Celebrating Eddie Marshall: San Francisco, CA, February 19, 2012

Bill Leikam By

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Celebrating Eddie Marshall
San Francisco, CA
February 19, 2012

When a San Francisco Bay Area jazz musician passes, Bay Area jazz supporters come out in droves to pay their respects and to honor the one who passed. In announcing the passing of the great drummer Eddie Marshall, Jesse Hamlin wrote, for the San Francisco Chronicle's SF Gate "Eddie Marshall, a master drummer and composer whose deep musicianship and joyous spirit made him the soul of the Bay Area jazz scene, died Sept. 7 [2011] after suffering a heart attack at his San Francisco home. He was 73." On Sunday, February 19, 2012, at San Francisco's Yoshi's jazz club, a veritable who's who in jazz came together—both musicians and audience members alike—to honor the memory and spirit of the superb Bay Area jazz drummer. The benefit concert—with proceeds going to Living Jazz's Jazz Camp West (formerly Rhythmic Concepts) and the Berkeley JazzSchool of Music and Performance—was sold out weeks in advance; memorials such as this have become a Bay Area tradition.

Marshall was the first-call drummer for many well-known jazz musicians from all over the world, and was highly respected for his wide-ranging abilities, taste and sensitivity. Marshall played with the likes of saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz, singers Etta James and Bobby McFerrin, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. In addition to being the Bay Area's most sought after drummer, Marshall also led his own band, Holy Mischief, where on most occasions, in addition to drums he also played a hauntingly smooth and delicate recorder.

The Yoshi's tribute opened with percussionist John Santos and Art Maxwell on recorder calling in Marshall's spirit. Holy Mischief followed, with pianist Paul Nagel, bassist Jeff Chambers, and saxophonist Kenny Brooks. Marshall's son Al took over the drums in his father's stead. The band played a selection of Marshall compositions, the best known being "Too Much Romance." Later, during the second part of the tribute, legendary hard bop drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath took over the drums with John Handy on tenor sax, about whom the San Francisco Chronicle once wrote, "John Handy is living jazz history."

As the afternoon unfolded, the University of the Pacific's young jazz quintet, representing the Brubeck Institute of Jazz, took the stage and blew the audience away with a stupendous performance that ended with the sold out crowd giving these fine young jazz musicians a rousing standing ovation. At the end of their portion of the show, Bobby McFerrin—who had worked extensively with Marshall when he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area—stepped onstage. Scatting in his own inimitable way, McFerrin ran his fingers up and down the microphone as though playing a recorder.

Finally, the tribute was brought to a close with McFerrin giving the audience a wonderful sense of levity, good humor and playfulness to what otherwise could have been a somber occasion, with Bay Area drummer Vince Lateano. Breaking forth with a line of scat, McFerrin's face lit up when he saw Patti Cathcart, of Tuck & Patti fame, in the audience. He rushed from the stage and brought her up to the stage, and the two scatted out a duet.

McFerrin and the band seemed unable to stop as the four o'clock ending time passed, but master of ceremonies Greg Bridges finally came onstage and brought the show to a close. It was a fitting tribute to one of the most loveable and easy going jazz drummers the San Francisco Bay Area has ever known. The sold out gathering at the large San Francisco venue said it all and it was great to be there, having known Marshall for nearly 30 years, as a journalist. That afternoon, when everything wrapped, the audience took home memories from a concert that absolutely lived up to the drummer's legendary status.

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