Conjure is the second release from Balance, the duo of composer/musicians Michael Malis and Marcus Elliot, two of Detroit’s rising stars from the younger generation in creative music. Both musicians work in numerous groups together and with a wide variety of artists, from consummate jazz artists like James Carter and Marcus Belgrave to electronic act Shigeto and experimental drummer/improviser William Hooker.
Conjure aptly displays Balance's contemporary point of view, mixing reverence for their forebears with open ears that allow for all kinds of influences to inform the music. Though the record primarily features the duo, Balance is also joined by poet Chace Morris and drummer Gerald Cleaver - two Detroiters of note in their own right - for a few tracks.
Conjure finds the musicians in a largely meditative, introspective mood. Lyrical melodies and fugue like passages adorn compositions that reflect an interest in chamber music, but the spirit of improvisation flows through every piece. The serene mood is occasionally contrasted with more urgent ideas, like the rumbling piano accompanying Chase’s recitation during the opening title track, or the driving freedom of “MRA.”
The album closes with a demonstration that the musicians aren’t limited to modal jazz and sound-based playing, but can in fact burn over swinging, harmonically developed music that is most closely related to the hard bop era. It seems that Balance’s conjuring can manifest the sounds of a disappearing past as well as a vision of the future.
released December 9, 2022
Marcus Elliot: Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Michael Malis: Piano
Gerald Cleaver: Drums on "MRA" & "Number Four"
Chace Morris: Vocals on "Conjure" & "Serpent's Serpent"
Liner Notes by Bill Harris
Recorded January 13-16 2020 at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, MI
Engineered by Josef Deas and Geoff Michael
Mixed by Josef Deas
Mastered by Warren Defever
Marcus Elliot, MARCUS ELLIOT MUSIC, BMI Michael Malis, NOMALICE MUSIC, ASCAP
Special thanks to Jeff Haas for allowing us to develop this music at The Sanctuary, January 5-11, 2020
Cover: Addie Langford, The Hanging Gardens Orange Green Green [detail], 2015, acrylic collage and mixed media on gessoed paper mounted on linen 55.5 x 70.5 inches. Courtesy the artist.
Balance is a collaborative duo between saxophonist Marcus Elliot and pianist Michael Malis. Called “two of Detroit’s most
important young jazz musicians” by the Detroit Free Press, Elliot and Malis’ “intuitive improvisations” stand on the threshold of composed and improvised music, creating intimate portraits of musical expression that deal in the language of subtlety....more