AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
Tony Martucci has played drums with some of the finest in jazz over a career that spans nearly 40 years. But from the first notes he played with his current quintet, he knew there was something different about this group.
"It was special," Martucci recalled about that night during a recent interview. "I knew this particular chemistry was going to allow me to go some places I hadn’t really gone before."
The band is comprised of some of the finest musicians the region has to offer, including saxophonists Jeff Antoniuk and Luis Hernandez, bassist Tom Baldwin, and guitarist John Lee. Martucci knew immediately that he would have to record the ensemble, and that aim has come to fruition on Ancestral Voices, whose release the group will celebrate on Friday and Saturday at Twins Jazz.
Martucci has been one of D.C.'s first-call drummers for over 25 years, and a cursory review of his experience makes it clear why that is the case. Just a partial list of Martucci's past collaborators includes Joe Lovano, Charlie Byrd, Fred Hersch, Dewey Redman, Joshua Redman, and a host of other world-class talents. Martucci was also a member of the Russian-American joint venture jazz group, Partners In Time, originally known as Jazznost, which pianist Louis Scherr founded in 1990.
Martucci chose collaborators for the band not based on instrumentation, but rather the personalities of these particular artists.
"I never for a moment doubted that it would work, simply because I know them all individually," he explained. "That being said, when I decided this instrumentation and personnel, I didn’t have any specific expectations or design."
The title, Ancestral Voices, came to Martucci after the fact, when he realized that the material the band recorded, and his playing in particular, was drawing from a lifetime of experiences and influences.
"All of us that play music, we don't think about where it came from, we’re just dealing in the moment," he said. "I didn’t know what the record was until we made it."
In particular, Martucci feels the spirit of his mother, sister, and father, the latter of which was an aspiring musician and passed away when Martucci was just six years old. The track "Il Figlio Dello Scarpaio" was recorded in his memory.
Martucci also draws inspiration from his musical heroes, in particular the drummers Billy Hart, Bob Moses, Victor Lewis, and Al Foster.
"I want my music to be personal, not derivative, yet I’m very aware this stuff has an origin," Martucci said of his influences.
The recording itself takes the listener on a winding aural journey. The double album clocks in at nearly two hours with all of the band members contributing compositions. The interplay between the two saxophonists is always engaging. Lee's guitar work is textural when he plays an accompanying role, but melodic and assertive during his solos. Martucci plays the drumset with a light touch and isn't afraid to leave space for his colleagues. He also augments a few tracks with hand drums and other percussive colors. In short, Ancestral Voices is an excellent document of experienced musicians playing at the highest level.
"This band surprises a lot of people," Martucci said. "Everybody goes into certain situations with some kind of expectations. It seems to me, that the sound of this band is not what they’re expecting, but they enjoy it."