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Lenny Marcus Trio

An evening of jazz by local musicians Lenny Marcus Trio at Bower Center for the Arts. Cash bar
Calendar   Bedford Artisan Trail
Location Bower Center for the Arts
Date Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Duration   2 hours
Cost 15
Additional Info Link https://www.bowercenter.org/events/lenny-marcus-trio
Event Contact Email k.pick@bowercenter.org


Lenny Marcus Trio is not simply a local jazz group. With the success of three albums, “Sun Ray: A Tribute to Ray Bryant,” “Tonk: A Tribute to Ray Bryant, Vol. 2” and the recent “Second Set,” Marcus and his band are scoring some high-class gigs. All three CDs have sold well and made jazz radio playlists, Marcus said.

The act has traveled internationally, backing such artists as Sonny Fortune and Frank Foster at the Barbados Jazz Festival and the Spice Jazz Festival, in Grenada.

Marcus, 54, had parents who fostered a musical environment. His father’s house was a jazzers’ hangout. National musicians stayed overnight after gigs.

“My dad would say, ‘The house is open,’ so they would crash there,” Marcus remembered. “They would have jams there, and I’d be this little kid, going ‘Ahhh!’ Richie Cole, sax player, would play all night, and I would just be sitting there listening. You can’t get that kind of exposure. It was just a very unique childhood. It was awesome.”

Ray Bryant, who was based in New York, was in the District of Columbia often, hanging out with Bill Marcus, his best friend. It was Bryant who taught Lenny Marcus to play left-hand style.

“He played the piano in a way that pianists don’t do anymore,” he remembered. “First of all, he had a really strong left hand. A lot of pianists have a right hand and [play complementary] chords with their left hand. But Ray Bryant taught me how to do a left hand … it’s a way to play chords where you add three and four and five fingers all at once.”

That fundamental tutelage inspired the two tribute albums, which got the trio its first Blues Alley gig.

Young Marcus moved to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, and soon, he was taking lessons from pianist Ellis Marsalis, unknown beyond the Big Easy in the years before sons Wynton and Branford became famous.

“Harry Connick [Jr.] was going there, and all sorts of people were going there,” to study at Marsalis’ Olive Street house, Marcus said. “We all sort of shared the same gigs, too …. Ellis would do one night, then Harry would do it, then I would do it. It was about 20 of us. Marcus met with bassist/producer Randy Jackson, of “American Idol” fame, and his his brother, drummer Herman Jackson, who went on to play for B.B. King.

With Herman Jackson and New Orleans bassist Jim Singleton, Marcus made his first album, 1983’s “Bat in the Hat,” a tribute to Batiste. “I miss the music scene a lot, but it’s not the same New Orleans now,” he said. “I’ve been back every year, [or] two years. The casinos moved in. Katrina wiped out half the city. A lot of things changed, and it’s almost like a caricature of itself. It’s not like the old New Orleans that I knew when I was growing up and really learning music. A lot of the musicians left. [But] it’s still fun.”

Last time they played Blues Alley, the date was sandwiched between contemporary jazz reed man Najee (whose band includes Franklin County native Chuck Johnson) and iconic jazz-funk bassist Stanley Clarke. Not a bad placement…

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