and as a sideman to Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas and Jeff “Tain” Watts, among others. When creating Nihil Novi, he was more concerned with reflecting the world around him than with adhering to a specific style. “For jazz musicians, for musicians, or whatever we call ourselves, I think it’s important to not limit ourselves by the labels that are applied to our art form,” he says. “The art came first, then came the label. That’s a very important thing. I think it’s very liberating to think that way.”

Some jazz musicians still might disparage beat making, but Strickland views it as an art. “It definitely takes a lot of creative juices to make music out of something that’s already made, and also make music that is so short in terms of new material,” he explains. “It keeps on repeating, looping and looping.” As he talks about minutiae, such as the velocity of hi-hat strokes, how the sound of a particular track could use a “dustier” hi-hat sound, or ways to make the beat sound more human, parallels can easily be drawn to an improviser absorbing all the possibilities of a chord progression.

Harrold, who met Strickland in 1999, when they attended the New School, says the saxophonist wanted the musicians to “bring the beats to life,” demonstrating how they can legitimately fit in a jazz context. “We grew up with hip-hop, gospel, jazz—we grew up with everything,” Harrold says. “So it’s never really a contrived event. … [I]t really is part of the vocabulary. It’s just like checking out Trane, Bird, Ornette or Duke Ellington. It’s the same as checking out Timbaland, Kanye, Dilla. Even though it’s a different quote-unquote ‘genre,’ it’s the same building blocks. So it’s not like [we’re saying], ‘We’re going to play hip-hop.’ No. Let’s play music.”

The beats in the opening “Tic Toc” set an aesthetic that continues throughout the album. They’re layered with a live, rubbery bassline (here by Kyle Miles) and spatial horn lines from Strickland (on alto as well as tenor) and Harrold. Ndegeocello and drummer/co-producer Charles Haynes helped Strickland achieve a particular feeling in the rhythm section. “I wanted a very muddy bass sound, just like when J Dilla rubbed the record, recorded that and tuned it to make his bass sound,” he says.

Two tracks add dynamic soul-jazz vocals by Baylor, whom Strickland says has “an incredible timbre. She can make words sound like the most beautiful dove that you ever saw.” Taking a cue from the short interludes that Dilla or White Lotus inserted between complete tracks, Strickland creates some of Nihil Novi’s strongest messages in a small space. His twin brother, E.J. Strickland, expounds in the self-explanatory “Cherish Family.” “Mantra,” featuring Strickland’s bass clarinet and samples as accompaniment, is a brief recording of Harrold speaking frankly about his hometown of Ferguson, Mo., where the 2014 shooting of an unarmed black teenager sparked national outrage. Both tracks last less than two minutes, Strickland explains, to maximize the impact.

The saxophonist believes that artists by nature should feel obligated to incorporate social commentary into their work. “If we have that involved in our art more so than [simply thinking], ‘I’m going to play the crap out of these changes,’” he says, pausing to laugh, “it becomes much more than just music. It becomes a message. And the message is encoded in something that is very enjoyable.” - JazzTimes


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy