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Andy Martin: It’s Fine. . .It’s Andy!

Leader on less than a handful of albums, trombonist Andy Martin made his name as a featured soloist in the bands of Bill Holman, Tom Talbert, Quincy Jones and Frank Capp, among others, and as an omnipresence in film and television studios. Accompanied by an inspired rhythm section headed by pianist Jan Lundgren on It’s Fine…It’s Andy!, Martin substantiates that he is at the front of the small pack of important successors to Frank Rosolino, J.J. Johnson and Carl Fontana. (The CD is dedicated to Rosolino.)

It’s Fine…It’s Andy! abounds with the qualities that have made the 42-year-old an idol of trombonists in and out of jazz: speed, range, articulation, suppleness, breath control, imagination and tone. In its softness and warmth, Martin’s sound resembles that of the bebop master Johnson. He seems never to lapse into brassiness, no matter the dazzling extent of some of his inventions. For all of his ability to take the instrument to the limits of its capabilities, Martin keeps his improvisations soundly based in the material at hand, creating logical, intriguing lines that often have great beauty. The repertoire includes the Sonny Rollins classic “Doxy” and a cross section of superior standards. It opens with “Carl,” a piece Holman wrote for Fontana when both were with the Stan Kenton band but which never made its way into a Kenton album. Martin redeems “Carl” here in a wondrous performance.

Among the standards is Irving Berlin’s “He Ain’t Got Rhythm,” with its unorthodox elongated C section and a breathtaking extended coda improvised by Martin. On another rarity, Jimmy McHugh’s “I’m Shooting High,” Martin, Lundgren and drummer Paul Kreibich surpass themselves in a series of four-bar exchanges. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” seems unlikely in a jazz context, but it’s a great tune for all hands to blow on with the speed of Ichiro Suzuki rounding second on a triple.

The sensitivity of Martin’s ballad playing is a pleasure of the CD. On Alfred Newman’s “Street Scene,” he never departs from the melody yet manages to make the performance profoundly creative. He is abetted by Lundgren’s Ellingtonian accompaniment and the pianist’s beautifully understated solo. Lundgren’s work throughout the CD is at as high a level as Martin’s, and it’s the remarkable young Swede’s best playing on record. Bassist Tom Warrington has two impressive solos, but his and Kreibich’s indispensable contribution to the album is time: wonderful, swinging, springing time in all tempos.

Producer Dick Bank’s packaging of the album is a bonus. It includes a 28-page booklet with photographs, informative essays by Martin, Alun Morgan, Mark Gardner and Bank, and a splendid cover photo portrait of Martin by Stan Levey. Yes, that Stan Levey.

If this doesn’t prove to be one of the outstanding CDs of 2003, we’re in for a surprising year.

Originally Published