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Barrett Martin: Scattered Diamonds (Sunyata)

A review of the percussionist/composer's ninth studio album

Barrett Martin: Scattered Diamonds
The cover of Scattered Diamonds by Barrett Martin

When the percussionist/composer Barrett Martin offered his list of influential rhythmic tracks in a 2019 JazzTimes “Artist’s Choice” column, it ran the gamut from Benny Goodman to Fela Kuti to Miles to the Meters—about as eclectic as you can get. Scattered Diamonds, the ninth studio album by the Latin Grammy-winning musician, puts that same spread of interests into practice. The guest list augmenting Barrett’s superb core group includes players from Africa, India, Iraq, and the States, jazz and world music masters as well as a couple of A-list rockers: R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil. If the idea was to demonstrate Martin’s globalism, he came up aces.

Barrett wrote or co-wrote each of the album’s 17 tracks, which—whether by design or pure luck—flow together naturally, something of a world tour. “Swingin’ on a Moonbeam,” the third song in, is the first that kicks up serious dust: Martin’s fervent drumming, Ryan Burns’ Hammond organ, and Lisette Garcia’s cowbell are just beginning to suggest vintage Santana when the saxophones and trumpet step up to give the jam some serious funk cred. “Sands of Venus,” which pits together all manner of keyboards, among them Wayne Horvitz’s Hammond and processed piano, is a whole other shade of deep funk.

Scattered Diamonds takes several other roads. “Alhambra” features Rahim Alhaj’s Iraqi oud in harmony with Martin’s vibes; a couple of tracks later comes “Sarasvati,” showcasing an enchanting vocal by Mumbai’s Mehnaz Hoosein. As for those rockers, Buck’s acoustic contribution to the album finale, “Blue Sunrise,” fuses seamlessly with Joe Doria’s piano and Ben Thomas’ vibes, while Thayil’s electric guitar solo in “The Firebird” meets its match alongside Hans Teuber and Curtis Macdonald’s searing saxophones.

Preview, buy or download Scattered Diamonds on Amazon!

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.