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Marshall Law is comprised of eleven songs recorded during the past twenty years by groups assembled by the indefatigable Chicagobased bandleader / composer / arranger / entrepreneur Marshall Vente who not only has his own web site but his own record label, Jazz festival and radio program as well. Vente, who studied under David Matthews and the late Gil Evans, has succeeded by skillfully fusing elements of salsa, straight-ahead Jazz, blues and rock into a colorful pastiche that is designed to appeal to a wide audience, which it does. A part of that charm lies in Vente’s resourceful charts, which keep the listener offbalance and interested, as does his variation of group size and instrumentation (which ranges from sextet on “Monk’s Still Here” to seventeenpiece big band backing vocalist Anna Dawson on “Chicago”). The invariables (or nearly so) include Vente on piano (or synth) with baritone saxophonist Chip Gdalman, guitarist Frank Dawson, drummer Isidro Perez and percussionist Alejo Poveda. Others who champion the cause on half a dozen tracks or more are alto Jeff Newell, tenor Jim Massoth, trombonist Steve Berry and bassist Scott Mason. The lone selection from Vente’s first recording, back in 1981, is Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s rhythmic “Bright Moments,” nicely performed by a tentet with vocal by Paula Eastwood and vigorous solos by flutist Jerry DiMuzio and tenor Ken Kritzberg. The last two items on the menu, Vente’s funky “Bulls in the Night” and its thirtyninesecond reprise, were recorded in 1985 by an elevenmember unit whose enterprising soloists included Berry and alto Bill Sears. Completing the program are “Chicago” (1988), five tunes from 1990 / 91 (“Monk’s Still Here,” Miles Davis’ “Four,” Vente’s “Marshall Law” and “Burn Your Buns,” the “[New] Girl from Ipanema”) and a pair from 2000 (“Fat Woman Blues,” “Bye Bye Blackbird”). “Blues” was written by bassist Eldee Young who sings charmingly on that one as well as on “Blackbird,” both of which are further enhanced by the presence of harmonica master Howard Levy. Marshall Law affords a brief yet enlightening overview of Vente’s expansive domain and a clearer understanding of why his music has been so wellreceived.
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.