Peter J Martin, Hamish Stuart and Brendan Clarke – Martin Stuart Clarke (2013)

Share this:

When guitarist Peter J Martin got together with a pair of old buddies, they constructed something that was anything but a nostalgia exercise. In fact, Martin Stuart Clarke finds this smart trio pushing hard against convention.

“Fuego” begins with a bouncing line from bassist Brendan Clarke, who snakes between splashes of color from drummer Hamish Stuart. Martin’s guitar, meanwhile, jukes and jives with impressive acumen — moving from soaring runs to mathematical chirps to a plucky groove that would have brought a twinkle to Wes Montgomery’s eye. Playing with a furious abandon, the trio opens Martin Stuart Clarke on an appropriately upbeat note, illustrating the group’s innate sense of swinging camaraderie and its fun sense of telepathy. Then, with just over a minute left, Clarke begins sawing on his bass, even as Stuart’s pace quickens. This sends Martin — following up last year’s Waltz for the Wicked — into choppy waters, as he explores a series of sharply drawn, very outside figures, before the group makes a smooth transition back to the opener’s main theme. The result is a tour de force introduction, both to Martin Stuart Clarke and to their eponymous new album.

Things cool to a simmer for the subsequent “So This Is It,” as Clarke and Stuart create a contemplative sound bed for some of Martin’s most heartfelt ruminations. From Clark, that means a series of dark, bluesy grooves; from Stuart, a swirling set of accents with the brushes. Martin takes full advantage of this crepuscular atmosphere, displaying a smart facility with the language of Delta blues and smoke-house soul. “Mr. Cool Jam,” as its name suggests, stays within this grease-popping soul-jazz aesthetic, but Clarke and Stuart take a much more active role — prodding Martin to swing. He does so with the kind of refinement and taste associated with Joe Pass.

Beginning with a sound that’s both angular and somewhat dissonant, “First Steps” makes good on the brilliantly off-kilter closing moments of “Fuego,” allowing this trio to move into a free-thinking area that gives everything that came before a grounded context. Martin eventually guides the song back toward a complex, but more conventionally formed context, but even then tangles impressively with his compatriots. With the lightly swinging, though still very lonesome ballad “Once,” Martin Stuart Clarke settle back into a mainstream vibe, leaving the nervous innovation of “First Steps” aside for an accessible, plain-spoken sentiment. The riffy “Museum” then allows Martin to get even deeper into the groove, through he continues to show great control within this medium-fast tempo. When he thoughtfully lays out, a little over midway through, Clarke steps to the fore and makes another buoyant contribution.

“Assob,” with its elastic curves from Clarke, pushes Martin to the back for a while, but Stuart’s well-placed brushes soon give the guitarist all the opening he needs for another ruminative, then delightfully conversational solo. Few are the musicians who can move from the sharp single-note jabs and flurrying runs of “Fuego” into this kind of fluidity. Clarke then answers with another solo that’s a sun-filled delight.

“After Alice” arrives right on time, with a sprite flourish from Stuart and a happy-go-lucky retort from Clarke. Martin’s guitar couldn’t more perfectly approximate a child’s joyous skipping. Yet the song, like much of Martin Stuart Clarke, has a fizzy modernity about it — likely to do with its very urgency. This trio never lays back. “A Jazz Waltz,” almost on cue, then arrives with a gust of old-fashioned formulations, but again Martin and Co. push heartily against convention. The track begins with all of the dusty formality of a waltz, but then makes a sharp turn into more interesting places. Even “King’s Head,” which closes Martin Stuart Clarke with a decidedly bop-focused feel from Martin, is goosed along by a stout military rhythm from Stuart and a bristling thump from Clarke.

This is a trio that never quite accepts convention, and Martin Stuart Clarke is so much the better for it.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B00DDK9YJM” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00DDK9WKI” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B008JEJU3C” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00DDK9VK4″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00DDK9UIM” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close