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A Memorable Evening with Andy Martin

Jack Bowers By

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After several months of inactivity, big-band jazz in Albuquerque sprang vibrantly to life for one memorable evening February 19 as Andy Martin, one of the world's most accomplished trombonists, flew in from Los Angeles to team with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra for an electrifying concert at the Eldorado High School Performing Arts Center, crowning the city's annual two-day schools-oriented Jazz Festival.

For those who need to "bone up" on Martin (pun intended), he's not only a sought-after studio musician but has played lead trombone and / or jazz with almost every big band in the Los Angeles area including those led by Bill Holman, Gordon Goodwin, Tom Kubis, Jack Sheldon, Quincy Jones, Louie Bellson, Matt Catingub and Bob Curnow. Martin has recorded eight albums as leader or co-leader with such celebrated artists as Carl Fontana, Pete Christlieb, Eric Marienthal and Albuquerque's own Bobby Shew. His trombone can also be heard on many recordings by pop stars as well as on movie soundtracks and such TV series as American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. In terms of Martin's technique and virtuosity, think Frank Rosolino. Yes, there has been only one Rosolino, but Martin comes about as close as anyone to equaling Rosolino's incomparable dexterity and panache.

One would assume that a musician of Martin's stature would draw a standing-room-only audience, even in Albuquerque, and I wish I could say that were true. The fact is there were more than a few empty seats, but Martin, always the professional, played as if the concert were standing room only, and everyone in the house was charmed by his performance. The AJO, now directed by lead alto Glenn Kostur after Shew's recent departure, raised the curtain with Mike Crotty's high-powered arrangement of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," ushered baritone saxophonist Paul Blakey to the forefront on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave," glided easily through George Stone's tasteful reading of Rodgers and Hart's "Where or When," and closed the first part of the concert with Randy Brecker's funky "Shanghigh."

After a brief pause Martin was welcomed onstage for the first of his five numbers, a fast-moving version of the standard "Just Friends," arranged (as were the others) by his friend and colleague, Tom Kubis. "Friends" was followed in order by the theme from "Black Orpheus," the standard "Alone Together," the ballad "Imagine What a Change Will Do" (written by Kubis' wife, Carol Jolin), and Juan Tizol's jazz classic, "Caravan." There's not much that can be said about Martin's solos aside from the observation that each one is a well-polished gem, keenly logical yet always swinging, with nary a note squandered or misplaced. While Martin was undeniably the main man, several members of the orchestra including Kostur (alto and soprano), tenor Lee Taylor, trumpeters Kent Erickson and Brad Dubbs, trombonist Christian Pincock, pianist Chris Ishee and drummer Paul Palmer III weighed in with persuasive statements of their own.

It was, to be concise, a night to remember, and we look forward to seeing and hearing Andy Martin again in Los Angeles in May. Speaking of which . . .

Everything's Coming Up Golden

Ken Poston has announced more details about the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's "Big Band Olympics," set for May 26-29 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, whose over-arching theme is "Celebrating the Big Band Sound from Around the World." With that in mind, the LAJI has invited ensembles representing 13 countries to take part in the four-day event (including tributes to Canada's Boss Brass and Belgium's Clarke-Boland Big Band). Other bands scheduled to appear are from Australia (The Tim Davies Big Band), Cuba (The Arturo Sandoval Big Band), England (The John Altman Big Band), France (The Christian Jacob Big Band), Germany (The Chris Walden Big Band), Hungary (The Tommy Vig Big Band), Japan (The Toshiko Akiyoshi / Lew Tabackin West Coast Reunion with Bobby Shew and others), the Netherlands (The Rob Pronk Big Band), Russia (The Valery Ponomarev Big Band), Yugoslavia (The Dusko Goykovich Big Band) and, last but not least, the United States (The Bill Holman Big Band).

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