Martin Wind: Appreciating Bill Evans

R.J. DeLuke By

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But there will be one concert on November 21 at the New Trier High School, just outside of Chicago. "They arguable have the best music program of any high school in the country," he says." Easily on the conservatory level there. I'm very much looking forward to bringing this music back to life with these young people."

Reflecting on the music of Evans, Wind notes that it's not just the beauty of the iconic pianist's music that drew him in, but " all those amazing bass players" that played in the Evans Trio over the years, like LaFaro, Chuck Israels, Marc Johnson and Eddie Gomez. "That was also pulled me into his world."

Wind's own world of music started in his hometown Flensburg, Germany, the most northern city in Germany, just a few minutes south of Denmark. He was tinkering around with the guitar as a teenager when a band director in school asked if he wanted to play the electric bass in the school band.

"I said, 'Sure. I'm not going to end up being a bassist.' And of course, that's exactly what happened... From my earliest beginnings [on bass], I always played all kinds of genres. I didn't even think in those kinds of terms. It was like, on Friday I had an orchestra rehearsal. On Wednesday it was always big band. We played concerts with orchestra and choir. Playing some pieces by Bach or Handel or whatever, and then three or four days later I might be playing a performance with a jazz trio or a big band. It's always been like that. I really love that."

Wind moved to moved to Cologne and studied classical bass for six years. Meanwhile, he was working more and more as a jazz player and began to come into contact with American musicians. He was asked to go on the road with Slide Hampton for some swings through Europe. He also started working with Bill Mays, "who had heard me at the North Sea Jazz Festival playing with a Dutch group. So more connections started to come together. I thought eventually I didn't want to just play with musicians of that caliber for only four or five weeks out of the year. I want to be around it all the time. I could tell that being around them lifted the level of my playing."

Wind successfully applied for a scholarship through the German Academic Exchange Service, which brought him to NYU as a student in 1996.

"My approach was, I have nothing to lose. If I go back after one academic year, nine months, I'm sure that I will have learned a lot. If I stayed for a year or two or longer, it could only benefit me. Eighteen years later, I'm still here. I'm living in a house in New Jersey. I have two teenaged sons. I'm still here, so it all came together beautifully," he says.

As talented As Wind is, there are many talented musicians in New York. Like most young musicians, it was a struggle at first. "It probably took about five or six years to get to the point where I felt I didn't have to take every little thing that came my way. It's not easy. No one was waiting for me. There were already hundreds of fantastic bass players living here."

Wind appreciated that he had structure in his life during those years, because he was going to school and studying, not just waiting for the phone to ring. He met people at school and managed to play in some of the better clubs, subbing in at first. Connections he made in Europe, like Bill Mays, also brought him work.

"One thing leads to another," he explains. "Somebody recommends you for a rehearsal with a singer. Somebody cancels last minute and you get a call. It takes some time, but that's what it is."

Wind established roots thanks to the woman who eventually became his wife. The fact that he had family stability and became imbedded in the U.S. fabric also provided him with the luxury of being patient during the lean times. Some fellow German musicians had no other focus but music and ended up leaving the U.S. Soon he had a family started "and it gave my life a different meaning. I was here for more than music reasons. There was my family. And the family of my wife. So I belonged to a different social scene. All of these things helped."

Forging relationships with other musicians, as always, is a key for anyone in New York and for Wind, meeting drummer Matt Wilson "was probably the most important thing that happened to me all these years living in New York. He really encouraged me so much and embraced all of my choices that really, through him, I started to trust my musical instincts a lot more. Through him, I started to allow myself to be myself more. Not try to be somebody else. To work with his groups and see how he was leading his bands. His friendship. People saw me and said, 'Matt Wilson's using this guy.' It helped my status. That was incredibly important to me on so many levels. It's wonderful that we're still playing together. It doesn't get old."

Working with the high-profile Vanguard Orchestra has also helped, and Wind still finds time to work with Mays "who is still a great influence and inspiration. I've met so many wonderful musicians over these years. The great thing about New York is that there is always somebody that you haven't worked with, that you're looking forward to working with. It keeps you motivated and keeps you working on your craft. It's a very unique place to be."

Veteran bassist John Clayton, who Wind met in Europe, is another inspiration. "What he does with the bow in jazz, encouraged me. All those hours you put in to get a good sound with the bow, he can use this in jazz too. Then I saw him become this great arranger. So I thought maybe I can write for big band too. He's also a great arranger for orchestral projects. He instilled that belief that even as a bassist, you can be this complete well-rounded musician. It's possible to do many other things and be well-rounded. Maybe go into film music. That keeps it fresh. It's never boring. There's always something else to learn. I learned that from him, along with some other people."

For pure playing of the contrabass, Wind notes his main men are Ray Brown and Ron Carter. "I got a chance to meet both of them and I'm still in awe of their contributions. For me, that's home base right there."

So Wind is a busy New York City musician with various irons in the fire. Another one this year is teaching at the Centrum Jazz Camp in Port Townsend, Washington State. "I'm going there as a faculty member, but 25 years ago I went there as a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in Germany. We went there to perform at the festival and also participate in the camp. That's actually where I met John Clayton. I met Jeff Hamilton, who is also important to me. Ray Brown was there. Monty Alexander. It was incredible how many people I met there. It's wonderful to go back there 25 years later and pass it on to the next generation."

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