Thursday, February 04, 2010

From Jazz Royalty, Boston Drum Talent Zeke Martin Makes a Musical Mark for Himself

You don't have to go back too far to find the musical inspiration in Zeke Martin's past. His father, Stu Martin, accompanied some of jazz's great talents, including Herbie Hancock, Charlies Mingus, Quincy Jones, and John McLaughlin. But the Brussels-born/Boston-bred offspring quickly began to make a name for himself, culminating in his band's newest record, U4RIA.

Boston jazz fans might know Martin through his work in either the Ed Jones Quartet or the Ray Brown Quartet. Regardless, the fact is, he's been playing with Boston's most respected jazz musicians-- including Andre Ward, Andre Hayward, Bronson Arroyo, PJ Adamson, Valerie Stevens, Frank Wilkins, Herman Johnson, Bill Lowe, and more--since the mid-'90s.

In recent years, Zeke was written about in Drum! magazine and by acclaimed writer Scott Yanow in LA Jazz Scene. Zeke has also received endorsements with Creation drums, Evans drumheads, Murat Diril cymbals, and Vic Firth sticks.

The Zeke Martin Project's third full-length outing, U4RIA includes standards mainly, but it's Martin's propensity for fresh arrangements that turns heads. As a drummer with a diverse background, including rock, fusion, funk, and traditional jazz, Martin understands the pivotal role a great drummer can play in a combo, and carefully weaves percussive styles of various colors throughout U4RIA. The result is sizzling spectrum of R&B, funk, soul, jazz and even a little pop.

In order to weave such a tapestry, Martin had to unleash his band. Saxman Sean Berry blows tasty lines throughout the record, but especially on the opening epic, “Freedom Jazz Dance,” and a hot rendition of Mongo Santamaria's “Afro Blue.”

Keyboardist Yusaku Yoshimura also asserts himself all across U4RIA, spotlighted effectively on an ambient take on Coltrane's “Naima” and Stanley Turrentine's tangy ”Sugar.” Bassist Rozhan Razman makes good use of his rhythm stick on every track here, boasting a jazzy, funky, spicy style that bolsters the bedrock of all the material, especially the closing “Teen Town,” a composition written, appropriately, by bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Recorded at Bluetone Studio in Somerville, U4RIA boasts beastly tone and just enough sparkle to illuminate the exceptional arrangements and polished musicianship. Zeke Martin may have royal bloodlines in jazz, and he certainly respects the sounds of jazz's past, but he and ZMP are intent on moving music forward to places it rarely goes, on grooves you rarely hear.

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