Blue Modes (From the Underdog)
Blue Modes (From the Underdog) borrows the chord progression from the title track ofthe 1985 recording Black Codes (From the Underground) by Wynton Marsalis. This tune — written by Markus — has phrases suggesting blues and also uses the Phrygian mode to explore the new melody and arrangement. It was recorded by Markus in October 2014 for his recording Second Impression. Markus takes the first solo on the tune. His sound and feel through the solo are characteristic of him on a slower groove — rhythmic nuance with the phrases and responses through thoughtful listening to the band that leads to expressive his solo statements.
Prior to the recording Markus brought Blue Modes to a performance at Andy's Jazz Club for a night lead by Marques Carroll with his Three Trumpets band. Marques is a multi-faceted musician who plays trumpet and acts as leader and soloist for his own groups and other ensembles in the Chicago area. That night he made the decision to add the tune to his his band's repertoire and his since performed it both as a leader with that group and his quintets.
Written in his early twenties, Markus has recorded the tune Tweedle Dee on two separate occasions. It is another piece with Phrygian sounds and a blues undercurrent. It is also an early representation of the compositional style Markus has developed — singable melodic statements, logic in form and progression, an element of surprise and always with roots in the blues. The version here was also picked up by trumpeter Marques Carroll and was arranged expressly for the three trumpets ensemble.
The recorded version of this tune is on the debut release by Markus called It's Cooler by the Lake. The eighth tune composed by Markus while a college student in New Orleans, the version features collaborators Christopher Madsen on tenor saxophone and drummer Isaiah Spencer. Isaiah is an inspirational figure on the Chicago scene as leader, sideman and mentor to many new musicians here. In the spirit of Fred Anderson and the Velvet Lounge, Isaiah frequently leads and hosts musicians for jam sessions within the city.
On this recording of Figure 8, Isaiah answers the horn section with six bar phrases throughout the introduction to the piece. The tune's head has an augmented chord quality processing to a diminished phrase before giving way to a short series of straight ahead chord changes leading to the home chord.
The Neutral Ground
Since contributing to Markus's first recording, drummer Isaiah Spencer has taken a particular liking to The Neutral Ground adding it to his book of tunes and often requesting it on set lists for live performances with Markus. It is written in the style of a songbook standard and was named after the the New Orleans patois for the grassy medians along the streets he traveled when riding from the lakefront to the French Quarter as president of the city.
Two other important contributors on the recorded version are pianist Dennis Luxion on a memorable solo and bassist Jeff Pedraz with his arco statement reminiscent of the great Paul Chambers known widely from the first Miles Davis Quintet.
A Shortstop in Cleveland
The shortstop is Lou Boudreau. A Player manager in the Cleveland Indians in the 1940s. The tune was inspired by many stories Markus' grandmother told about Lou — her cousin and by his kind and honest personality. The musical feel and shuffle of the composition reflect the ease and gait of a player with a relaxed confidence in professionalism and personal character.
The recorded version on the 2015 release of Second Impression has Markus in a muted horn and accompaniment role for the melody sections. The choice to play an accompaniment part and allow other contributing members exemplifies the inclusiveness, trust and collaborative spirit that Markus brings to the recording and live performances he leads. The bluesy saxophone of Brice Winston lifts the group with his inspired phrases as in the trading with guitarist Scott Hesse, a sought after guitarist from Chicago playing with passion. Scott also plays in a group lead by saxophonist Rajiv Halim. Rajiv is from a recent generation of accomplished musicians saturating the city of Chicago playing with fire and a reverence for his community — musical and otherwise. He has chosen "Shortstop" as vehicle for his improvisations on live performances that include his debut of it at the historic club The Jazz Showcase.