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Barrett Martin: Transcendence

Glenn Astarita By

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Former Grammy Award winner Barrett Martin is a musical renaissance man. He's a busy session artist for film, TV, and has supported name acts amid his membership in several rock bands. However, Martin's compositional skills shine on this revved-up outing that is reminiscent of the burgeoning jazz fusion scene of the 1970s, when musicians integrated rock, funk and soul into the jazz vernacular. But Martin also imparts a modern sheen into these largely groove-laden works, packed with endearing hooks and sprightly rhythmic content.

In 1996 Martin and Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame started the musical cooperative known as Tuatara. Consequently, Buck and cutting-edge keyboardist Wayne Horvitz (Zony Mash, Pigpen) lend their skills on two separate tracks. Otherwise, Martin's support includes in-the-pocket patterns via pumping funk and rock backbeats along with his accentuating percussion additives with Lisette Garcia.

Brash and poignant horns arrangements help drive the overall impetus with Andy Coe's crunching and wily electric guitar phrasings on these charging medium-tempo pulses, bolstered with fiery soloing spots by the frontline commandos. "Play the 4th Prime" is a breezy work sprinkled with Ryan Burns' delightful piano ostinato circling atop Martin's sturdy pulse. But "Nebula" poses a slight deviation, anchored by Martin's fluid mallet lines, the keyboardist's dark synth lines and Hans Teuber's probing sax parts.

On "Rise and Rise" the ensemble initiates a late 1960s type pop motif above Evan Flory-Barnes' corpulent bass notes and the soloists' catchy themes, followed by the saxophonist's jazzy runs to consummate a piece framed with a singalong-like hook. And the retro nod continues on "The Grover," featuring Buck on guitar. It's a piece that could have been composed for pop soul icon, singer Isaac Hayes, resonating with soul jazz background vocal harmonies and a crispy upbeat mid-tempo line of attack.

Don't let the party atmosphere detract from the serious musicianship taking place here. Martin and his band have produced a winner that transparently aligns serious chops, congenial charts and songs that are built to last.

Track Listing: Invocation; Speak; Sands Of Venus; Swingin On A Moonbeam; Miss Galactic Fantastic; The Asp; Play The 4th Prime; Nebula; Rise & Rise; Listen; Wizard Of The Desert; The Grover; Arrival Of The Queen; Moonfish; Event Horizon.

Personnel: Barrett Martin: drums, vibes, marimbas, percussion; Evan Flory-Barnes: upright bass; Andy Coe: guitar; Ryan Burns: piano, keyboards; Hans Teuber: saxophones; Dave Carter: trumpet; Thione Diop: African drums; Lisette Garcia: Latin percussion; Wayne Horvitz: keyboards (2); Peter Buck: guitar (10).

Title: Transcendence | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Sunyata Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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