CD review: John Martin Quartet

(F-ire CD 40)

This debut recording by tenor and soprano saxophonist John Martin, pianist Jonjo Grisdale, double bassist Tim Fairhall and drummer Andy Ball might have been made in an Italian studio, but it is a vital new addition to a thoroughly modern and specifically English kind of jazz.

Martin,  who wrote all the material, has all the right influences and all the right teachers. The track All Good Things, Martin tells us, was influenced by Kenny Wheeler, and although the trumpeter might have been born in Canada, his is a particular kind of often quiet though also intense, thoughtful, personally harmonised music that is at the centre of what I hear as this specifically English style.

Martin studied with pianist Nikki Iles and flautist Eddie Parker, and they are both on this tradition too.

Having stressed the Englishness of the style, it’s important to stress that it is a pretty inclusive way of working, leaning strongly not only to a highly personal form of expression, but also to absorbing influences from outside these lands. So, track two, Looking Up, for example, can take in Afrobeat influences, while Swagger is not only a blues but also in a time signature more familiar to Eastern European or Middle Eastern folk music perhaps.

The title track contrasts darker and lighter sections with Martin particularly expressive on soprano. There is a strong compositional element to the music, with written developments and improvised sections seamlessly joined. Like the album as a whole, this is certainly not head-solos-head stuff in the old jazz sense.

Like Adam Waldmann’s Kairos 4tet, John Martin’s band play with a great deal of melody in mind, and a narrative flow to their improvisations, as well as strong group cohesion. Waldmann has name checked Julian Arguelles as an influence and I suspect Martin might do the same.

You can hear the John Martin Quartet play this music this early evening at the Rush Hour Blues session, in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall foyer. The music runs from 5.30 to 7pm and it’s free. I can recommend it.

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3 replies

  1. The band was excellent at Rush Hour Blues last night. They were well received and sold quite a few CDs at the end.

    The John martin Quartet is definitely in the English tradition that Peter refers to and, as with Kairos 4tet and the Sam Crockatt Quartet, they make an interesting contrast to the more ‘full-on’ young bands influenced by rock music.

  2. I was so impressed by their Rush Hour Blues appearance I paused from photographing the band to buy the album! Your review is spot on Peter – I highly recommend the CD and look forward to seeing the band again.


  1. John Martin by Garry Corbett | thejazzbreakfast

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