Remembering Missoula Jazz Pianist Jodi Marshall
There are lots of good musicians in the world, but according to jazz singer Eden Atwood, Missoula’s Jodi Marshall was one of the true greats.
Marshall, who was one of Montana’s most renowned pianists, died Friday at the age of 85.
“That’s the end of an era," Atwood says. "People don’t play piano like Jodi does anymore.”
Jodi Marshall was a musician’s musician, who was once honored by a local jazz committee as a living local legend.
Those musical skills were nurtured at an early age by her mother. Before she came to Missoula she was a pianist for MGM studios and toured with the USO during the Korean War.
Jazz as an artform has evolved over the decades, but Atwood points out that Jodi Marshall always adhered to her true old-school jazz roots.
“She was very serious about melodies," Atwood says. "She had a harmonic sensibility that was very much of the era that she came from. Even the way she embellished on melodies she was a consummate accompanist; she was a wonderful soloist, but as an accompanist she listened like no other."
She adds Marshall – who never formally studied jazz - also had incredible improvisational skills.
The two visited a couple of days after Christmas last year and wound up at the piano:
“And we were playing a Cole Porter tune, got through the first chorus of it; Jodi was improvising but she was chatting at the same time and she said in that inimitable voice of hers, ‘Oh Eden, my body’s falling apart, but my fingers still work…'"
Jodi Marshall is remembered by many long-time Missoulians for epic weekend gigs at the Holiday Inn Parkside in the mid to late 90’s. She and other local celebrity musicians would jam for hours on end Friday and Saturday nights. It kind of felt like hanging out with the Rat Pack.
She worked countless weddings, plays and recitals.
Father Gary Reller is the now-retired pastor of Missoula’s St. Anthony Parish where Jodi Marshall attended and played piano and organ for over 35 years.
Reller says not only was Marshall a gifted musician but she also was naturally inquisitive.
“She inquired about her faith, about religion – she studied eastern religions as well as her own Catholic faith and traditions," Reller says. "She loved to talk with people and know more about them.”
Singer Eden Atwood says Marshall was not only a friend, but a mentor and a wonderful woman.
“She was really cool, but she was a human, right?" Atwood says. "She could get her feelings hurt sometimes. She could get her nose out of joint about this or that. She was a funny mix of, like, grandmother - but hip, cool, jazz grandmother.”
Atwood says Jodi Marshall is already dearly missed by her family, friends, music students and fans.
“The lives that she touched with her playing and her personhood – that’s legacy. There are people in Missoula that will speak her name and remember her forever.”
According to Jodi Marshall’s Facebook page her funeral services will be at Missoula’s St. Anthony's Church this Friday at 11:00 a.m.
Her family is also planning a tribute concert for anyone who wants to perform, sometime later this summer. Details are forthcoming.