John Martin is a pioneering British jazzman with freshly minted ideas about drawing new sounds and textures out of his saxophone. By using special techniques of breathing and blowing, Martin has become skilled at playing more than one note at the same time. This gift gives him the ability to access higher frequencies called harmonics. This is where the hidden notes are to be found and where the name of this project come from.
Tonight to a full house, the affable Martin and his agile band unveiled his new album Spirit of Adventure. An adventure where those hidden notes and many that were not under cover took centre stage. The evening opened with Heptopia. Martin has a light but full blooded tone, with his harmonic effects adding a cries and whispers layer to the loosely northern European sound. Sadly you don’t get many vibes players around these days, but that complaint is elegantly remedied by Ralph Wynd whose playing added chimes of nimble sweetness thought out the evening . Spirit of Adventure was one of the bigger splash moments. Tim Fairhall’s attention catching double bass intro prefigured a bagatelle of sound, Rob Undergraff’s guitar neatly cut himself a slice with some warming volleys and Martin high fiving harmonically with with his bandmates.
By the time the second set had kicked in the ability of Martin & Co was clear, as was Martin’s passion for the theory of the sound adventure he was taking us on. So the improvised nature of many of the tunes. Pentacision started up as a straight up boppish stroller with the band in full tilt but had many changes of tempo along the way and lingered too long. The was greater economy and focus on Whisper, a subtle lullaby like melody with Rob Undergraff’s guitar pointillism and those cascading vibes of Ralph Wyld. Folklore felt slightly bluesy and trimmed the set of some its improvised topiary.
Tonight’s adventures brought John Martin's Hidden Notes and the audience closer together and on occasion left me feeling far away due to finding a few too many notes on the way. The album is full of atmospheric and spirited playing but its double disc length may leave the listener feeling a bit full if consumed in one sitting.
John Martin - Tenor Saxaphone
Tim Fairhall - Double Bass
Rob Udergraff - Guitar
Tim Giles - Drums
Ralph Wyld - Vibraphone
Photographs: Paul Ottavio