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REVIEW | Markus Rutz: One Night in September - Live from Merriman’s Playhouse

By Jeff Cebulski

Readers of my writing know that I enjoy the music of Chicago-based trumpeter Markus Rutz, whose dedication to the Post Bop tradition has helped satisfy my musical desires since the passing of Roy Hargrove.

After the pandemic threw a wrench into his NYC activity, Rutz has been able to be locally and regionally active (the group played at the Epiphany Center and Jazz Showcase in 2022), and there is more to come.

In February, a new album will be released. On February 17, Rutz and his Music Works will play a new album release concert at the Epiphany Center, followed by a night at the Fulton Street Collective on February 28.

A recent testament to his work is the digitally-released EP One Night in September—Live from Merriman’s Playhouse. Recorded in late 2021 at the Playhouse in South Bend, Indiana, One Night gives anyone interested a taste of Rutz’s group Music Works in performance. While limited to three songs, the EP represents the warmth and swing that fans of the artist have become accustomed to.

The small recorded set begins with Joe Henderson’s “Serenity,” which allows Rutz to wax lyrical in his intro before the group kicks into the moderately paced gem, which is pushed along nicely by Samuel Peters’ punctual, insistent bass.

Then the Monk classic “Well You Needn’t” is tackled, swinging like heck after Rutz and altoist Jarrard Harris pronounce the theme. The tune is, of course, a vehicle for pianist Bill Cessna, who delivers his interpretation with the left hand emulating Monk and the right hand expressing something closer to Oscar Peterson. With Peters and drummer Kyle Swan pushing forth, Rutz carries on with Brownie aplomb before Harris takes over in a duet with Peters that leads to a raucous joining of forces, including Swan displaying his talents in a not-boring solo.

The final piece is part of a commissioned work by Rutz that was meant to extend themes derived from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” This portion, “Rhapsodic Theme Two—Golson’s Vibe,” starts with obvious quotes of Gershwin’s classic before turning into a wonderful tribute to the blues of Benny Golson, with an added nod to “Killer Joe.”

Listening to this EP reminds me of what many of us missed the past three years. The rise out of the pandemic’s ashes by our local players, such as Markus Rutz and his Music Works, should give us something to look forward to in 2023.

Markus Rutz Music Works:


Markus Rutz—trumpet

Jarrard Harris—alto sax

Bill Cessna—piano

Samuel Peters—bass

Kyle Swan—drums

About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association.


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