Drummer and teacher George Marsh should not be mistaken for the man with the same name and instruments who played in the '20s and '30s in the Paul Whiteman and Bix Beiderbecke bands and behind singers such as Bing Crosby, and who died in 1962 after several decades working in the Hollywood film music industry. The younger Marsh is associated with a music scene farther up the coast, San Francisco. He began gigging with jazz players including John Abercrombie and Joe Henderson in the late '60s, but can drop at least one really big name from activities dating even further back. Marsh has been drumming professionally since the age of 15, beginning in his hometown of Belleville, IL. In one venue there he backed up Barbra Streisand, at that point an unknown singer.
Marsh's background includes formal studies as well as prowling Midwest nightclub stages. In the Champaign-Urbana college cluster he studied percussion and in the classical context found opportunities with nearby organizations such as the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players. Proximity to the Windy City also meant blowing with that city's jazz players. In 1968 the drummer departed for San Francisco, where he also worked with the witty Mose Allison, the mandolinist David Grisman, the thick tenor saxophonist Harold Land, the intriguing pianist Denny Zeitlin, and a host of avant-garde classical maestros including Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros.
The unique Bay Area music scene of the '70s is hard to imagine without this drummer, whose datebook included a typical pickup assignment backing Chuck Berry at the Fillmore West as well as more detailed commitments to ensembles such as the Loading Zone and the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. An enduring musical partnership has been with composer Mel Graves; Marsh performed the percussion part for the Graves composition entitled "Blanco" at Lincoln Center in New York City.
He has taught jazz drums and polyrhythms for more than 40 years and has written an instruction book, Inner Drumming. He is also an accomplished arranger, responsible for some of the best tracks on singer Maria Muldaur's beautiful album of children's songs, On the Sunny Side. ~ Eugene Chadbourne