Thursday, February 9, 2012

Remembering Eddie Marshall


Several months ago, I was asked to write a brief obituary for the late drummer Eddie Marshall, to be posted on the sfjazz.org website. It was certainly a solemn job, but was also a strangely cathartic intersection of my work life, my personal life and my life as a musician. Eddie had been a fixture in the Bay Area jazz scene since the 1960s, working with an impressive list of jazz luminaries as house drummer at the legendary Keystone Korner, and the news of his passing was a serious shock to the system. I’ve greatly admired his work with Bobby Hutcherson since my teens (check out Now!, View From the InsideAmbos Mundos, Waiting, Knucklebean and Wise One, among others), and I probably absorbed his influence even earlier, since I remember my father regularly playing an Ahmad Jamal album when I was a kid that featured Eddie along with the great Harvey Mason. I've played his Timeless Records session, Dance of the Sun, innumerable times over the years, but never more than in the last few months.

I’m happy to say I’ve had memorable encounters with the man on several occasions since my life began revolving around this music. I recall one night at the North Beach Jazz Festival a few years ago, Eddie popped into the club where I was playing with a quartet, and at my invitation he sat in for a couple tunes. It was a thrill to hear Eddie on my drums, with a smile spread across his face, driving the band and clearly enjoying that feeling of spontaneous creation. After all the musicians he’d played with, bands he’d led, tours he’s endured, for him to still feel that instant joy of discovery was incredibly inspiring. Though I never had the good fortune to actually study with Eddie one-on-one, I would absolutely count him among the influential figures in my musical education.

I last saw Eddie at Yoshi’s in Oakland for Bobby Hutcherson’s 70th birthday show, and he was the picture of youthful exuberance, strength and control. Upon hearing of his passing, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Elvin Jones’ last years, during which the Coltrane drummer played with total command and incredible intensity until the very end. You can’t wish for better than that — for an artist to go out as he lived, on the bandstand, still at the height of his powers. Ironically, I witnessed Elvin’s final performance, on that very stage, in 2004. He passed three weeks afterwards.

SFJAZZ awarded Eddie its first Beacon Award in 2000 in honor of his contributions to Bay Area jazz, and I think it’s only appropriate to spread the word about the upcoming Eddie Marshall benefit concert at Yoshi’s San Francisco on Sunday, February 19 at 1pm. It will feature Bobby Hutcherson, Bobby McFerrin, John Handy, Eddie’s band Holy Mischief and many others. The funds raised will go to scholarships under Eddie’s name at The Jazzschool in Berkeley and Jazz Camp West. Please, if Eddie Marshall’s artistry touched you in a meaningful way, get yourself to the show and help celebrate the life of this Bay Area jazz legend and great soul. Click below for more info:

Eddie Marshall Benefit Concert

— Rusty Aceves

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