Jazz Jottings

Life is Better with Syncopation. Spread The Word!

By Lew Shaw

Jim Martinez is a man of many talents who wears many hats. He is a versatile pianist and organist, a Steinway artist, recording artist, concert promoter, teacher, businessman, graphic/web designer, worship leader, and minister of music.
The California native began his musical career at the age of four, received 18 years of classical training, and has since amassed a list of musical accomplishments encompassing nearly all styles of music.
The plan was to become a classical pianist, but it was in his junior year that his high school jazz band needed a piano player, and he was hooked. Getting established in his career barely in his early 20s, he found that he could stay busy by booking his own concerts rather than waiting for the phone to ring for an engagement. He’s been doing it for the past 20 years.
– Breaking In –
Looking to getting involved in the annual Sacramento Traditional Jazz Festival, he offered to play gratis in the lobby of the host hotel. The Festival director made note of the large crowds he attracted, and Jim was a regular performer over the next 15 years. When Big Tiny Little suddenly passed away prior to appearing at the Dixieland Monterey Festival, Jim was called to replace him, which meant brushing up on his ragtime, Dixieland, and swing repertoire.
He performed, toured, and recorded with an impressive list of jazz notables. He’s been booked at Yoshi’s San Francisco and the Basemen Jazz Club in Sydney, Australia. For 13 straight years, he opened All-Star Night at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho. He gained international exposure through his Echoes of Oscar Peterson concerts in Denmark.
– Performs Vince Guaraldi Tunes –
He’s become associated with the music the late Vince Guaraldi who wrote and performed his original tunes for the Peanuts television series. Jim’s quartet has been presenting A Charlie Brown Christmas holiday concerts from California to Florida over the past 20 years. His most recent project, Good Grief! It’s Still Jim Martinez – A Tribute to Vince Guaraldi, Charles Schulz & Peanuts peaked at #10 on the national RMR Jazz charts and was on the Jazz Week charts a total of 26 weeks.
Ever the promoter, Jim saw an opportunity to fill a musical void with the demise of the Sacramento Music & Jazz Festival this past year after holding forth over the Memorial Day weekend for 44 years. In just five months, he organized, promoted, and held a one-day festival with 31 bands in Roseville, a suburban community 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. He projected 500 attendees as his breakeven; the event drew 1,000. Plans are underway for a two-day 2019 event (May 25-26) and a doubling of the attendance.
Asked to assess his success in so many areas, Jim Martinez responds: “A lot of hard work and prayer!”
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The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark (New Jersey) has acquired a collection of nearly 1,000 artifacts that belonged to the late William “Count” Basie. The Basie Collection includes the musician’s pianos, Hammond organ, photos and press clippings, correspondence, concert programs, business records, housewares, and one of Basie’s signature ship captain’s hats. The collection will become available to the public in the near future for research and exhibition.
Keyboardist, bandleader, and composer Basie died in 1984 at age 79. During his career, he earned nine GRAMMY Awards and was the first African-American to receive this prestigious award. Four of his recordings have been inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame: “One O’Clock Jump,” “April in Paris,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and “Lester Leaps In.” In addition to his music, Basie also received numerous awards and honors from around the world for his humanitarianism and philanthropy.
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2018 marks the tricentennial of the City of New Orleans. The French influence has been prominent from the founding of the City in 1718 until the present day. There is also a strong Spanish cultural inheritance due to Spanish rule of the City in the 18th century. Throughout its entire history, African Americans have influenced the culture and economy of New Orleans. Native American, Cajun, and Creole peoples have had a profound impact on the diverse culture and heritage of the City, and its many celebrations include the annual Mardi Gras, 135 festivals, and more than 35 Second Line parades.
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Bria Skonberg will be the featured artist at the final Hot Jazz/Cool Garden concert at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York on August 11, the same weekend (Aug. 10-12) that clarinetist Evan Christopher will be in the lineup at the Idyllwild Arts Jazz in the Pines festival in California.
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Thanks to Carl Lunsford for setting the record straight as to the first 4-string banjo player to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. Carl holds that honor having appeared there with the Turk Murphy band in 1974. Cynthia Sayer will assuredly continue to uphold the tradition of that instrument at this year’s event. [Cynthia Sayer is indeed the first four-string banjo player invited to perform at Newport as a bandleader. It’s a fine distinction but worth noting. – Ed.] ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
The birthplace and childhood home of the late singer/songwriter, musician and activist Nina Simone in Tryon, North Carolina has been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Preservation. Plans call to restore the home by way of taking advantage of the National Trust’s new African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a $25 million, multi-year initiative announced last year focused on preserving and promoting stories of African-American achievement, activism and community. Simone was born in 1933 and died in 2003 at age 70.
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This past May, a New York-based, 14-woman collective We Have Voice released its Code of Conduct to Promote SAFE(R) Workplaces in the Performing Arts, an aspirational document that helps define sexual harassment and consent for the unusual workplaces and unique circumstances of the performing arts. “Some of us had already spent 20 years of dealing with the way things are in the music world,” says collective member Jen Shyu. “You say to yourself, ‘As soon as I get through this it will be fine.’ But we started asking, ‘Why can’t it just be right from the beginning?’ What we saw lacking in our culture, in our creative music scene, were any guidelines for conduct.”
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Lorraine Gordon, who passed away at the age of 95, ran the Village Vanguard in New York City’s Greenwich Village for 29 years following the death of her husband Max. She was an institution in her own right and the source of many stories. One night, a pianist asked for more light on his music stand. Lorraine—with feigned but believable anger—snapped at the piano player: “Tatum played here without eyes.”
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While performing at the Vail Jazz Festival, Adrian Cunningham took the opportunity to have a video shot of him playing his clarinet while riding a gondola high above the Rocky Mountains. The Aussie transplant sure does have a unique sense of humor.
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Among this year’s Downbeat award winners selected by a readers’ poll were clarinetist Anat Cohen and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Pianist Marian McPartland and saxophonist Benny Golson were inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame.
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In case you were wondering. . . Researchers at Sydney’s Macquarie University in Australia trained juvenile Port Jackson sharks to swim over to where jazz was playing to receive food. It has been thought that sharks have learned to associate the sound of a boat engine with food, because food is often thrown from tourist boats to attract sharks to cage-diving expeditions. The study showed that they can learn these associations quickly. The test was made more complex with the addition of classical music, which confused the sharks who couldn’t differentiate between jazz and classical.
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“Did Jazz put the SIN in Syncopation?” – Ladies Home Journal, 1927.

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