Jazz with a bow
Kye Marshall gives cello new musical role
An article by Geoff Chapman
Cello is not
the first instrument you think of when talking jazz.
But Kye Marshall is aiming to give it a significant role. How well she's
succeeding can be tested Monday at the release concert for her
fascinating new CD, Say When, featuring her jazz team —
pianist Don Thompson, bass Jim Vivian and guitarist Kevin Barrett.
Its nine originals are meant to underscore her concerns about
damage to the planet by such nasties as global warming and the
humankind that's caused it, for example.
educated at U of T, and a student of composition with Gordon
Delamont, Marshall held senior posts with the National Ballet
Orchestra, the O'Keefe Centre Orchestra and the New Chamber
Orchestra — but she decided that was not enough.
"I got tired
of playing in an orchestra. It was like being in a museum, you did
what you were told and it was not much fun," she said in an
"Improvisation on the other hand is fun — and I took it seriously.
I worked at it with pianist Tom Baker (a collaboration that
resulted in two CDs of instantaneous composition, In The Moment
and Carpe Diem). From free improvisation I went into jazz,
though that process took a long time. I'm writing my own material,
but I do play standards that lend thermselves to cello, such as
`You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To.'
"The range of
the cello's sound is so beautiful. It's a very lyrical instrument
that is especially effective on ballads, though it is so quiet
that it's hard to project the sound. Cello and guitar works if the
sound system is good and you need a very sensitive drummer, such
as Terry Clarke and Anthony Michelli."
found she needed to study sax guru Charlie Parker in order to get
into jazz effectively — "it was hard to find a jazz role model and
it's hard to bow jazz. (Bass) Oscar Pettiford did well with cello
pizzicato but (bass) Ron Carter sounded really bad on my
She says hers
is chamber music, noting that a cello can't play bebop, because
it's not a driving, penetrating instrument, and there's always a
danger harmonic richness will be lost.
It would be
hard to name any Canadian jazz cellist — there's Hamilton-born,
New York-based Rufus Cappadocia and in
Vancouver, Peggy Lee is a
prominent figure in avant-garde and new-music circles.
"I feel the
cello is beginning to be recognized — I play it solo, using
over-dubbing and sometimes playing it as a drum. Now it's even fun
to play the classics, which I do in my Epic Quartet."
be in a crowd of one — and in another field, she may be Canada's
only practising music psychotherapist (not to be confused with
music therapists, who deal with specific ailments).
been interested in music as healing, and I began the
psychotherapeutic work after studying with (British writer) J.B.
Priestley's daughter Mary. I have 100 instruments in my home that
are used with improvisation in ways that help people deal with
their experiences in a non-verbal way."