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Jazz Trombonist Hits All of the Right Notes

Andy Martin is in demand for ensemble work, recording sessions and film scores. Tonight he plays at Monty's.


"Fun. Nonstop action."

That's the way the technically facile, hard-swinging trombonist Andy Martin describes his and wife Angela's daughter Andreina. But he could be talking about his career.

These days, the 36-year-old horn man, known to many from his work with Poncho Sanchez's Latin Jazz Band from 1991 to 1993, is getting quite a few studio calls for film and TV soundtracks and jingles. And he plays in so many big bands, he makes it seem like the swing era is still in bloom.

Martin's a regular with Les Brown's Band of Renown, he recently recorded with large ensembles led by trumpeters George Graham and Buddy Childers, and in the last week and a half, he played with three of his favorite leaders--Bill Holman, Tom Talbert and Lou Brown.

"I did the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon with Lou, who is a hilarious guy," said Martin, speaking from his home in Long Beach.

Martin also performed at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks on Tuesday with Talbert, a splendid, inventive writer on whose "The Warm Cafe" album he's featured. And he was at the same club Aug. 27 with Holman.

"His music is challenging and interesting at the same time," said Martin, who is spotlighted on Holman's 1995 Grammy-winning CD, "A View From the Side."

"And he just keeps growing as a writer."


Growth is important to Martin as well, which is why he's about to start serious classical studies with L.A. Philharmonic principal trombonist Ralph Sauer, with the aim of improving his orchestral interpretations.

He also likes to seek out small group jazz performances whenever possible. Twice recently he's been a guest with drummer Danny Pucillo's trio at Monty's in Woodland Hills, and he'll be there again tonight through Saturday.

Martin has joined three solid players--drummer Pucillo, pianist Claude Williamson and Ernie McDaniel on bass--for rhythmically hearty jazz improvisation.

"It's loose. They're a great rhythm section, and I can play just about any tune I want to play," said Martin, who can be heard on his own Resurgent Records album, "Leading Off," and on the just-out "One by One" (Reservoir Records) with drummer Dick Berk.

At Monty's, Martin usually calls for standards like "There Is No Greater Love" or "Have You Met Miss Jones?"--the latter his feature with Les Brown. He prefers to play these at a medium tempo, a pace he finds full of possibilities.

"Medium tempos allow you to comfortably play double time, and you can also play slower and swing more," he said. "You have the option of fooling with the meter, say playing four notes over three beats. It's easier to be creative, and nobody struggles."


Martin names trombone greats Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana as his major influences, adding that he was thrilled when Fontana asked him to sit in with him in Las Vegas a few years ago. The two played one of Martin's favorite ballads, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," and he talked about the pleasures common to slower tempos.

A native of Provo, Utah, Martin has lived in Long Beach since he was 8, attending Milliken High School and Cal State Long Beach. His fat, succulent tone is one of the most distinctive of any trombonist, and he possesses a technique that can be stunning.

"I learned at an early age to treat the trombone like a trumpet, so I didn't know how hard it was to play fast because I got past that," he said, by way of explaining his technique. "And for my sound, I emulated saxophonists and trumpeters. That made me different."

* Andy Martin performs with Danny Pucillo's trio at Monty's Steakhouse, 5371 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. Show times: 7:30-11:30 p.m. tonight, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. No cover, no minimum. (818) 716-9736.

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