REVIEW/ DRAWINGS: Oren Marshall at Omnibus Clapham

Oren Marshall at Clapham Omnibus.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Oren Marshall
(Omnibus, Clapham, 5th July 2015. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Oren Marshall's low key launch of his new solo tuba venture in the congenial surroundings of Omnibus, the adventurous arts centre in a converted public library on Clapham Common, was perfect programming for a summer's evening.

Trained classically before branching out into jazz and improv, Marshall has been working with his uniquely customised tuba, named the Orenophone, and recently also with the single-stringed Brazilian berimbaus, which features strongly in Capoeira music. The Orenopone, he explained, had been constructed specially by Mike Johnson in Manchester - 'a genius' - in response to advice he received on the postural issues associated with tuba playing. The berimbaus - ' a very good companion' - looks like an tall archery bow, with aboriginal-style banded colour decoration, and has a shaker attached.

The recital took place in the bar area stage which brought Marshall close to the audience, giving his background anecdotes extra traction, and made for relaxed singalongs to accompany Marshall's vocals with the Brazilian material.

Breathy passages modulated by valve action gradually morphed in to a rolling, thoughtful version of Ellington's Rockin in Rhythm where the rhythm was kept brewing in the bass registers while the melody flew along and over it. Ellington was revisited in a langorously offbeat interpretation of Mood Indigo where low feline growls and incremental shifts restated the melody while soft harmonics suggested the weight of a full brass section.

Marshall's own compositions included a tuba solo extracted from Marshall's The Downfall of Man, originally commissioned by Wapping Hydraulic Power Station and written for penny whistle and tuba, which took a wistfully flavoured tune for a restful, rumbling runaround. Then followed a mellow-toned study, recently rediscovered in an old notebook, from which he sight-read.

Oren Marshall at Clapham Omnibus.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Marshall also recounted the story of how his tuba was flown out to Ghana, during a trip sponsored by the British Council, which included a commission played for ambassadors and local dignitaries, and which fuelled his voyage of discovery into other rhythmic worlds and sounds that have been absorbed in to his repertoire ever since, in projects such as his high-energy, eight-piece Charming Transport Band.

The final piece, before a chat with the audience, involved the production of extended reedy sounds with a haunting, spacious quality when the mouthpiece was removed and Marshall blew directly in to the receiver pipe. That  rounded off a most pleasant and absorbing recital, and another piece of smart Sunday programming from Sue Dorey.

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