Eddie Marshall: More than a drummer

Eddie Marshall. Photo: California Jazz Conservatory
Eddie Marshall. Photo: California Jazz Conservatory

Some three years after the death of the beloved San Francisco drum maestro Eddie Marshall the loss still stings. Whether serving as a sideman or leading his own inventive combo, Marshall made the trap set purr and roar, generating tremendous swing with a minimum of fuss. His presence in the Bay Area felt particularly felicitous as he moved west after establishing himself as a top-shelf New York player, known for his work with Toshiko Akiyoshi, Stan Getz, and Sam Rivers. As the house drummer at Keystone Korner in North Beach, he provided impeccable rhythmic support to steady rotation of masters, while generously mentoring several generations of young Bay Area musicians.

“Eddie was one of the great drummers in the world,” says New York saxophonist/trumpeter Peck Allmond, who graduated from Berkeley High in 1980 and leads a tribute to Marshall at the California Jazz Conservatory on Friday at 8 p.m. “Eddie chose to live in the Bay Area after a long time in New York so he could have a family, go camping, ride his bicycle. In addition to his drumming, he was a great composer. We just had a rehearsal, and every time we play his tunes we find new stuff. They make so much sense and sound so great.”

An original member of Marshall’s Holy Mischief quintet, Allmond has recruited a stellar band with strong ties to Marshall, including fellow Mischief-maker Jeff Chambers on bass and pianist Glen Pearson. Vince Lateano, a Bay Area mainstay for nearly half a century, holds down the drum chair. Saxophonist Patrick Wolff, who Almond met last summer at JazzCamp West, rounds out the quintet.

“The last gig I played with Eddie, in February 2011 at Piedmont Piano, was with Glen and Jeff,” Allmond says “I’ve played with Glen going back to the late 80s when we worked with the bassist Walter Savage. I first got to know Vince in the mid-80s, and we’ve also played a whole lot over the years.”


Part of what set Marshall apart was his gift for composing memorable themes. He contributed several tunes as a member of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s band in the 1970s, including the title track to the 1977 Blue Note album Knucklebean. He was also a master on the recorder, an instrument virtually unexplored in jazz, or any other harmonically complex style.

A few years ago, pianist Mark Levine released a double live CD of Holy Mischief, Jazz at Filoli 1992 (Jazzschool Records), that captured Marshall’s ability to improvise sophisticated lines on the recorder. Featuring Levine, Allmond, Chambers, and tenor saxophonist Kenny Brooks, the album includes several beautiful tunes by Allmond.

“Eddie’s recorder playing is just insane,” Allmond says. “It’s really a diatonic instrument, but he played it chromatically with all this intricate fingering he invented. I love that album Mark released because that was Eddie’s band, and we had a really good run playing together.”

Recommended gigs

Jazz In the Neighborhood, an organization that seeks to bring gifted young musicians together with well-traveled masters, presents Ben Goldberg School at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Fellowship Hall at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16. Saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, trombonist Jeff Cressman, accordionist/pianist Rob Reich, Berkeley-raised bassist David Ewell and drummer Hamir Atwal join Berkeley clarinetist Ben Goldberg, a longtime creative fulcrum on the Bay Area improvised music scene. Billed an emerging artist, pianist Erika Oba, a Berkeley High alum, opens with her trio featuring bassist Chris Bastian and drummer Ben Salomon.

NextNow presents Hardly Strictly Personal: A Celebration of Post-Beefheart Art at the Berkeley Arts Festival performance space on Friday and Saturday. A fundraiser for Earth Justice and the Coalition On Homelessness, the expansive event features half-hour sets by some two-dozen projects associated with the Bay Area’s vibrant new and experimental music scene. The shows are scheduled to run Friday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 
and Saturday
 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. “Some artists might actually cover a tune by Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, and others are working in his creative spirit,” says San Francisco guitarist/flutist Mika Pontecorvo, who founded the shoestring arts organization NextNow to present improvised music festivals. “The idea is to bring together this community of musicians while supporting some great causes.”


Andrew Gilbert writes for Berkeleyside, the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and KQED’s California Report. Read his previous Berkeleyside reviews.

For more events in and around Berkeley, check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. And submit your own events there — the calendar is free and self-serve.