Rondi Marsh’s “The Pink Room” is full of surprising and inspired jazz

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Singer Rondi Marsh has led a life mostly full of the arts. Even though she was born and raised in Yakima, Washington, her life in the performing arts was as rich as if she’d lived in a place a bit more associated with glamour and the art of performance.

However, Marsh’s years spent among rolling mountains did not prevent her from becoming the performer she is today. Marsh’s fourth album, “The Pink Room” shows audiences the singer’s spirit and influences.

About Rondi Marsh

Marsh’s initial influences were literally found at home. Her mother sang in church and community choirs. Even Marsh’s sister was an influence. Marsh’s sibling was an artist and a classical singer. Ironically, it wasn’t music performance that first drew Marsh to the stage. Instead, she took to various forms of dance – – tap, ballet, toe, and jazz dance. She even ventured into acrobats and baton. However, there was a shift in Marsh’s attention. In her early teens, she began learning to play her mother’s antique (1935) guitar. Learning to write songs and singing harmony followed soon after the guitar’s discovery.

Like a lot of teens with burgeoning talent, Marsh found inspiration in contemporary and classic artists. Household name acts such as Heart (lead singer Ann Wilson in particular), Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Riatt, Sarah Vaughn and Diana Krall. Not surprisingly, Marsh sang in two high school choirs.

Her post-secondary education led her to earn a bachelor of arts in music education and a masters degree in education. As though her life’s training had come full-circle, Marsh participated in an official dance group in college. It was in college that Marsh continued her exploration of jazz.

Rondi Marsh: performance notes

Marsh is a jazz singer who doesn’t shy away from the influences of other genres. From hard rock to folk, and several in between, there is a bit of each genre in Marsh’s work. From cover song choices, to turns of phrase, Marsh is a singer who performs with a conscious ear for what other genres offer to the craft of jazz.

“The Pink Room” by Rondi Marsh

In terms of vocal ranges, Marsh is an alto. She uses her instrument expressively and never sounds as if she is overdoing it, or making an obvious effort to sound “jazzy.”

“The Pink Room” is Marsh’s fourth album. With each recording, it sounds as if Marsh finds a way to mix stylishly, cover songs and originals. Even so, Marsh makes each song sound like her own. Her rich voice is sinewy and doesn’t get bogged down in lower registers. Marsh doesn’t sound as if she is straining, either.

While all the songs offer listeners something special, Marsh shines on songs like “The Bass Song,” which is a fun and masterful mash-up between “Slap That Bass” by George and Ira Gershwin, and “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. This song is an example of Marsh having an ear for meshing the past with the present. Her voice shines on the track, and even the titular bass can’t detract from her performance.

Another song that some listeners might have forgotten, and that Marsh includes here is “Black Denim Trousers.” The song is a 1955 hit for a band called The Cheers. Here, Marsh proves that not only is she an in-touch singer in terms of musical history, but her phrasing helps audiences keep up with the story the song relays. On this song Marsh is joined by Michael Wansley (“The Wanz). The song is spirited with a touch of the dramatic. Marsh uses her register to push the story along. This helps listeners who are new to the song appreciate its quirks.

While some singers have enjoyed longer recording histories, Marsh’s story is interesting because it shows her trajectory as a person and as a performer. When listeners know her backstory, it helps to create even greater interest in Marsh’s music.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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