June 17, 2024
Marshall Law
Marshall Vente & Project 9
(Middlecoast – 2002)
by Shaun Dale

Marshall Vente is the Leonardo of midwest jazz. A composer and arranger who was personally tutored by Gil Evans and David Matthews, Vente is also a radio DJ, pianist and bandleader. While he’s gifted in each category, it may be his accomplishments as a bandleader that deserve the most attention. He currently leads no less than five active units, including the Latin jazz group Tropicale, a trio with Chicago jazz legend Eldee Young (of Ramsey Lewis Trio and Young-Holt Unlimited fame) and a blues review. The cornerstone ensemble, though, is Project 9, a nonet (which can expand to a dozen or more as the occassion demands) that has been a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene for over 20 years. Marshall Law is a Project 9 retrospective, beginning with their 1981 recording of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Bright Moments” and extending through a pair of cuts from 2000 featuring Eldee Young on vocals.

Along the way there are classics from the books of Miles Davis and Tom Jobim and a handful of Vente originals. One of the most impressive aspects of the album is found in the personell listings. Players like drummer Isa Perez, bassist Scott Mason and saxophonist Jimm Massoth aboard for two decades or more. In the process, they’ve played everything from swing to funk, standards to fusion, and have developed the kind of artistic rapport that can only come from years of rehearsal and performance. If there’s another active rhythm section in jazz with greater longevity, some attentive reader will have to tell me about it, because I haven’t heard of them. The benefit of time well spent together is evident on every track, and Marshall Law provides the ideal opportunity to track the growth of a great band and it’s peerless leader.

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