According to the Lincoln Center's biography of featured performers, "Eddie Marshall is acknowledged as a leading figure in the evolution of San Francisco's contemporary jazz sound." Marshall's jazz drumming first came to this reviewer's notice back in the 1980s, immediately provoking admiration for his finesse and his range. He was one of the finest drummers I'd ever heard, so upon reading that he was to perform with his quartet at the Douglas Beach House (aka Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society) on Sunday, March 22nd, I immediately reserved my ticket for the concert. The band included bassist Glenn Richman and pianist Matthew Clark, and featured multi-award winning Israeli saxophonist/composer Nir Naaman.
Maybe my initial overall expectations were too high. From the first tune "Holy Mischief," written by Eddie Marshall, through the third, the musicians took excessively long to jell as a working whole. (Admittedly, the group had been formed only recently.) Clark seemed to be working too hard on the keys, and played as though his heart wasn't with the music. At times Richman seemed to take his bass in one direction while Naaman took the music elsewhere. They struggled to pull it together, all the while Marshall laying back and holding a firm groove. Eventually, by the end of the third composition, all four musicians were in stride and the band began to meld.
By the fourth tune "Dilemma," an original by Naaman, the band had warmed up and began to visibly stir the audience. Marshall kept his smooth touch on the drums while Naaman soared with remarkable dexterity on his alto sax. From there on, the band was a solid unit. Marshall's drums flowed and moved within an unshakable foundation. He indeed is a "classic" jazz drummer, the kind that delicately plays in the background with melodic lyricism, firmly there but not overpowering the rest of the instruments like many unpolished jazz drummers of today. Yet, when the moment seemed ripe or during a solo, Marshall exploded with a driving intensity, rising, holding a firm beat and sometimes playing with interesting and varied time signature changes.
By the last tune of the second set, "Super Trooper" composed by Marshall, the audience was jazzed, heartily applauding each solo and thus wiping from memory the rough beginning. When the tune ended, the ample audience rose to their feet with extended applause, shouts, and whoops of sincere approval, calling for an encore. "Knuckle Bean," another original by Marshall, swept the audience away emotionally and physically, closing the evening on a high note at the Douglas Beach House on this memorable Sunday afternoon.
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