James Martin, Blue (Independent)

James Martin, Blue, album cover

James Martin’s second CD Blue states his credo emphatically with the jazzy/funky hard-hitting opening number “Get With It.” Over background vocals chanting the title and a piano part that would not be out of place on any Horace Silver record, Martin plays the melody and then takes off for two great solos that go all over the place but never lose their coherence. [iframe class="spotify-right" src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:album:1YJ1iqvbb705MVCcGTSSHh" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"]Buy on AmazonBuy on iTunes He sounds like Tim Green, maybe the best unsung New Orleans musician working today, in the way that his sax takes over the tune. The rest of the record almost lives up to those moments. There is a mix of some classic rhythm and blues with the ’70s swagger of “Qualified” and “So Swell When You’re Well” and a cover of Ernie K-Doe’s “A Certain Girl.” On these up-tempo numbers, Martin’s voice has a smooth lilt with the littlest bit of grit, but I would have liked to hear him take the second part of “Qualified” instead of fading out. He also does a great take on “West End Blues” with a beautiful, sparse yet foot-tapping arrangement with just saxophone and banjo. The album falters a little in the slower, more ballad-type numbers. On the post-modern dirge “O Discordia,” Martin’s voice is too processed and lacks the depth to make it believable. Right when he should really go for it, he seems to hold back. And on “Louisiana 1927,” a brave choice, he sounds too removed from the lyrics, although the added verse about the oil spill is a nice touch. Overall, Blue is a good, ambitious record that goes a lot of places with stand-out saxophone playing and great up-tempo numbers, but the ballads don’t affect the listener as much.