NCE Musicians

Present and Past

Marshall Keys (saxophone)

"Marshall Keys' dulcet tones and earthy compositions conjure the spirits of jazzmen past and future." From mainstream to contemporary, from bebop to hip-hop, he plays the saxophone with a sense of grace and emotion that is wholly without cliche." !

Versatility and a strong sense of melody have made Marshall Keys somewhat of an icon in his native Washington, DC. He interprets improvisational music in its many forms and his performance schedule reflects this diversity.

Marshall has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and was commissioned by the Smithsonian to perform the works of Wayne Shorter. He was guest performer and lecturer at the Romare Bearden Exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. He has enjoyed two collaborations with Mexican jazz pianist Juan Jose Calatayud at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC and at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California. He has toured Central and South America twice for the State Department as a Jazz Ambassador and In May of 2005 traveled to Guinea, West Africa to perform and to lecture on the history of jazz in the US.

In August of 2009 he was guest soloist at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood, California playing music from the Harlem Renaissance. He joined Jason Moran's Bandwagon at the Kennedy Center for two performances in 2012, and backed Stevie Wonder at the Howard Theatre in February 2013. The Marshall Keys Group performs at the DC Jazz Festival every year it is held

He has worked with many of the world's greatest musicians including: Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Scott, Lionel Hampton, Stevie Wonder, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Groove Holmes and Jimmy Witherspoon. He has played in jazz festivals in the US, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Mexico, Indonesia, The Virgin Islands and was a featured performer on the 17th Annual Norway Jazz Cruise, and the East Coast Jazz Festival in Washington, DC.

Marshall began his training in the DC Youth Orchestra Program and continued it in the Jazz Studies Program at Howard University. He cut his teeth playing in local bands before gaining his first professional experience with The Blackbyrds and a long association with the great blues organist Jimmy McGriff with whom he recorded the album "Countdown".


Quotes and Reviews:

"Marshall Keys' dulcet tones and earthy compositions conjure the spirits of jazzmen past and future. A mixture of many styles, a collaboration of friends, crafted with great care, Times Aligned is an impressive debut from a seasoned artist."

Mike Sager

Esquire Magazine

 "Reedman Marshall Keys has his work cut out for him on his new CD "Times Aligned," since anyone wishing to hear an alto-soprano saxophonist perform in a contemporary jazz setting has what, a few thousand options?

A gifted musician and composer could have easily disappeared in the crowd, but Keys leaves his mark here by displaying his engaging musicality in a series of refreshingly textured contexts. Instead of falling into a backbeat-driven rut, he subtly shifts the mood, moving from the sensual Miles Davis-tinted title track to melodies that are sinuous ("Fifty-5"), soulful ("La Marsa") and seductive ("Suspended") by turns."

Mike Joyce
The Washington Post

"Marshall Keys' saxophone can sing the blues or swing to the rhythms of bebop with a laid-back sense of cool; the native Washingtonian is a fluid, graceful player."

Giovanni Russonello

"The long, energetic, extraordinary lines of melody that pour forth from his horn are the calling card of Keys, one of the city's longtime alto stalwarts."

 Michael J. West,
Washington City Paper

 "Marshall Keys, a District native who's been working the scene for over 25 years, plays with the with the stone-hard muscle you might associate with the tenor sax, but with the alto's characteristic upperrange cream. That's the basics; along with it comes a metric ton of riffage, melody as sharp as a blade, and a thrusting sense of swing that he applies in a largely bop- and blues-based setting."

"Marshall Keys is an alto saxophonist with a tremendous swing and beautiful melodic flow, and one with as strong a background in fusion as in mainstream jazz."