mmarcus.jpgMarie Marcus, Cape Cod’s “first lady of jazz,” died on Oct. 10 from complications of a stroke. She was 89.
Marcus was only four years old when she started playing the piano. At 13, she made her professional debut at Jordan Hall in Boston. She briefly attended the New England Conservatory of Music, but her heart was not into playing classical music. Marcus loved jazz, and was almost expelled for playing swing music in class.
In the 1930s, Marcus moved to New York City and landed a job playing the piano for mobster Dutch Schultz at his restaurant, Kean’s Steakhouse. After her shift ended, she trekked up to Harlem to listen to the greatest jazz musicians of the time perform at the Cotton Club and Tillie’s Kitchen. She was one of the only white faces in the crowd.
A shy woman, Marcus was eventually persuaded to play for legendary jazz pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller. He was so impressed with her talents that he offered to teach her the stride piano whenever he was not on tour.
Marcus played Miami Beach and appeared on radio and television as a member of the band, Preacher Rollo and the Five Saints, during the 1950s. When she moved back to Massachusetts, she performed at the Coonamessett Club in Falmouth, the Panama Club in Hyannis and the Olde Inn on Cape Cod.
Marcus also recorded seven albums and formed the Cape Cod Jazz Society. She received several honors in her lifetime, including the George Foster Peabody medal and the Annual Living Treasure Award for her achievements in the music industry.