Mitch Marcus Quintet | The Special

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The Special

by Mitch Marcus Quintet

21st century jazz: adventurous music that swings with all the muscularity and verve of pioneers like Mingus, Monk, and Rollins, but pays tribute to that glorious past by daring to advance the sweet science of improv.
Genre: Jazz: Progressive Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Paisano
9:42 album only
2. Last Mourning
11:39 album only
3. Inditranego
13:31 album only
4. GC
14:50 album only
5. Dave's Castle
5:41 album only
6. Not Then, But Now
14:19 album only
7. The Joey Rubber Special
8:59 album only


Album Notes
The Mitch Marcus Quintet plays 21st century jazz: adventurous music that swings with all the muscularity and verve of pioneers like Mingus, Monk, and Rollins, but pays tribute to that glorious past by daring to advance the sweet science of collective improvisation into the future. The quintet's influences range freely through the last few decades of musical exploration – you can hear everything in it from the luminous harmonies of Ellington and Strayhorn to the on-a-dime turnarounds of Ornette's groups to Zappa's perpetually surprising melodic inventions – but they sound like no one but themselves, the sign of true innovators. These qualities of freshness and boldness shouldn't be as rare as they are; but Marcus and company have happily freed themselves from the deadly reverence for previously-discovered territory that drags down many younger jazz players these days. The Special is music that reawakens the hip listener to the potential of the vast undiscovered terrain ahead.

The album also boasts the singularly warm, organic, and punchy production aesthetic of Stephen Barncard, an underappreciated genius who has specialized in drawing out the full embodiment of his musicians' imaginations for over three decades now. Classic Barncard projects like the Grateful Dead's American Beauty and David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name established new highwater marks for the recording of acoustic guitars and vocals in their day; it's wonderful to hear on The Special how readily Barncard's uncompromising commitment to the natural sounds of well-played instruments in an uncluttered ambience translates to contemporary jazz.

The poet Ezra Pound's challenge to his generation of writers was to always "Make it new." The Mitch Marcus Quintet has taken up that challenge with the perfect balance of control and abandon, which is the very essence of jazz. In a world of play-it-safe hybrids of tired forms and well-intentioned-but-tepid homages to the great ones, Marcus and his colleagues are the real thing. -- Steve Silberman, contributing editor, Wired magazine



to write a review

John Book, Music For America

One hell of a ride, in the name of jazz
21st century jazz? The Mitch Marcus Quintet seem to think they know that it's all about the now, and jazz is very much in the now on their album The Special (Jazzcubed).

What's so special about these guys is their knack to push the envelope by going through journeys on each of the seven songs on their album. Mix up a bit of Medeski, Martin & Wood and Skerik with a Vernon Reid-type intensity and and you have one hell of a ride. The album opens up with "Paisano", which begins with a saxophone passage sounding as if it would fit perfectly on an Ornette Coleman or Phil Woods album, and then the guitar comes out of nowhere, courtesy of Michael Abraham. Even the effect on the guitar sounds out of place, as if it was an audio martian discovering new life. Once it comes in contact with the humans, you hear it react and now the organism of the band is reacting to it like ants in a rice pot. At times it sounds like a grand Charles Mingus composition without the leader yelling at his band. Mitch Marcus and his saxophone eventually make their way into the room as he talks a bit with bassist George Ban-Weiss and drummer Ches Smith. The energy doesn't stop, even half way into the song. "Last Mourning" starts off with repeating sax phrases before you hear distorted heavy guitar riffs (from the mindset of Terry Kath, and then it gets into... a wicked funk! If things may feel too comfortable, there's "Dave's Castle", which glides along in a 10/4 rhythm as if everyone in the world did it that way.

The Special is combining various eras of jazz to create something that just stands out from the rest. It does incorporate other styles, but it's as if one generation of jazz walked in the room to meet another, and realized there's nothing you can do but jam and play. The album is beautifully produced by Stephen Barncard (see David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name... for references), you can truly hear the music, the musicians, and the room they are in. The liner notes state that the album was recorded with the idea of a possible surround sound mix. I fully support a DVD-A with not only a 5.1 mix, but a nice hi-res stereo mix too, so let's hope that will be in the works. Until then, this will be on my "Best Of" list at year's end.


This is one of the best jazz albums to come out in the last several years. The musicians and compositions are superb. The ensemble really takes jazz to the next level! It's a fresh new sound.


love it love it love it!!
This is a great album! keep your eyes out for these guys...they are fantastic both live and on record.