The Rapidian

Randy Marsh gathers jazz community for Sunday night jam

Sunday night Jazz Jam at Hopcat
Randy Marsh opens the set at Hopcat. His supportive approach has set an upbeat tempo for the jazz community.

Randy Marsh opens the set at Hopcat. His supportive approach has set an upbeat tempo for the jazz community. /All photos by Kelly Loucks Wilson of KriZmaphoto

Underwriting support from:
Randy Marsh on jazz harmonica.

Randy Marsh on jazz harmonica.

Randy and his father, Arno, at a 2010 jazz at the zoo event.

Randy and his father, Arno, at a 2010 jazz at the zoo event.

Sunday nights at Hopcat have turned out to be a jazz party. Not a wine and cheese party, not a “jazz society” event that “don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” but something more like an old-fashioned blowing session. No offense to Duke Ellington or the “it’s gotta swing” crowd, but if last Sunday night (July 24) was typical, Sunday night at Hopcat is a gathering of jazz musicians who are out to have fun and please themselves as much as anyone else. Organizer (and drummer) Randy Marsh has pulled together a rhythm section that can lay down any groove any way it needs to go.

Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the Grand Rapids music scene. Perhaps best known for his recent work with the organ trio Organissimo, Marsh is one of the happiest faces in the GR jazz community. The family of musicians that are wandering in the door and up onto the bandstand Sunday nights is evidence of Randy’s open personality and positive support to young and old, beginner and veteran.

Last Sunday, Randy was accompanied by Steve Talaga on keyboard and Tom Lockwood on bass. Talaga and Lockwood are well-known veterans of the Grand Rapids jazz scene and are a perfect fit for this open stage.

Early on Sunday night a young drummer and bass player took a seat for a few tunes and offered up some Herbie Hancock. As the night wore on, sax players Randy Gist and Greg Marsden joined the stage with a funked up New Orleans-style “Cissy Strut” by The Meters. Then the lid came off and Marsh pulled out his chromatic blues harp and showed off some incredible bebop chops eliciting a roar from the crowd.

Hopcat’s chief beer geek, Steve Smith, remarked, “the crowd has been fantastic in here on Sunday nights. It’s been great to see this response to an old fashioned jam session.”  

Randy continues the gig with pianist/composer Matt Moresi and guitarist Carlos Melendez at 7 p.m. on July 31 at Hopcat.

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