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Gordon Beck Quartet Featuring Joy Marshall: When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions

Roger Farbey By

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For British jazz fans, the late Gordon Beck probably needs no introduction. Beck was undoubtedly one of the best and most undervalued pianists the UK has produced. Joy Marshall, however, is perhaps not so well-known. Born in New York, Marshall moved to England in 1962 at the age of 25, where she resided until her tragic death in November 1968. She married saxophonist Peter King in November 1962, but later became romantically involved with Tubby Hayes, who was smitten by her, but it was a tempestuous relationship to say the least. Hayes even wrote a tune in her honour, "A Dedication To Joy," which appeared on his magnum opus Mexican Green (Fontana, 1968) and after her death wrote another, "Song For A Sad Lady," which appeared on his final studio album, The Orchestra (Fontana, 1970).

When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring '68 Sessions is a companion to Turtle Records' previous Beck archival release Jubilation! Trios, Quartets and Septets In Session 1964-1984. But here the emphasis is squarely on Marshall as the key protagonist. She could certainly sing the blues, as her impassioned take on Aretha Franklin's "Dr Feelgood" proves. One exceptional example of her talent found here is the breathtaking version of Anthony Newley's "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" On the title track Beck gets a reasonable look-in, his fluid piano fills more prominent here than on other tracks. But on this CD the Beck quartet was effectively a backing band for Marshall.

Fans of John McLaughlin will have to be satisfied with, predominantly, a forensic examination of the guitarist's accompanying ability, as heard, for example, on the breezy "Sunny." Although not particularly spectacular, it nevertheless demonstrated that McLaughlin was a more than competent session musician. However, the exception is "On A Clear Day" where, finally let off the leash, he evinces a short but coruscating solo. However, if Beck fans want to hear this truly virtuosic quartet in an instrumental context they should check out his Experiments With Pops (Major Minor, 1968). The final three trio (bonus) tracks, recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in 1966, include another version of the theme tune to the popular television comedy series "Bewitched." These feature drummer Johnny Butts, who died tragically in a motorbike accident on Boxing Day 1966, aged just 25 (Hayes also included a memorable paean to him on Mexican Green, entitled "Dear Johnny B").

Marshall was self-effacing about her talent in the context of jazz, perhaps a little disingenuously. Quoted in the Melody Maker of April 13th 1963 she said: "My singing is really on the jazz fringe—I don't think I am really a jazz singer." Nevertheless, that didn't stop her being voted into the Melody Maker jazz polls (British section) for four years running from 1964-1967. Considering that Marshall's recordings are rare and mainly limited to 7" singles and one album under her own name, Who Says They Don't Write Good Songs Anymore? (Decca, 1965), this release is a significant one. The playing is consistently good throughout and Marshall's voice, jazzy or not, is powerfully effective. Included with this CD is an invaluable booklet containing unseen photographs and a lengthy, informative essay by Hayes aficionado Simon Spillett. Whilst Beck's Quartet is, quite rightly, the ostensible USP for this release (the tapes were unearthed from the estate of the late pianist), it's indubitably Marshall's gig.

Track Listing: Come Back To Me; Dr Feelgood; Gentle Rain; He Loves Me; Peel Me A Grape; Sunny; Telephone Song; Goin’ Out Of My Head; When Sunny Gets Blue; Bewitched; What Kind Of Fool Am I; Blame It On My Youth; On A Clear Day. Bonus Tracks (Gordon Beck Trio): Bewitched; My Ship; Make Someone Happy.

Personnel: Gordon Beck: piano; Joy Marshall: vocals; John McLaughlin: guitar; Jeff Clyne: bass; Tony Oxley: drums (1-13); Gordon Beck: piano; Joy Marshall: vocals; Jeff Clyne: bass; Johnny Butts: drums (14-16).

Title: When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Turtle Records

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