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Peter Martin and 'Something Unexpected!'

Peter Martin wears a lot of hats these days. The 30-year old solo artist, composer, leader, and New Orleans-based pianist for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has just released, "Something Unexpected," his debut CD for the MaxJazz label.

Martin has worked with are Wynton Marsalis (in the Lincoln Center group), Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman and Nicholas Payton. He is currently on tour with Dianne Reeves’ group.

"Something Unexpected" was recorded live at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis with Reginald Veal (bass), Adonis Rose (drums), Brice Winston (tenor saxophone) and Nicholas Payton (trumpet & flugelhorn). It includes both Martin’s originals, as well as easily unexpected takes on Stevie Wonder and Jobim standards like Corcovado and I Wish. Though Martin sometimes echoes the best of the Bluenote periods of Hancock and Tyner, he's developing a sound that’s his own an event worth catching.

JazzReview: Something Unexpected is an apt title. Sometimes people forget that’s what jazz is about...the element of surprise and a personal statement, but with the control of intuition and some level of virtuosity. What part, and how much a part, does intuition play in performing and writing for you?

Peter Martin: "The more skillful I feel I have become as an improviser, the more I try and let my musical intuition control my performances and compositions. And, since this recording captured a live performance, I was even more so in the mode of reacting to the music happening around me in an intuitive way."

JazzReview: The first thing I think people are going to notice about the disc is the authentic 1950-60's Bluenote vibe, even in the artwork. You even cover some vintage Dorham and McLean. Was the overall sound by design or what the band listens to, or just the way y'all play live?

Peter Martin: "There was no overt direction on my part to capture a certain era of music. I think that all of the musicians are certainly influenced by the music you mention."

JazzReview: Can you talk about what each player brings to the group and why you chose them? (Do you remember a bass player in N.O. named Brandon Rivas?)

Peter Martin: Nicholas Payton brings incredible fire, virtuosity, soul and originality to my music. Reginald Veal has an incredible sound, impeccable intonation, and imaginative soloing skills. Adonis Rose is able to hear my original compositions and create original grooves that perfectly complete the mood, and Brice Winston is an incredible soloist and able to blend well with Nicholas' sound."

JazzReview: You sometimes sound a lot like McCoy. What are your influences?

Peter Martin: "I listened to McCoy a lot when I was growing up, as well as Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans."

JazzReview: You went to Florida State and Julliard. What were those experiences like?

Peter Martin: "Julliard was nothing like it is now when I went there because there was no jazz studies offered whatsoever. I was there strictly to study classical music, although I mainly went there as an excuse to go to NY. At Florida State I studied with a wonderful classical teacher named Leonidas Lipovetsky, who also taught Marcus Roberts."

JazzReview: You were musical from a very early age, playing piano at 3 and violin even before that. You also have worked with many of the jazz world's elite. How have those events shaped your playing and attitudes? What has each experience taught you?

Peter Martin: "I was always around music, so it seemed normal to practice, learn things off records, have rehearsal, etc. because both of my parents are musicians. Playing with other musicians is where I have learned most of the knowledge that I use to improvise today. I have been lucky to be able to be around some great players, so I was able to absorb some very high quality music."

JazzReview: Obviously a leader yourself, what have you learned from the leaders you've worked for, like Wynton for instance, that has helped you lead?

Peter Martin: "Wynton is a brilliant leader in that he has a very well articulated vision of how he wants his music and organization to be and is able to lead many others around him in those goals. He is an incredibly hard-worker, dedicated, and organized in these regards."

JazzReview: How is it being a part of the Lincoln Center Jazz orchestra with Wynton?

Peter Martin: "It is a lot of fun, although I just resigned to play more consistently with Dianne Reeves.

JazzReview: Can you talk about some of your other side work like Redman's "Freedom in the Groove?" How did that come about and what were those gigs and sessions were like?

Peter Martin: "I had a great time working with Joshua for those three years. I met Joshua when I was playing with Roy Hargrove and Josh did some special guest appearances. He is an incredible player and that band was real strong. Brian Blade, Chris Thomas, and I had been already playing together for several years as a trio around New Orleans before that. Actually, Chris Thomas and I grew up together in St. Louis."

JazzReview: Beyond the Bluenote core, you also do some takes on classic Jobim: the standards "Triste" and "Corcovado" usually associated with guitar and/or voice. Why those tunes for this group?

Peter Martin: "Actually those tunes were not planned to be on the album, but I had been thinking about them around the time of the gigs after playing them with Dianne Reeves. So, I called them on the gig just to see what would happen and really liked the way they came out."

JazzReview: There's also the Stevie Wonder tune, "I Wish." The overall choice of material reminds me of Herbie's "New Standard" where he covers various pop vehicles, or the way Miles would incorporate pop tunes of the day. Are they just tunes you like?

Peter Martin: "Definitely. We usually play a Stevie tune or something like that as set break and I hadn't intended on it actually being on the album. But, as we were mixing the sessions, it seemed like a fitting conclusion."

JazzReview: This is your fourth solo project. How would you say this one differs from the rest, aside from being a live recording?

Peter Martin: "This is the first recording I have made that really is able to showcase my compositions well."

JazzReview: What is your usual approach to recording?

Peter Martin: "This recording was easy after the first set, because I pretty much forgot that we were recording and just treated it like a regular performance."

JazzReview: How do you go about writing new music?

Peter Martin: "I usually sit down at the piano and play various melodies that I have been thinking of away from the piano, and then continue to compile them into a composition through improvisation."

JazzReview: How has living in New Orleans affected your sound?

Peter Martin: "There is such a strong jazz tradition here, that just being around the other musicians has certainly helped to define my current sound."

JazzReview: I noticed you're into the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. I did an interview with Lyle Mays and he also cites Wright as an influence. Is it a structure thing or a pianist thing?

Peter Martin: "That is a good question! I have never thought of that. I really do not know. I just have always been drawn to his architecture. I've been able to see quite a few of his buildings through my travels, which is great."

JazzReview: That's great. I hope to check out Falling Water and Taliesen West at some point. When you've taught, what do you emphasize students focus on?

Peter Martin: "Developing there own voice from early on, technical piano training, ear training, and lots of listening."

JazzReview: What other projects have you have been involved in would you like to make people aware of?

Peter Martin: "We recently did another 4-Sight recording which is a cooperative group - Greg Hutchinson, Rodney Whitaker, Ron Blake and myself."

JazzReview: What upcoming projects, tours, and gigs are coming up for you?

Peter Martin: "The Dianne Reeves tour through the rest of the year and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with my own band."

JazzReview: Best of luck with it all and thanks, Peter.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Peter Martin
  • Subtitle: The Interview
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