it's's andy!: A Review

By Bob Bernotas • May 07, 2003 • 3 min read

it's fineit's andy coverThe Andy Martin Quartet: it's's andy! Fresh Sound Records FSR 5037. Personnel: Andy Martin, trombone; Jan Lundgren - piano; Tom Warrington - bass; Paul Kreibich - drums.

Frank Rosolino (1926-78) is rightly regarded as one the most gifted and influential of all jazz trombonists. Although this new CD by talented West Coast trombonist Andy Martin is dedicated to Rosolino's memory, it is not one of those slavish, and oh, so dull, "tribute albums." While others may believe that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Martin understands that, in jazz, flattery will get you nowhere. So he pays tribute to Rosolino's legacy by absorbing it and building upon it to create his own personal musical statement.

Interestingly, Martin opens the set with "Carl," a number specially written by Bill Holman for another trombone master, Carl Fontana, who was featured on it during his tenure with Stan Kenton's band in the mid 1950s. This is the first-ever commercial recording of the tune by anyone, and it provides an ear-opening introduction to Martin's facility and strong bebop chops. "Street Scene," the essential film noir motif by renowned Hollywood composer Alfred Newman, becomes, in Martin's hands, a charming cameo, carefully crafted and free of excess ornamentation. By this point, it's abundantly clear that he is a trombonist of taste and intelligence, a player who knows how to use the entire range of the horn to express himself, rather than relying on empty, attention-grabbing pyrotechnics.

Martin uses his cup mute to deliver Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," which Rosolino recorded on his classic Bethlehem album, I Play Trombone, getting progressively funkier over the course of his four solo choruses. On "The Night Has Thousand Eyes," the infectious Latin groove sets up Martin's impeccably constructed, musically logical improvisation. His heart-racing ride through "From This Moment On" overflows with the joy and optimism inherent Cole Porter's title (and lyric).

"Flamingo," also from Rosolino's I Play Trombone, is performed as a duet by Martin (with cup mute) and Jan Lundgren on piano. Martin chooses to stay close to the melody of this exotic jazz aria, letting his phrasing and timbre tell the story on its own terms. By shifting "Get Happy," a highlight of J.J. Johnson's eminent 1953 Blue Note sextet session, into a minor key, Martin is able to take a fresh look at familiar scenery. He brings out the misterioso character of the rumba, "Nightingale," and Lundgren offers his best solo contribution of the date, which is saying a lot, since his work throughout is uniformly excellent. Irving Berlin's "He Ain't Got Rhythm," is a sold straight-ahead swinger capped by Martin's stunning a cappella coda.

An intricate unison passage for trombone, bass, and piano frames an exemplary jazz quartet performance of the overlooked, ought-to-be standard, "I'm Shooting High." Martin's rich-toned open horn sings one of the great ballads of all-time, the blues soaked, bittersweet "We'll Be Together Again." Almost any decent song can be a vehicle for jazz - just ask Sonny Rollins - as long as the performer takes it seriously, approaches it on its on terms, and works to uncover its inherent musical value. And so for the closer, Martin pitches "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a tune from Rosolino's first date as a leader, and one typical of his whimsical sense of humor. This rousing version, like the album as a whole, proves a worthy tribute.

Andy Martin's it's's andy! is as engaging and enjoyable a jazz trombone CD - make that jazz CD, period - as has been released in recent memory. For anyone who is searching for some honest, no-frills music, no current recording could be more fulfilling.

Ordering information is available at Andy Martin's website.