Todd Marcus Jazz OrchestraIn The ValleyStricker Street Records

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Internationally celebrated composer and bass clarinetist, Todd Marcus has emerged with a new body of music entitled In the Valley.


Release Date: July 1st, 2022 Radio Add Monday, June 27th

The new album is a sonic exploration of the beauty, history and nuances of Egyptian culture, particularly, the experience of Marcus’ most recent travels to Egypt. Marcus’ father is Egyptian and has been visiting the country since he was a child. As an adult, Marcus has chosen music as a medium to mine and excavate the historical physical and inspiring spiritual and existential beauty of the ancient country.

Marcus’ 2015 album, Blues for Tahrir, featured foundational compositional themes portraying the Arab Spring movement that took place in Egypt in 2011. “It was significant for me to perform shortly after this in Egypt in 2015 and then take my wife for the first time to see my family there and also see many of the ancient sites. And I also got to connect with Egyptian musicians during these trips and again during a 2018 tour there.  These visits were very special and inspired new compositions that became this album.”

In the Valley tends to pronounce more of Marcus’ travels with his family in 2015 as he was able to visit incredible sights including the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt where tombs were created for pharaohs and other nobility beginning in the 16th century B.C. “My wife and went on a multi-day boat trip on the Nile that stopped each day at different ancient sites. One of the highlights is the city of Luxor which includes two major temples on one side of the Nile and then the Valley of the Kings on the other side of the river.  It’s awe inspiring so as I searched for an album title, I felt that In the Valley was significant to conveying how the majority of Egypt – whether in cities or rural areas – center around the Nile river valley.”

Less political than his Blues for Tahrir album, this new collection of songs, which include Horus and Cairo Street Ride, offer a more intimate artistic and compositional expression of what Marcus understood and learned about his relationship to Egypt.

“These compositions and their inspiration are deeply personal and show the continuing evolution of my work as a composer and bass clarinetist.  On top of this, the wonderful musicians in my band do incredible work performing this challenging material.  The result brings me joy and I hope it does the same for you!” writes Marcus in the thoughtful liner notes for the album.

Marcus’ band is an incredible coalition of musician including Greg Tardy on tenor sax, Brent Birckhead on flute & alto sax, Russell Kirk playing alto sax, Alex Norris on trumpet, Alan Ferber’s on trombone, Xavier Davis on piano, Jeff Reed on bass and Eric Kennedy rounding out the band on drums.

The album is aesthetically entrancing, infusing Middle Eastern musical flavors, ethereal and thoughtful changes and sonic storytelling that embodies themes of each song, creating a chapter-like experience and structure. 

For the album’s fourth track, Final Days, Marcus ponders his relationship with his family.  “I wrote this piece in the winter of 2016-2017 during my last visit to the home where I’d grown up in New Jersey and my father had passed away a few months earlier.  I thought of one of the main themes as I was going to bed one night during this visit and thinking about how it would be my last time being there and the end of my family’s time there after so many years.  I later added sections to try to capture the winter wind blowing over snow on the yard and shadows of trees falling on our home of 40 years.”

The other four gorgeous tracks step away from Marcus’ American native roots and take listeners across the world, allowing them to see and feel the sights and sounds of his heritage. It all ties together, though, marking a period in the composer’s life that was rich and immersive in travel and exploratory music. In the Valley is an embodiment of self-discovery along with the touching tale of a part of the world many have never known. After listening to this album, you will know more as the music washes over the senses, guiding the ears and the body on an epic journey, a story only Marcus can tell.


In the Valley

Credits & Acknowledgements

Horus (intro) (0:37)

Horus (8:36)

The Hive (9:47)

Cairo Street Ride (8:00)

Final Days (8:25)

In the Valley (10:01)

Todd Marcus – bass clarinet

Greg Tardy – tenor sax

Brent Birckhead – flute & alto sax

Russell Kirk – alto sax

Alex Norris – trumpet

Alan Ferber – trombone

Xavier Davis – piano

Jeff Reed – bass

Eric Kennedy – drums

Recorded June 17, 2019 at Blue House Productions, Silver Spring, MD

Produced by Todd Marcus

All compositions by Todd Marcus (Dark Voice Music, SESAC)

Todd Marcus endorses clarinets by RZ Woodwind Manufacturing and mouthpieces by Syos

SSR-1004 ℗&© 2022 Stricker Street Records.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Warning: All rights reserved.

