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  • Mel Martin (2001)

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    Mel Martin has proven to be one of the most versatile and creative musicians to emerge from the San Francisco Bay Area. His virtuosic abilities on woodwinds combined with his vast range of experience has brought him to a position of pre-eminence as one of the most inventive and innovative of performers. His unique abilities as an improviser, arranger and composer have made him a favorite of such greats as Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, and many others. His work as a leader has been documented on several brilliant recordings with the groups Listen, Featuring Mel Martin and his current band Bebop & Beyond as well as his fine recordings of the music of Benny Carter, Mel Martin Plays Benny Carter and the recent Just Friends - Downbeat (****) by The Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet. He has applied these talents to a wide variety of performing and recording situations including Santana, Azteca, Mongo Santamaria, Boz Scaggs, Cal Tjader, Vince Guaraldi, Denny Zeitlin, Hubert Laws, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, B.B. King, Billy Cobham, Freddy Cole, and the Afro Blue Band as well as a multitude of independent studio projects. In performance Mel displays a rare combination of fiery soloing abilities and telepathic communication and projects a joyously spirited vibrancy to his audiences.

    Born in Sacramento, California on June 7, 1942, Mel moved to San Francisco in the mid-'60's and became immersed in the flourishing music scene of that time. Having developed strong "jazz chops" in Sacramento by sitting in with guitar great Wes Montgomery and others. He worked as a professional musician from the age of fourteen and joined the Musician's Union at the age of sixteen. He attended Sacramento High School where, under the tutelage of band master Aubrey Penman, he studied music alongside classmates Rufus Reid and Vince Lateano. He went on to develop further while attending San Francisco State and meeting and playing with many great jazz musicians at such legendary places as Bop City, Soulville, The Jazz Workshop and The Both And. It was these seminal experiences which prepared him for the future.

    Mel has been married to the same wonderful woman, Catey, for over forty-two and credits her with strongly supporting his career. They have one daughter, Sara who is now happily married and is agreat Mom to our grandson, Zachary Cosmo Breindel.

    During the mid-'70's, Mel formed the award winning, innovative jazz group Listen, Featuring Mel Martin . In 1977 he received the Musician Of The Year award from the San Francisco chapter of NARAS (GRAMMY) as well as a BAMMY for Best Jazz Album of 1977 . The group recorded two well received albums on the Inner City label, Listen, Featuring Mel Martin and Growing.

    Since 1983 Mel has been performing and recording with the well known group Bebop & Beyond of which he is founder and artistic director. They have recorded four albums; Bebop and Beyond, Bebop and Beyond Plays Thelonious Monk,, Bebop and Beyond Plays Dizzy Gillespie with Dizzy Gillespie as special guest which scored very high on the national jazz airplay charts and achieved a great critical success. In 2002, they released Friends and Mentors - Bebop and Beyond Plays the Music of Mel Martin which is also achieving high critical praise. They have received a number of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The California Arts Council and The Zellerbach, Fleishhaker and Columbia Foundations for presentations and recordings of the highest artistic caliber. Mel has also received five National Endowment for the Arts grants, one in 1976 for composition , one in 1986 for performance and two in 1994, one to record the music of Benny Carter with Benny Carter as special guest as well as a Jazz Performance Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts with which he performed a number of concerts with pianist Kenny Barron. He was honored in 1987 by the San Francisco Jewish Museum as part of their Jewish Presence in Jazz Series. His latest projects include The Benny Carter Tribute Band which continues to celebrate the spirit and music of Benny Carter, The Mel Martin Quartet and The Mel Martin All-star Big Band.

    Mel Martin's most recent recording project is Just Friends - Bebop and Beyond Presents The Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet, to be distributed by the Grammy-nominated label Jazzed Media and released to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of Benny Carterís birthday on August 8, 2007 will serve as both a tribute to the musicianís life and work and as a celebratory commemoration of a decades-long friendship and working relationship between Mr. Carter and Bebop and Beyond Artistic Director Mel Martin. It consists of unrealeased performance recorded live at the original Yoshi's in 1994 and was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Marin Arts Council.

    His other activities include performing with tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain at Yale and Stanford Universities, 1991 & '92 tours of Japan with the Benny Carter, Orchestra, helping to assemble the orchestra and perform the Bay Area premiere of Charles Mingus ' "Epitaph" at Davies Symphony Hall, assembling big bands for Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and Benny Carter, performing with the Freddie Hubbard Quintet, acting as musical director of The Keystone All-Stars as well as his own trios and quartets and Bebop & Beyond, writing articles and interviews for Saxophone Journal and Jazz Player. Mel has also performed with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and been featured as both performer and composer-arranger and multi-instrumentalist (Soprano, Alto, Tenor & Baritone Saxophones, Flute, Piccolo & Alto Flute, Clarinet & Bass Clarinet) for the CBS Television Series "The Twilight Zone" and such feature length films as "Rumblefish", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "The Warriors" and "Street Music". Some of his commercial music activities have recently included work for Acer Computers, Kia Automobiles, Mainstay Investments, Cellular One, Zima Beverages, American Raisins, Shell Oil, Coca-Cola and Fantasy Records.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Miles Davis Kind of Blue All Blues (Columbia)
    # 2 Miles Davis with Gil Evans Miles Ahead Lament (Columbia)
    # 3 Charlie Parker The Complete Legendary Rockland Palace Concert, 1952 Lester Leaps In (Jazz Classics)
    # 4 Sergei Rachmaninoff Vladimir Horowitz Plays Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2, Op. 56 in B-flat Minor (RCA)
    # 5 Art Tatum accompanied by Ben Webster The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 8 Have You Met Miss Jones? (Pablo)
    # 6 Thelonious Monk Thelonious Alone in San Francisco Everything Happens to Me (OJC)
    # 7 Bebop and Beyond featuring Dizzy Gillespie Bebop and Beyond Plays Dizzy Gillespie I Waited for You (Blue Moon,
    # 8 John Coltrane A Love Supreme Acknowledgement (Impulse)
    Book The Old Testament; also Ashley Kahn, "Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece"
    Luxury Item Solar Powered generator and Apple PowerBook (to be able to listen to KCSM)
    Castaways by date
    George Cotsirilos
    09 Feb
    Steve Dalachinsky
    13 Apr
    Ed Klitsch
    05 Jan
    Andy Stein
    30 Mar