Flautist Keith Marks has been leading his quartet in a variety of performances at major festivals, colleges and universities, clubs and corporate events for over 30 years. His studies include time with classical flute virtuoso Karl Kraber and music theory with Eric Ewazen at the Juilliard School. Other teachers include Reggie Workman, Michael Carvin and John Hicks. Some of the artists Marks has worked with include Ron Carter and Dave Burrell.
Foreign Funk is a hip trippy collection of fun and funky music. The rhythm is so solidly in the pocket it’s obvious Marks is well studied both in terms of intellectual knowledge, how to put his sound together, and in terms of the history of the art with regards to forbearers Grover Washington Jr. and Hank Crawford.
For those who miss the CTI and Kudu sound of the 1970s, it is alive and well on this astonishingly good CD. By following the tenets Creed Taylor incorporated into his best releases - a mix of pop, jazz standards and original tunes performed by a soloist of unquestionable musical character supported by a top-flight rhythm section - Marks sets himself apart from the pack with an original sound that pays respect to the tradition. With concrete backing by a topnotch rhythm section, Marks has total freedom to allow the music to go where his muse will take him, and those thoughts soar.
Every cut is a winner with no one track dominating. Seals and Crofts’ "Summer Breeze" has a down-home beans-and-rice vibe that wafts along beautifully. Supported by Pete Levin’s Fender Rhodes-ish keyboards and great fills by Lou Volpe’s guitar, the pop tune becomes a remarkably good vehicle for Marks’ flowing lines. The sports-stadium stands’ cheer "Axel F" opens the disc with a ripping funk feel. Donald Nicks’ bass pops and jumps at all the right places with such a joyous and infectious ambiance the whole band can’t help but be swept along.
Throughout the disc Wally "Gator" Watson’s drum set work is as tight and solid as a ballerina’s calf muscles. His instincts of knowing when to lay back, as on the Cannonball Adderley associated Joe Zawinul composition "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and when to push forward, as on "Sho’ Off," are spot on.
The best moments may be those where you don’t expect magic to happen. Jonathan Lewis’ pop tune "Always," punctuated by a Volpe’s heartfelt solo, is so sweet you don’t want it to end, and The Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" has been rarely handled as well in a jazz vein. Watson’s backbeats line up with Nicks’ bass lines to perfection. Few artists are deserving of more recognition than Marks; let’s hope this disc does it for him.