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Marcus Elliot Quartet latest album draws inspiration from Detroit

May 7, 2015

From left: Stephen Boegehold, Marcus Elliot, Michael Malis and Ben Rolston.
Credit Costa Sirdenis

When the City Meets the Sky is the latest album from the Marcus Elliot Quartet, dedicated to Detroit and to the leaders who helped shape the next generation of jazz musicians. 

“Since I was young it’s always been a place for me to learn and grow as a musician," said tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliot.

In his mid-20's, Elliot is a graduate of the Michigan State University Jazz Studies program. And he has dedicated his life to jazz music.

“It celebrates the individual inside of the context of the community," Elliot said. "In jazz we have soloists and they’re doing their thing, but if it wasn’t for the rhythm section or the rest of the band being there, then there wouldn’t be anybody to communicate with or to help lift them up. You’re having this conversation with the different musicians, but at the same time it’s a feeling of really true freedom and I think that’s what I heard as a kid and that really grabbed me.”

Cries of a Griot is the first track off the album. Elliot explains the meaning behind the song.

"A griot is an African story teller.... This song was specifically dedicated to all of the Detroit saxophonists ... a very serious lineage. All the way back to Lucky Thompson, who was there in the 40's, to even now some of the greats like James Carter and Kenny Garrett, and theses are all saxophonists that really changed the way the saxophone sounds, so this was my dedication to specifically that lineage."

Credit Costa Sirdenis

Elliot mentions two major influences on him, including Rodney Whitaker, jazz professor at Michigan State University and director of the jazz studies program. And, Marcus Belgrave, jazz trumpet player from Detroit. 

The Marcus Elliot Quartet performs on Tuesdays at Cliff Bells, a well-known jazz club in Detroit. Elliot says there's a something special about Detroit. 

“There is a Detroit sound, He says. "And I think you can hear this not only in jazz music, but in any type of music that comes from Detroit. It was such a blue-collar place, and I think that’s just something you can still hear in the music today.”

Elliot is the artist-in-residence at Troy High School, and he is part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Jazz Ensemble. So, what advice does he have for young musicians just starting out? 

"Keeping going, don't stop ... as a person who kept going I can definitely tell you that it's worth it."

The CD release show is Thursday, May 8 at the Carr Center in Detroit. Click here for more information on the band.