"The Fifties were probably the heyday of the ultimate development of jazz as we still know it. Because it hasn't come a whole lot further since then." The saxophonist Steve Marcus was speaking in the Eighties but he could have made the remark today. Jazz now seems workmanlike rather than inspired.
Marcus was himself one of the great workmen of his time, often providing support for a star name who was just slightly past his best days - Stan Kenton and Woody Herman among them. He came into his own when in 1975 he joined the big band led by the drummer Buddy Rich as one of its main soloists. He stayed with the band beyond Rich's death in 1987 to become its musical director. Rich's had been one of the first big bands to embrace electronic instruments and rock music, and Marcus had been partly responsible and become known for the fusion.
Although he claimed to disdain avant-garde jazz, Marcus led relentlessly progressive bands of his own. In 1963 when he was 22 he had been called into a Stan Kenton orchestra that concentrated on sound textures rather than featured soloists - the recording of the band's Manchester Free Trade Hall concert is a classic. But Marcus wanted to solo, so he left and joined Woody Herman, recording a notable tenor solo on Frank Foster's composition "Tomorrow's Blues Today" in 1967. In 1969 "Count" Marcus formed the Count's Rock Band, which included Herbie Hancock. In 1970 he led a quartet, including Sonny Sharrock, that toured Japan.
For most of the later years he led Buddy Rich tribute bands and until recently had been touring with a quintet called Buddy's Buddies.
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