Monday, July 4, 2011


Saturday afternoon, I talked to writer Bill Harris about jazz bass player Marion Hayden’s 2007 album Visions. Bill has been my mentor well over 20 years. We talk weekly about a variety of topics, mainly books, writing and jazz music. Marion is popular around Michigan. And she’s a top bass player in the nation. That’s my opinion. I bet others acquainted with Marion feel the same.

Visions was Marion’s debut recording. Marion has played on many jazz albums. And she cut three albums with the female jazz band Straight Ahead Look Straight Ahead, Body & Soul, and Dance of the Forest Rain. Visions was the fourth album I reviewed for I Dig Jazz.

For the most part, I liked Visions. But I recall writing Marion’s band Steve Turre, Wendell Harrison, and Kirk Lightsey—great bandleaders—eclipsed her. I felt Marion should’ve been more aggressive. I learned a few years later, after interviewing her, aggression wasn’t her style.

Bill thinks the world of Marion. Last week, Bill caught Marion’s set at jazz guitar player A. Spencer Barefield’s home concert series. Bill bought a copy of Visions. And he raved about it, ranking Visions among the best jazz album by a Detroiter he’s ever experienced. That’s a big compliment. To Bill jazz is important as food and shelter. Bill disagreed with my review of Visions.

I listened to Visions again a year or so after interviewing Marion for a Metrotimes article. My editor, W. Kim Heron headlined it ‘Mother of the band’. I asked Marion about her low-key style.

Part of a jazz bass player’s job, Marion explained, is keeping the band in check. Consumed with the basic duties of a jazz bass player, Marion rarely has the opportunity to play long solos or showboat.

In June, Marion performed with saxophone player Salim Washington at the Detroit Institute of Arts. That was the first time I’ve seen Marion solo on nearly every song. Washington gave Marion the floor. And she kicked butt.

Looking back, I wished I’d interviewed Marion before I reviewed Visions. Now I understand her, and what the duties of a jazz bass player are.
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