Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1087

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Marcus Anderson: The joys of sax

Marcus Anderson
Marcus Anderson Marcus Anderson: Pizza Express 21/08/15 PHOTO: Matthew Jeffery Marcus Anderson Marcus Anderson and Liv Warfield Marcus Anderson Marcus Anderson: Pizza Express 21/08/15 PHOTO: Matthew Jeffery Marcus Anderson: Pizza Express 21/08/15 PHOTO: Matthew Jeffery Marcus Anderson: Pizza Express 21/08/15 PHOTO: Matthew Jeffery Marcus Anderson: Pizza Express 21/08/15 PHOTO: Matthew Jeffery

Marcus Anderson is keeping busy. Hailing from South Carolina, heâs been on UK shores several times in the last 18 months for at least 3 different projects. Last year saw Marcus collaborate in what will almost certainly go down in history as some of the most important gigs in Princeâs and Marcusâ career. He collaborated with Lianne La Havas on an incredible live cover version of "Lost & Found" which featured Prince on keys and an incredible sax solo from Marcus in an intimate gig in Camdenâs Koko. Just a few days later taking part in an historic gig with Prince at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club in Soho, which saw them playing a special jazzy set covering Bill Withersâ âWho Is He" and "What Is He To Youâ, Stevie Wonderâs âSuperstitionâ and "Purple Rain" with Marcus performing a sax solo in place of that legendary searing guitar solo in front of a small number of lucky celebrities and diehard fans.

Just last month Marcus was in London with Liv Warfield an incredible singer in her own right and also a part of Princeâs entourage, the New Power Generation.

Weâre catching up with him just 2 months after he performed for President Obama alongside Prince and Stevie Wonder ahead of a number of shows this weekend at Londonâs Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, celebrating the release of his new album "The Marcus Anderson Xperience."

Marcus is trying to push the boundaries of modern jazz, refusing to be boxed into just smooth sounds and performances he comes across with a different kind of energy and passion for music and life.

Talking to him about all the travelling heâs been doing, solo, with Prince, Liv Warfield and Judith Hill he reflects on how much he likes the variety âI love it all, doing my solo shows, playing with Prince, Liv or Judith Hillâ¦everything kinda gets broken up because thereâs so many dynamicsâ¦â

âWe just did the UK and the whole of Europe with Liv and that was very fun, it was different. Different from my stuff and different from the purple stuff weâd done before. Different levels of energy and music but it was all great.. the energy and the chemistry changes every moment. Youâve got to try and live in that moment and thatâs why a lot of artists donât want you stuck in your phone during the show. Because if youâre looking at your phone, thatâs a wall, a disconnect. Youâre may miss whats really happening. Just rest your phone on your shoulder or something, youâve got to experience this moment!â

Back in 2013, Marcus was part of an 10-piece horn section put together for a series of 3 special gigs at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland with Prince. During these shows the horn section performed fun set pieces, kinda acting out fight scenes and such whilst keeping the funk moving. For those that remember the "Princeâs Sign âOâ the Times" concert movie it sorta harkened back to that style. Marcus talked about how that came about.

âYeah, thatâs what it kinda reminded me of, it was little bits and pieces of that, which is why I thought it was so cool. Adrian Crutchfield, BK Jackson and myself created a lot of the routines for the horn section. We were, I guess the spearhead for a lot of that stuff because to begin with it was just us dancing until it got to the point that it caught on to the whole horn section and weâre playing and dancing, so it became like bootcamp, how do we move and still make it sound good?

We talked about how that can be a difficult balance to strike, between moving and and putting on a show versus the actual performance of the music.

âSometimes it gets so good, that playing it isnât enough. It jumps and oozes out of your body, ya know, your limbs, your moves. A lot of musicians wonât even do that, they think its about just playing a bunch of notes. But music is spiritual and music is vibrations. Like when vibrations hit waterâ¦water moves a whole lot. Same thing for us. Weâre 80% water, so when you feel the vibrations its making all of that fluid inside of you move and it forces you to move tooâ

Talking about early influences, Marcus talks about his Mum listening to a lot of Otis Redding and his dad playing him jazz or âmusic without wordsâ. Where his parents planted a seed, he says a forest grew, as he discovered music for himself, like Stevie Wonderâs "Songs in the Key of Life" and "Innervisions." Marcus said that it was a dream come true to work with him recently at a private show at the White House with Prince. The first album that Marcus can remember buying for himself was John Mayerâs Room for Squares and renting albums by John Tesh from the local library. Jazz was something that he got into a lot later in college, where his peers introduced him to the vast ocean of jazz and other music.

Talking about composition vs improvisation Marcus describes himself as very visual. Trying to come from a place of authenticity that people can connect to that paints a picture for the listener. To illustrate the point he bursts into singing A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.

âI was born by the river, in a little tent. He was telling a story, and you felt that. I see the river, I see EVERYTHING. When Iâm listening to music, I see movies, I see scenes. So when Iâm writing Iâm taking it first from what i feel and then visualise it.â

Marcus describes the process of working with Prince a little differently. A lot of the times the music has been prepared in advance by Prince and the instruction is to listen and then just play what you feel.

âFor me itâs really cool, at first. If I felt like I messed up, he would say that cool I like it - keep it. Iâd say Iâd really like to do it again and then I recorded again and listen back and it turns out he was right, that first take is always good. Heâs all about the first moment, your first instinct when you heard it. A lot of times we didnât hear a lot of the songs starting off, we may here it like one time and then we just go and just record it. Play what you hear, play what you feel and usually thatâs the first thing thats the best because you donât overthink it. Youâre LISTENING, youâre almost WALKING IN the music.â

Talking about advice for aspiring sax players, Marcus recommends listening to vocalists rather than sax players. Rehearsing with the band today they were talking and he said âif you ainât singing it, it ainât rightâ. Again going back to that story telling theme, Marcus talks about telling a story in a more vocal way as opposed to when you are doing a solo. I found this interesting as I recently read an interview with Amy Winehouse, where she was asked about who had influenced her vocal and she said that she was influenced by jazz players like Coltrane. Marcus talked about the tone of her voice on "Tears Dry on Their Own" being like playing a tenor sax when it goes down to the lower register.

âThe way she sings it and the way it resonates, you know, its almost like she understood how to create that sound from a saxophone to her voice. I just thought it was amazing, it gives me chills. Iâll put that song on repeat and Iâll listen to it all night. She was incredible.â

Talking about the new world of streaming music Marcus sees it as a bittersweet development. On the one hand its great that listeners are able to stream music but he looks forward to a future where artists are paid better through these systems. He sees it as a better, but harder road to travel to setup as an independent and the advantage of the record companies is that they have the machinery in place to deliver that content to the listener.

Is Jazz dead? Marcus Anderson argues that it needs to evolve and innovate. Marcus sites Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Eric Darius and himself as a handful of modern jazz players that are trying to do something different to push the genre forward and put on shows that are relevant to live music fans today.

Marcus Andersonâs new album is out now on all digital music platforms and limited edition physical copies via

Words Marcus Docherty

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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