American Alto saxophonist Bob Martin, who lived in London from 1997 until 2012, has died recently at the age of 74. Fellow musicians Steve Fishwick, Mike Gorman, Frank Griffith, and Jamie O’Donnell remember an inspirational figure with tributes.
Steve Fishwick: A Personal Experience
Bob Martin was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. He started playing the Alto Saxophone while in high school, beginning his studies with the great and under-rated Gene Quill. After graduating, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston between 1966 and 1968. While in Boston, he studied with Jimmy Mosher and Joe Viola. Bob became enamored with the sounds of Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Jackie Mclean, Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, and his former teacher Gene Quill.
He joined Buddy Rich’s Big Band in 1970, staying until 1972. He rejoined for a second stint between 1975-76. He also worked with bands led by Al Porcino and Bill Hardman. He joined the Bob Young Orchestra in Atlantic City in 1976, staying until 1992. During his time with Young, the orchestra performed with an impressive array of stars including Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Sammy Davis Junior, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight.
Bob met his wife Yvonne in the mid-90s, and they decided to relocate to London in 1997. It was there that Steve Fishwick met Bob and was immediately impressed by his talent and authenticity. Bob’s huge sound, amazing time feel, and incredibly fluent bebop vocabulary made a lasting impression on Steve and many other musicians in the London jazz scene.
Mike Gorman: Remembering a Mentor
Mike Gorman met Bob in the late 1990s and soon became the pianist in Bob’s quartet and quintet. Bob’s soaring quality to his phrasing, inherited from the influence of Parker, Stitt, and most of all, his mentor and friend Phil Woods, left a lasting impression on Mike. He admired Bob’s integrity in both musical and non-musical contexts and valued his mentorship.
Frank Griffith: A Lasting Impression
Frank Griffith remembers Bob as a wonderful player, bandmate, and character. Bob’s big and vibrant sound, laced with a bright optimism of melodic testimonials from the post-bop vocabulary, left a significant and lasting impression on the British jazzers who played with him and heard him in the years he spent in London.
Jamie O’Donnell: A Generous Friend
Jamie O’Donnell feels privileged to have known Bob and already misses his beautiful and lyrical alto sound. Bob was very kind to Jamie and offered all-day lessons at his home. Their time together playing quintet gigs with Steve Brown formed an integral part of Jamie’s musical development.
Bob’s impact on the London jazz scene and the many musicians who had the fortune of playing with him and hearing him was immense. His generosity, encouragement, guidance, inspiration, and friendship will be sorely missed.