For the past decade the London- based tenor saxophonist John Martin has trodden his own personal path, wary of fashionably hip cutting edges. His associations with ensembles of not only jazz musicians but those interested in playing Ghanaian, folk and pop music gives an extra dimension
to the less US-orientated, more Euro-jazz soundworld he favours. It all made for a self-assured debut Dawning in 2011 on the F-IRE Presents label. The follow-up plays against a conceptual backdrop: the title The Hidden Notes refers to the harmonics and multiphonics Martin uses as ‘a celebration of the beautiful colours hidden just below the surface’. Instead of the noisy squawks and atonal meditations of free jazz, Martin’s interest in the horn’s extended techniques lies in a more quietly lyrical and painterly expression of his themes, a kind of softly layered, breathy alternative.
Martin’s predecessors are an older generation of UK saxophonists
– Julian Argüelles, Iain Ballamy and Andy Sheppard are probably the most well-known – that felt close to the ECM aesthetic and took on board the message of Jan Garbarek as well as Bird. But there are contemporary signposts here too, in Martin’s use of minimalistic loops and interest in fusion and folk song that occasionally bears a resemblance to Marius Neset’s playing. The bluesy rock orientated improvising guitarist Rob Updegraff and vibraphonist Ralph Wyld both make thoroughly engaging contributions. The two albums worth here might seem a little excessive, but Martin offers a charmingly expressive alternative to some of the more in-yer-face enterprises in current UK jazz. Selwyn Harris – Jazzwise, August 2016 edition