Eddie Marshall Day at the San Francisco Jazz Festival 2000
reviewed by Rahsaan Clark Morris
Thursday, 2 November
Thursday had been declared Eddie Marshall Day in San Francisco by Mayor Brown. And the celebration set up by SF Jazz promised to be a really fine affair. With the likes of Bobbie Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard—who hasn't performed in Chicago for years—Bobby McFerrin, and a reunion of the late-60's group Fourth Way with violinist Michael White all slated to perform, drummer Eddie Marshall was going to be feted in style.
The program started out with the host for the evening, Sonny Buxton of KCSM jazz radio out of San Mateo, introducing SF Jazz executive director, Randall Kline, and a woman representing the evening's sponsoring organization. They presented Mr. Marshall with the first SF Jazz Beacon Award—to be given annually, according to a press release, "to a member of the Bay Area jazz community who has played a vital role in preserving the traditions and encouraging the growth of jazz" in the community.
Thanks to the witticisms and general relaxed manner of Sonny Buxton, the string of combinations of musicians that followed the presentation, most anchored by the solid sound of drummer/percussionist Marshall, never got tiresome.
The first combination was a showcase of Marshall's ongoing association with Bobby McFerrin in their group Bang!Zoom! With Jeff Carney on bass and Paul Nagel on piano, they performed a smooth World music-type number and Marshall actually started off the set playing alto recorder marvelously in a call-and-response mode with McFerrin's vocals.
Next came Marshall's popular group Holy Mischief with David Ellis on tenor (subbing for regular tenor player Kenny Brooks who was ill), Jeff Cressman on trombone, Jeff Chambers on bass, and Eddie Marshall on drums. After a nice post-Bop intro with pianist Nagel's composition "Remember When", the blue Bossa that followed, Marshall's composition "Luna Nueva", was airy with good solos by Cressman and Chambers.
Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson then joined the fray with pianist Smith Dobson replacing Nagel. During their first number with Marshall, Hutcherson played contrapuntally for a number of bars, and it was astonishing how rapidly he carried off this run while still playing harmonically with the ensemble.
I sometimes feel that Bobby Hutcherson brought to Sixties, post-Bop vibes what Hamp brought to Swing-era vibes and what Terry Gibbs and Bags (Milt Jackson) brought to the Cool period. Something tells me Hutcherson is presently showing Stefan Harris the way as well. For "My Foolish Heart", which Marshall playfully dedicated to his cardiologist, he switched back to alto recorder while his son Alsid Marshall respectably played his drum kit.
The interplay between Hutcherson's vibes and Marshall's recorder was fascinating to hear because it is especially difficult to make your fingers fly over the seven holes of the recorder as fast as Marshall's did and still hit precisely the right notes. The group then performed the samba "Pomponio" from Hutcherson's '99 release Skyline. Just before the break, the group was joined by the venerable Freddie Hubbard who chose to play Flugelhorn on Miles Davis' blowing tune "So What." It is sad to have to report that Freddie has not solved his embouchure problems, and as a result his solo was less than satisfying, but his presence on the stage with these friends was none-the-less gratifying to see.
Something needs to be said again about Sonny Buxton. If his radio show is as relaxed and casual as was his hosting this night, everybody should tune in. With his asides and reminiscences concerning the honoree Marshall and guests dotting the evening, the show flowed warmly and humorously.
After the short intermission, McFerrin and Marshall resumed with Bang!Zoom! The pop-ballad "Sightless Bird" was followed by one of the most affecting performances of the night, a quiet reading of the tone poem "Selim" from Miles' album Live - Evil. McFerrin's voice was hauntingly like Miles' horn. In this writer's opinion, more artists should perform Miles' music from this period, circa 1971-75. I don't know why there is this seeming taboo, apart from the fact that some critics declared that his music was not "jazz." In its way, "Selim" has all the poignancy of Miles' instrumental reading of "It Never Entered My Mind." Enough said! Marshall's playing on the trap-set with brushes was beautiful.
The final ensemble of the evening was the reunion of the seminal late-Sixties group, Fourth Way. I can remember how this band would be a part of a Filmore West show with the likes of Quicksilver Messenger Service on the same bill. All the other bands that Bill Graham would have onstage would be vocalizing, and along came this group with no vocals, just music, to jostle the hippies' sensibility. Michael White on violin was great to see again along with his cohorts from the past: Ron McClure on bass and Mike Nock, co-founder of the group with Marshall, on piano. I recall their sound as pre-Mahavishnu Orchestra without the intensity. I especially remember Michael White and his work with Pharoah Sanders. He brought the same lyrical expressiveness to this night's work.
After their marvelous set, everyone came back onstage for a jam of Clifford Brown's "Sandu", with Eddie Marshall returning on recorder and the younger Marshall on drums. Having the evening centered around this great percussionist and his various collaborators just proved how extensive Eddie Marshall's influence has been over the years in the Bay Area and beyond.