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Michael Martin: Odyssey

Many of today’s contemporary jazz albums find competent soloists hiding their talents in a heap of over-arranged atmosphere. The reverse is true on Michael Martin’s Odyssey (Merrimack MR 10105; 63:39), a generally richly arranged collection augmented by well-chosen supporting players (Hubert Laws, Wilton Felder, Freddie Hubbard), which crumbles under the bland performance of vocalist Martin. A large ensemble creates a thick Latin atmosphere threaded with congas, flute, and classical guitar on album-opener “Autumn Leaves/Misty Morning,” for example, but Martin’s colorless tenor sounds hollow and overwhelmed. Likewise the swinging club jazz arrangement of “Park Avenue West” (led by Hubbard’s sexy trumpet work) would be a blast of an instrumental, but Martin-in both vocal style and phrasing-sounds awkward and out of place, almost like he’s trying to put too many words in a line and has lost the meaning of the phrase. Martin does have a high-ranging falsetto, but lacks an emotional center, giving flat line reads to even a tear-jerker like “Misty” (the subtle, beautiful arrangement makes you long for Johnny Mathis). Attempts at greater drama, as on “Waiting for Godot,” only call attention to the strange lyrics and awkward line-reads, making this Odyssey not much more than a waste of some solid instrumental tracks.

Originally Published