Samuel Martinelli ‘Crossing Paths’ CD (Private Press) 5/5

Martinelli’s debut recording with the leader at the drums, Marcus McLaurine on bass, Tomoko Ohno on piano and the only name that I recognise here, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and flugelhorn. The repertoire consists of eight pieces, six of which are composed by Martinelli. The remaining pieces will be very familiar to seasoned jazz listeners, Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’ and Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Birks’ Works’. Martinelli is from Brazil but now lives in New York and has been generating a lot on interest in both the jazz and Brazilian worlds. Whilst his accompanists (other than Roditi) may be lesser known names, they all have impressive jazz pedigree, between them having worked with a veritable who’s who of the jazz world. Each of these musicians are equally adept at performing jazz and Brazilian music. ‘Crossing Paths’ is, however, contemporary straight-ahead jazz.

Ever since the evening of November 21st 1962 when Antônio Carlos Jobim, Sérgio Mendez, Oscar Castro-Neves and others introduced bossa nova to America at the landmark Carnegie Hall concert, Brazilian music has become a part of American music, working its way into the fabric of jazz. This album continues that tradition showcasing the relationship between these two enduring musical genres.

The album opens with ‘Samba Echoes’, ushered in by the leader’s delicate percussion work. When the trumpet enters, one is immediately reminded of the more exotic work of Dizzy Gillespie. As the piece progresses the trumpeter emphatically makes his own mark on the music. This is exciting music, full of interest. ‘Talking about Spring’ is an up-beat medium swing tune and very easy on the ears.
The trumpeter introduces ‘Bob’s Blues’ and his muted trumpet work here again recalls the spirit of Gillespie. As the piece progresses, I’m reminded of another fine trumpeter, Miles Davis. Am I alone in thinking that the tune has more than a passing affinity with Davis’s ‘All Blues’? There’s a fine bass feature and the leader’s subtle brush work is a joy to behold. The pianist displays a humorous musicality in her solo feature to round out a fine performance.
‘St Thomas’ gets an unfamiliar treatment with the theme statement emerging played on arco bass. Minus its original calypso rhythm, it becomes a meditation on the island which shares its name. The pianist shines on this piece.
‘A Gift for You’ brings the shadow of Miles Davis to the fore again and Roditi acquits himself in fine style, as does the pianist once again.
I’ve already alluded to the Gillespie influence and this is unavoidable on ‘Birk’s Works’. Here we have another feature for the bassist in addition to Roditi.
‘Whispering Loud’ is a bebop inspired performance and everyone is once more playing at the peak of their powers.
The set ends as it began with the drummer ushering in ‘Song for Carina’, setting up a tango tempo. Oddly, I’m reminded of yet another late trumpet master here. It seems to me that the ghost of Kenny Wheeler is not far away.

This is a very auspicious debut recording and I’m left wondering what Martinelli’s next move will be.

Alan Musson