THE SPIRE: Plymouth Rock Assurance Jazz Fest features jazz greats

WICKED LOCAL – Tony Bennett was getting a lift from jazz singer Donna Byrne when she played one of her husband’s CDs on the car stereo.

You could call Marshall Wood a bass animal, and Bennett was impressed with his playing. He was so impressed that in 2000 Wood found himself filling in with Bennett’s band, and a few years later, he was a permanent fixture.

Membership has its privileges. As a bona fide band member, Wood has played on several of Bennett’s CDs and will accompany Bennett and Lady Gaga on their world tour to promote their album “Cheek to Cheek.” The tour kicks off later this month.

But, first, Wood will play in Plymouth.

He and his band, The Marshall Wood Quartet, will perform Friday, May 22, at The Spire’s second annual Plymouth Rock Assurance Jazz Fest.

“The world tour starts officially in Vancouver at the end of May,” Wood said. “The jazz festival is on Friday night and I leave that Sunday and go to Vancouver and then on to California, England, the Bahamas, Monaco, Spain and more.”

Sponsored by Plymouth Rock Assurance and Eastern Bank, the festival will run from Friday, May 22, through Sunday, May 24, at The Spire Center for Performing Arts on Court Street in downtown Plymouth.

“It’s something that’s going to put Plymouth on the map,” Spire Center President Bob Hollis said. “We did it last year and we feel it’s something that’s going to bring people to town for the Memorial Day weekend. They’re all going to come here for the jazz festival. We received tremendous support last year from the fans.”

Wood, who lives in Norwell with Byrne and their two mastiffs, is one of those fans.

He said he grew up in awe of his older cousin, Billy Rogers, who played amazing jazz guitar. He asked Rogers what instrument he would recommend he play, and which one was the easiest. Wood informed him that none of them are easy, but suggested the bass.

“I took my paper route money and bought one in 1982,” Wood said. “Not long after that, the people I wanted to play with – and was fortunate enough to play with – encouraged me to buy a string bass. That was 35 years ago. I’ve been really, really fortunate, but I’ve worked hard.”

He’s worked so hard that Wood is the featured bassist on Amy Winehouse’s albums, Ruby Braff’s “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” several of Bennett’s albums and many others.

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By Emily Clark