Owen Marshall ‘The Naked Truth’ CD/LP + 7″ (Jazzman) 4/5

Among unrecognised jazz musicians, multi-instrumentalist Owen Marshall is a name that will not be found in any authoritative jazz guide and yet, like many musicians of his kind, his aesthetic contribution to music far outweighs any commercial considerations. Part of the Jazzman ‘Holy Grail’ series, with a bonus brace of 45s for vinyl purchasers (both contained on the CD), Marshall comes across as an in-between of the spiritual early-mid 1970s sounds of Pharoah Sanders with hints of Sun Ra and, perhaps, more frequently Alice Coltrane on keyboards. Underpinning the majority of album tracks is a driving, percussive rhythm section. Owen Marshall doubles up on electric piano and flute on ‘Planet funk’ which is more subtle than its title would at first suggest and features laid back fender bass playing and a delicate electric piano solo from Ernest Slaughter. Both Alice and John Coltrane are evoked on separate pieces with the former’s echoey electric piano surely influencing Marshall on ‘Nana’s sleeping’ while the bassline to ‘Casa del soul’ sounds distinctly like that of Coltrane’s ‘Love supreme’. On the two bonus cuts, Marshall sounds as though he is playing baritone saxophone on ‘Grunt-uh-uh-uh’ and this has a funkier feel to the rest while he performs on flute on ‘Evolove’. Since no discography is provided in the brief notes, either as sideman or leader, one can only presume that this recording was not preceded by any others. Owen Marshall earned his living primarily as both a live performer, having played with the likes of Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner, trumpeter Ted Curson and tenorist Jimmy Heath among others, and as a composer. In this latter role, he composed two pieces on the debut Blue Note album for Lee Morgan as well as other pieces for Jackie McLean, Max Roach and Horace Silver. One day greater light will be shed on his collaborations with the aforementioned artists. For the time being this excellent re-issue of an extremely rare and limited original vinyl will suffice. A one-off musician with a clear vision of his craft.

Tim Stenhouse

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