Trumpeter John Marshall should be more famously known in the US but a career opportunity requiring relocation to Germany to join the prestigious WDR Big Band in 1992 took him off the New York scene as a regular and might account for his under-the-radar profile here. But American audiences can and should embrace two new CDs on which he is featured.
A thoughtful, insightful player, Marshall has impressive technique and also offers sensitivity and feeling. On Live At "Le Pirate", recorded in Germany in May 2007, he proves his prowess on trumpet and flugelhorn, producing amazing extended phrases without a breath. His precise playing, consistently displaying a smooth, clean tone, sounds effortless.
His composing skills hold up well too. An original, "Fahrvergnugen," starts at a dizzying tempo but slows down to half-time, an exhibit of considerable versatility. And his choice of standard repertoire is fortuitous with interpretations of Clifford Jordan's "Down Through the Years," Cedar Walton's "Head and Shoulders," Raimond Hubbel's ballad "Poor Butterfly," Tom McIntosh's "Cup Bearers," Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" and George Gershwin's "Embraceable You". Grant Stewart, a considerable talent on the tenor sax, adds excellent contributions as do pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist John Goldsby and drummer Mark Taylor. While there are some rare tenuous moments, as when the piano seems to step a little on a horn solo, a harmonic effort using just two instruments sounds a bit thin or the bass reads too low in the mix (perhaps due to the live setting) all deserve high commendation for first-class ensemble and solo performance.
If one wants to delve into Marshall's other output, a German studio recording, Marshall Arts, featuring substantially different but very capable personnel with tenor saxophonist Ferdinand Povel, pianist Rob van Bavel and again bassist Goldsby and drummer Taylor is worth acquiring. This CD features several van Bavel originals, an engaging Marshall composition and such evergreens as Dizzy's "Salt Peanuts," Howard Arlen's "Come Rain or Come Shine" as well as Monk's "Gallop's Gallop" and Sonny Stitt's "The Eternal Triangle". But if you are going for one Marshall at a time, snap up Live At "Le Pirate". The missteps are few, the pleasures many.
Tracks and Personnel
Live At "Le Pirate"
Tracks: Fahrvergnugen, Down Through the Years, Head and Shoulders, Poor Butterfly, Cup Bearers, Con Alma, Evidence, Embraceable You.
Personnel: John Marshall: trumpet, flugelhorn; Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone; Tardo Hammer, piano; John Goldsby: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.
Tracks: Marshall Arts; Another 17; So Sorry, Please; Salt Peanuts, Vivacious Vivian, Benny's Pennies, Capers, Come Rain or Come Shine, Gallop's Gallop, The Eternal Triangle.
Personnel: John Marshall: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ferdinand Povel: tenor saxophonist; Rob van Bavel: piano; John Goldsby: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.