Saturday, March 31, 2012

The apple didn't fall far from the tree

Billy Marcus
Billy Marcus has been a fixture on the Florida jazz scene for more than 30 years. After an extensive club reign in Miami, where he was named the city's Best Musician by Miami/South Florida Magazine in 1982, he moved about three years ago to St. Petersburg, where his two sisters live. He's the son of the late Marie Marcus, a stride pianist who worked in New York, Miami and was a fixture on the Cape Cod music scene in Massachusetts for decades.

Marcus is a bear of a man - and a bull at the keyboard. He has strong, thundering command of the keys and a sound that hints of classical training. He likes uptempo material, he can drop in moments of great delicacy and he loves medleys ("because they kill time," he jests). In reality, they enable him to blend songs he loves from some of America's great composers.

At Friday's South County Jazz club concert at the Venice Art Center, Marcus treated the audience to medleys by Fats Waller, Leonard Bernstein and Henry Mancini. The Waller medley included "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose." It was really a tribute to his mother, who was a Waller protege in some respects. The Mancini medley was the most complex, stringing ""Moment to Moment," ""Moon River," "Lovers in New York" and "Charade."

Backed superbly by bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman, he also tackled stylistically wide-ranging versions of Paul Desmond's "Take Five," Horace Silver's bop classic "Sister Sadie," "Limehouse Blues," "Here's That Rainy Day" and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" among others.
In every segment, it was clear that he swings mightily.

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