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Lance Martin : News : PROMOS

PROMOS

PHYSICAL JAZZ LINER NOTES BY CHRISTOPHER LYDON

PHYSICAL JAZZ LINER NOTES BY CHRISTOPHER LYDON
Lance Martin took up the flute because his mother (who wished he'd play the violin) said trumpets and drums weren't allowed in the house, and further, he says, because "I couldn't run fast enough to play the clarinet."  This was "Sugar Top" in the hill district of Pittsburgh in the 1970s.  Lance was a gifted child in a family and scene where the varieties of music were inescapable.  His father Robert W. Martin Sr. was pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Penn Hills -- also pianist-organist, artist and composer of sturdy Gospel hymns like "I am Somebody.. I'm a Child of the King," and "I'm Waiting and Watching."  Lance's mother and grandmother were both choir conductors and all-around musicians.  In school Mr. Grayson Howard 3rd played oboe and handed Lance a flute head joint one day and told him to experiment with it.  "He said: if I liked it, he'd give me the rest of the instrument."  I did, and he did."  

Miles Davis, Betty Carter, James Brown and Earth, Wind and Fire were also in the air, and in Lance's ears more and more flute stars: Hubert Laws, Eric Dolphy, James Galway and "my example," James Moody.  These were the influences that drove Lance Martin to the Berklee College of Music in Boston in its "Branford Marsalis period" in the late '70s and early '80s.  On Sunday mornings Branford added an undergraduate Brass Ensemble to the worship service at the Twelfth Baptist Church, a historic church in Boston where Martin Luther King Jr. had apprenticed in the 1950s, and where the long-time pastor, Michael Haynes, a pianist and inspired singer himself, is also the kid brother of the immortal jazz drummer Roy Haynes.  When Branford Marsalis left Berklee in 1981 to join "the university of Art Blakey," Lance Martin took the baton of the TBC Brass Ensemble and has sustained the crescendos of his 6-, sometimes 8- or 10- or 15-piece church ensemble ever since.  

The Lance Martin Band of Physical Jazz is something else again, but nothing's not related.  The ingredients of Lance's music come clearly from Gospel, Urban Funk and Jazz.  He can "tear up the joint" in church, in a club or at a barbecue with music that sounds appropriate.  But this is not a divided soul.  Nobody's getting just a part of this versatile writer and performer.  Lance is all music, and all his music is him.

The Tunes: 1.  Take Flute is a Lance Martin theme, also a technical exercise, and a tribute.  Trying to make new sounds on the flute -- to find his own rough, juicy jazz flute sound -- can be taken as Lance's hommage to such players as Yusef Lateef, Rahsan Roland Kirk, Jeremy Steig and Tim Weisberg.

  1. Moanin', the Bobby Timmons standard, is taken at an unusually brisk tempo with a churchy, pentecostal feel.  "I could play that in church," Lance says. "I don't know if they'd understand it, but I could do it."  
  2. That's The Way Love Goes was written by Jam and Lewis for Janet Jackson.  Lance adds the vamp from a Biggie Small tune.  
  3. How Deep Is Your Love is played so slow it becomes a funk ballad, and a moving, memorable version of the Bee Gees' big hit.  
  4. Eleanor Rigby, by Lennon and McCartney, becomes a fun romp on a timepiece of a tune by two great writers.  6.  Foolish Heart funks up an 80's adult contemporary classic by Steve Perry.  
  5. Take Flute, the Reprise, extends the exercise and the tribute.  
  6. Somber Samba is Lance's own venture into Brazil.  "It was given to me," Lance says.  "I just woke up and heard it."  
  7. Dobie, written by Lance Martin, is a rap tune without the words, with the focus on the groove. Lance recorded his solo over his own flute background.
  8. Y I Love You, from the Hip-Hop group B2K, is a tune that Lance embraced to show that something beautiful can come out of Hip-Hop, the main musical influence on many of the musicians he plays with.  
  9. He's Able, by the melodious Kirk Franklin, has Jonathan Singleton directing a young vocal ensemble.  
  10. Why We Sing comes from Kirk Franklin's first album.  It was recently revived by Dionne Warwick in a CD of the same title.  It's another worthy monument to Franklin's way with a melody, and with young people.  
  11. Car Cruisin' Music is Lance Martin's way of saying, or playing, or singing "Hello, Pittsburgh."  It was inspired a few years ago at the moment of bursting through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the portal to the skyline of Lance's home town.  Pittsburghers love it (check "Fort Pitt Tunnel" on YouTube) as the moment when the city "hits you" coming home.



The Band:
Jonathan Singleton, schooled in Philadelphia and then Berklee, is the hardest working church pianist and choir director in Boston, now fanning out often with his choruses to Europe, Japan and Latin America.  He is the assistant minister of music at the Twelfth Baptist Church, and the minister of music at the Berea Seventh Day Adventist Church, which conveniently has its main weekly service on Saturdays.  And it seems fair (and necessary) to say Johnathan is the quiet core of the spiritual substance of the record.  
Webster Roach, a funk master bassist, has toured with the saxophonists Najee and Walter Beasley.  His own bank, active around town in Boston, is Serious Business.  
Stanley Swann 3rd is the son of a Chicago drummer, and he's still known long after he moved East for a Chicago sound -- a hybrid that you can hear on "Moanin'" of funk sounds and jazz flair.  
Dan Cantor was indispensable in engineering and editing the record, and gets to sit in on a few tunes.  He studied drums with the late Alan Dawson in Boston.


The Proust Questionnaire:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Doing what you love, which in my case is music: perform, write, listen.

What is your greatest fear?

Dying alone, unable to make music.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I wish I had one.  I can't afford one yet.

What is your current state of mind?

Reflective.  Frustrated by day jobs when I'd rather be playing.

On what occasion do you lie?

To spare another's feelings, sometimes my father didn't and I Inherited that.  If you don't want my opinion, don't ask me.

What is the quality you like most in a man?

Leadership and stability.  My father was the model.

What is the quality you like most in a woman?

A sense of humor and her eyes.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Other than art and music?  The ability to sell myself.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Writing 760 songs.  My goal is 2000.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

Dogs are my favorite animals, and I already possess a lot of dogs' qualities: loyalty, playfulness, unconditionality in devotion.

Where would you like to live?

With the one I love, when I find her.

What is your most treasured possession?

My flute: an Armstrong 55B, French open-hole, B-foot.

Who are your favorite writers?

George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

Who is your favorite historical figure?

Jesus, the carpenter.  The third-worlder with olive skin and wooly hair, the man who taught by doing.

What quality do you most dislike in other people?

Apathy.  It's hard to play music for people who don't show up.

What's your motto?

Keep trying.


Christopher Lydon

updated: 1 year ago