To assume that singer/writer Rebecca Martin's comparatively small recorded output is a reflection of her level of development as an artist would be a mistake. Her latest recording is with Paul Motian on his recently released Trio 2000 + 1 Winter & Winter recording, On Broadway Vol. 4: Or The Paradox Of Continuity
. She is the first vocalist to record for the legendary drummer's On Broadway
series. Upon first consideration, Motian's often elliptical style and Martin's more straightforward approach to melody could seem to make strange bedfellows. But like minds and different approaches do not have to be mutually exclusive and that's evidenced on this new record.
Martin's main focus in the past, however, has been the writing of her own material. Most of her previous records consist of material written (or co-written) by herself, and could be thought of as being in the singer/songwriter style. But labeling the music with a "style/genre is almost always limiting for an artist like Martin. She has released one record as a co-leader with the great songwriter Jesse Harris in their group Once Blue, and others on her own, including Thoroughfare (Independent, 1999), and People Behave Like Ballads (MaxJazz, 2004).
Then there's Middlehope which was released on Fresh Sound New Talent in 2002. It's the record she's probably most known for inside jazz circles and certainly her most jazz-oriented record before the Motian date. It's almost entirely standards, some well-known and some more obscure, and the band consists of some of the very best players.
Speaking with Martin at a restaurant/café in her hometown one gets an interesting mix of intensity and calm. Her energy is strong but in no way intimidating. And her ideas, while often thoroughly thought-out and well lived-in, are still open. We spoke about all of her projects to date, her writing process, and much more.
Rebecca Martin: So I want to thank you for doing [this interview] on me. I really appreciate it. And it's good to talk about Paul's thing [Motian's Paradox Of Continuity] because it didn't really get much promotion. I kind of understand. It's difficult to do a real concentrated thing in America. It's so big. Also, the market for jazz is so small. But it would've been nice to have it available on iTunes. So I'm really appreciative of people talking about it.
Plus it's an unusual record, I think, for people. It was a blast to make. One day, all first or second takes. I was eight months pregnant while I was singing. It's just an incredible opportunity to work in that context because always leading groups is limiting to a certain degree. You can learn so much by being led. Especially by someone like Paul.
All About Jazz: How did this record get off the ground?
RM: What happened was he was playing with [bassist] Larry [Grenadier] at The Village Vanguard early last year, 2005.
AAJ: With The Electric Be-Bop Band?
RM: No, it was the 2000 + 1 project[saxophonist] Chris Potter, Larry, [pianist] Masabumi Kikuchi, and Paul. So he said to Larry, "Do you think Rebecca would do a record with me without a chordal player?
AAJ: That's the big difference, to my ear, between the other records I have by you and this one.
RM: Yeah, yeah. So I called Larry while I was on my way to a session in Brooklyn or something, and he said, "Paul wants to do a record with you. Paul is truly one of the first musicians I ever heard live in New York City with his trio with [saxophonist] Joe Lovano and [guitarist] Bill Frisell. It really touched me so much and so deeply. I have so many memories about that time period anyway, in New York. Coming to New York...
AAJ: When was that? Mid-'80s?
RM: No. Early '90s. 1990 or 1991. And then I worked with [guitarist] Kurt [Rosenwinkel] in Once Blue and Kurt was working with Paul then in The Electric Be-Bop Band. Then [guitarist] Steve Cardenas ended up in The Electric Be-Bop Band and Larry, of course, worked with Paul at different times. Actually Larry worked with Paul for the first time with [keyboardist] Larry Goldings on this great trio record he did with Paul called Awareness (Warner Bros., 1996).
AAJ: Wow. I haven't heard of that. So just the two Larrys and Paul?
RM: Yeah. It's incredible. It's Larry Goldings' compositions on piano. That was the first time I think that Larry Grenadier worked with Paul. And then in 2000 he did Trio 2000 + 1 (Winter&Winter). So, anyway, I was thrilled just to be asked as a singer for a project like this. Again, it was another great education in learning new songs; such was Middlehope. You knowthe process of discovering singers and songs. I just really love interpreting songs so much.
AAJ: The Middlehope record was your date so I assume you chose the material for it?
AAJ: Who chose the tunes you sang on Paradox of Continuity? Did you pick them?
RM: Yeah. One of the great things about Paul leading is that he leads but he's very open. He lets you choose takes, he lets you choose songs. It's really incredible. In fact when I showed up to the session he said, "Okaywhat arrangement do you want to do Rebecca? I said, "What do you mean? [laughs]. What arrangement?