TODDMARCUSJAZZ.COM


In the Valley

Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra

Liner notes

Recent years have been important for me musically and socially as I’ve explored the incorporation of Middle Eastern music into jazz. This has stemmed from my own journey to dig deeper into my Egyptian ethnicity (my father was Egyptian) and I think it is an insightful reflection of both my American culture (through jazz) and Egyptian culture (through Middle Eastern music). This effort has been a challenging one though as jazz and Middle Eastern music are constructed very differently. While the harmonies in jazz are a crucial element that define its sound, traditional Middle Eastern melodies typically do not use harmony and focus more on unison themes. So in many ways my efforts to merge these two musics is a good metaphor for me as an individual who continues to explore and integrate his American and Egyptian cultures.

My early efforts to incorporate Middle Eastern music came years ago after I asked my father for samples and he gave me an album by one of the great Egyptian vocalists Abdel Halim Hafez. This had a major impact on me and led to initial compositions merging Middle Eastern music and jazz.  A couple years later, the Arab Spring movement took place in Egypt starting in 2011 and was largely focused in Tahrir Square in Cairo. I closely followed these events as they unfolded both with interest in Egypt’s future as a country and out of concern for my family members that still reside in Egypt in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria. 

As a musician watching Egypt’s Arab Spring movement since 2011, I worked to capture different phases of the movement with multiple compositions.  My resulting album Blues for Tahrir was released in the spring of 2015 and included tour performances in the US and Egypt. 

In 2015 and 2018 I was able to perform some of this music during tours in Egypt.  Between these and additional trips to visit family, I was able to reconnect with the country after my many trips nearly two decades earlier.  These visits fostered inspiration for new compositions that are part of my new album In the Valley.  While not all of these compositions use Middle Eastern harmonic content, they are all influenced by some aspect of Egypt, our culture, and my family.

Horus – Named after the ancient Egyptian deity Horus who has the head of a falcon and body of a man, this composition evokes the sounds of classical Middle Eastern music by using sounds modeled after maqams (Middle Eastern scales).  Though Horus is an ancient deity of the sky, he remains a part of modern Egyptian culture including as the logo of Egypt Airlines.

The Hive – A composition meant to evoke the feel of modern-day Cairo and its frenetic intensity between the people, traffic (that has no lanes or traffic lights), buildings, and boats on the Nile.  To western eyes, a city like Cairo may seem chaotic but there’s an order to the madness.  Just like a bee hive brimming with tons of activity, Cairo has an inner system that is beautiful and amazing.

Cairo Street Ride – This composition aims to capture the streets and chaotic traffic in Cairo today.  Sections of the piece capture the pitch of a car’s tires on the road as it speeds up and slows down, the car engine shifting gears, car horns beeping at each other in a sort of above ground sonar mode, and music actually replicated from an actual cab driver’s radio during my 2015 visit.

Final Days – I wrote this piece in the winter of 2016-2017 during my last visit to the home where I’d grown up in New Jersey and my father had passed away a few months earlier.  I thought of one of the main themes as I was going to bed one night during this visit and thinking about how it would be my last time being there and the end of my family’s time there after so many years.  I later added sections to try to capture the winter wind blowing over snow on the yard and shadows of trees falling on our home of 40 years.

In the Valley – a composition that attempts to capture the grandeur of ancient Egyptian sites like the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Kings.  It also gives a nod to typical music soundtracks commonly used under documentaries about ancient Egypt that strive for a sense of grandeur reflecting the ancient sites.

These compositions and their inspiration are deeply personal and show the continuing evolution of my work as a composer and bass clarinetist.  On top of this, the wonderful musicians in my band do incredible work performing this challenging material.  The result brings me joy and I hope it does the same for you!

Todd Marcus

Baltimore, July 2021

Videos

Upcoming Performances

 

Upcoming Dates

Sat, JUL 2
Virginia MacDonald Quintet with Todd Marcus
Toronto, Canada
Thu, JUL 14
Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra
Baltimore, MD
Fri, JUL 15
Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra – album release
Washington, DC
Wed, AUG 10
Todd Marcus Quintet
Annapolis, MD
Thu, AUG 11
Todd Marcus Quintet
New York, NY
Fri, AUG 12
Todd Marcus Quintet
Washington, DC
Sat, AUG 13
Todd Marcus Quintet
Baltimore, MD