Featured Musician - February 2010

Name :Reece Marshburn

Reece Marshburn

Instrument: Piano, arranger, composer.

Early Years/Education: I grew up in Olympia, WA. I started studying classical piano when I was eight. Later on in High School, I started studying jazz. I got interested during the “swing revival” in music in 1997 – 98. Ensembles such as the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, (Zoot Suit Riot), and the Brian Setzer Orchestra were instrumental in introducing younger listeners to the sounds of the swing era, thus creating the opportunity for me to play the great swing music. I played my first public gig at a high school dance. I then started playing for dances every weekend. We played really long sets, so it took lots of stamina just to keep up. It was great experience. I didn’t really have any plans for after graduation (1999), but on a whim, I auditioned for the music program at Western Washington University in Bellingham. My parents advised me to at least apply to some colleges.

At WWU, I studied intensively with legendary bassist Chuck Israels, saxophonist Mike Allen, who drove down from B.C. to teach, and classical pianist, Margaret Brink. At the time, I was fascinated by what I saw were parallels between J.S. Bach, Baroque music, and bebop jazz. During that time, I also studied arranging, composition, and big band. I really enjoyed the one-on-one instruction five days per week. They discontinued the Jazz Studies program in my junior year, but let me graduate in the program anyway in 2003, with a BA of Music in Jazz Studies.

In my last year at WWU, I subbed for Marc Radice for two weeks, during winter break, on The Queen of The West Riverboat. I was subsequently invited to play with my quartet full time, following graduation. Saul Cline was the bandleader I worked under my first year on the boat. He is an incredible tenor saxophonist who now works for the Tacoma Symphony. For the next three years, we worked seven days a week, two weeks on, two weeks off, or four weeks on, and two weeks off. I consider that experience to be my “grad school baptism by fire” and was glad for the grueling experience I had playing for high school dances. We backed many different acts, playing such diverse music as Broadway, Country, Swing, Soul and Rock hits. Every day, we played a different style. I learned a lot!  

During my three-year tenure, clarinetist Jim Beatty played on the Queen and was very impressed with the range of music in my repertoire. He invited me to join his band back in Portland when I was ready. By then, I was tired of living out of a suitcase, and not having any personal life, so I welcomed the opportunity to move in 2004. Beatty’s band plays hot, traditional jazz. At the same, I was hired as the rehearsal pianist and conductor for Portland Center Stage, where I led the pit orchestras in productions of hit shows such as Cabaret, Guys and Dolls and Grey Gardens. We also did Dickens's A Christmas Carol. 

In January 2006, I auditioned for Tony Starlight about the time he opened his most successful vintage supper club on NE Sandy. He liked my playing, so when Tony's original pianist, Ralph Huntley, moved on to leading the house band on OPBs “Live Wire” radio program, I got the gig. I play for all of Tony’s own shows on Saturday nights, and on other special themed shows such as the Tribute to Neil Diamond, Tribute to Fred Astaire (complete with tap dancers), for vintage fashion shows, and soon, a tribute to the famous Copacabana Club. I am also the Music Director for Marianna and The Baby Vamps, a 1960s-inspired “girl group” that plays both originals and covers. I am very excited to learn they have started playing our CD on KINK.

Musical Influences: I started with Bill Evans, and always come back to him. Jim Beatty introduced me to Willie “The Lion” Smith, a well-known stride pianist of the 1920s. I thought his classical-sounding pieces sounded much more refined than the usual boogie-woogie style other musicians of the period were playing. Also, Nat King Cole and Ahmad Jamal.

Most Satisfying Experience: I’ve had a lot of them, but if I had to choose, I’d say it was accompanying Storm Large, who starred in Cabaret. She is an amazing singer!  The big final number in the show was quite an emotional journey. She could see the musicians at eye level below the stage, and it was all I could do to hold it together when she improvised, just a little, at the very end of the song…you aren’t supposed to stray off the score, but it was absolutely electrifying!

Most Influential Recordings: “Sunday At The Village Vanguard” - Bill Evans; “The Complete Capitol Transcriptions” - King Cole Trio: “The Lion and The Lamb” - Willie “The Lion” Smith: “Cross Country Tour: 1958-1961” - Ahmad Jamal Trio; “Daddy Plays The Horn” - Dexter Gordon; “Piano Reflections” - Duke Ellington; “Pure Ella” (With Ellis Larkins); “At Symphony Hall” - Wilbur De Paris Band; “Orca Bitte” - Dirty Projectors; “Debussy/Ravel String Quartets” - Alban Berg String Quartet.  

Discography: (As a Leader) 2001- Reece Marshburn Trio – “Portrait 'A'”; 2003- Reece Marshburn Trio – “Live at The PAC”; 2007- Reece Marshburn – “Introducing Reece Marshburn”;  (As a Sideman) 1997 – Jet Rink – “Beestung Love Song”; 2002 - Stewart's Coffee House Jazz Band – “Tuesday Night”; 2003 - Kevin Woods Quartet – “Church Day”; 2003 – “Colorado Luke and The Scrimshaw Boys”; 2006 – “Jon Garcia”; 2006 – “Bingo”; 2006 - Jim Beatty Jazz Band – “Unforgettable”; 2006 - Corey Brunish Feat. The Reece Marshburn Trio – “Write Myself a Letter”; 2006 - The Notables – “Play All the Hits”; 2007 - Bryant Moore and The Celestial Shore – “Campaign Trail”; 2007 - Jim Beatty Jazz Band – “The Premier Ball”; 2008 - Jim Beatty Jazz Band  - “Holly Jolly Jazz”; 2009 - Corey Brunish Feat. The Reece Marshburn Trio – “Hello Young Lovers”; 2009- Marianna and The Baby Vamps – “I Don't Mind”; 2009 - Courtney Freed – “Happy Little Bluebird: The Music of Harold Arlen.” 

Upcoming Dates: February 2 Vintage Fashion Show, Tony Starlight's; February 6, 20, 27, The Tony Starlight Show; February 13 Neil Diamond Tribute Show, Tony Starlight's; February 14th Valentine’s Day at Tony Starlight's; February 16 Fat Tuesday with Jim Beatty Jazz Band Hayden's Lakefront Grill.

Future Plans: I am currently writing new material for a variety of performers and groups. I would like to see myself providing new material to artists who have the same love of American Popular Song as I do. And keep that tradition going that started with Berlin, Gershwin, and Kern. Songcraft I guess you could call it. I would also like to see myself recording another album soon. I have an idea for fusing the sounds of an old time "gazebo in the park" band with some more modern concepts in harmony and form. 

Interviewer’s comments: I asked both Jim Beatty and Tony Starlight to comment on their associations with Marshburn. Beatty said he was “impressed that he knew all the standards in the 'great American song book', and is a ‘quick study,’ learning any others he didn’t know, such as many of the traditional jazz standards. He is a wonderful arranger too!” Beatty, who is nearly 76, has named Marshburn his official pianist and arranger. 

Starlight said, “he is just a joy to work with, we have similar mind sets, like ‘old souls’…he is a wonderful music collaborator…he just follows his instincts, and does all he can to make me, the singer look good, playing down his own role as accompanist. I give him carte blanche on creating the arrangements. I just give him the ‘here to there’ I want to go, and he does a beautiful job, filling in the middle part. He writes many new tribute medleys we debut at our shows.”

-- by Nancy Tice


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