Jazz - Kye Marshall

OK, when asked to name your favorite jazz instruments, have you ever considered cello? Neither have I.

But Kye Marshall has something to say about that; actually, the Toronto-based cellist has a lot to say about her instruments and improvisation.

She has just released her second jazz album, say it when, and continues to perform in jazz and avant-garde groups and keep up a musical psychotherapy practice.

The cello came before jazz, Marshall said in a telephone interview last week, the morning after her CD release party at Toronto jazz club Montreal Bistro.

Her interest in improvised music came first, she said, and that naturally led to jazz, a music with improvisation at its core.

Marshall has been playing in orchestras, and was tired of it. She was "doing classical improvisation, but there isn't much of a market for it." "I decided I had to learn jazz if I wanted to make a living as in improvisor," she added.

Of course, there were no role models as she set out on her path to becoming a jazz cellist.

"It was kind of a difficult thing to do," and jazz violinists just didn't fit the bill."

"Jean Luc Ponty, I really like. But to tell the truth, I don't really like jazz violin that much."

The violin is a great swing instrument, she said, but she "wanted to learn the bebop tradition and play that way. And the cello is lower, in the tenor sax range."

Marshall admits "some people are a bit wary of the cello" as in jazz instruments; "it's unfamiliar it to them, it doesn't cut through -- it's not a loud instrument and that's always a problem."

She took jazz piano lessons for a year while working in a ballet orchestra, a job she found "pretty tedious." Then she started studying with pianist Don Thompson, on her cello.

She released an earlier jazz quartet CD, Winter's End, in 1999, and two CDs of spontaneous composition with pianist Thomas Baker -- In The Moment (1997) and Carpe Diem (2001).

Say When is a collection of nine compositions by Marshall. She is backed by pianist Thompson, guitarist Kevin Barrett, Jim a consumer and Vivian and drummer Terry Clarke.

The cellist has dedicated Say When to ecologists, and her descriptions of each tune in the liner notes warn of the perils of not protecting the environment.

Marshall is right in that the cello doesn't automatically take the lead in a jazz tune like a horn would, but it holds its own in her hands alongside what is a very good band of top Canandian jazz musicians.

She is a strong player with interesting ideas and it doesn't take long to cotton to the idea of the cello as a jazz instrument.

Say When will be available in major record stores in the new year, Marshall said. Until then, anyone interested can e-mail her at kye@istar.ca. Her Web site is www.kyemarshall.com.