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Mel Martin
and the
Benny Carter Centennial Tribute Band

The Benny Carter Centennial Tribute Band was formed by Mel Martin to pay tribute to the great Benny Carter. August 8, 2007 is the 100th birthday of Benny Carter. The newly released Jazzed Media recording of the Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet, "Just Friends" will be released on July 10, 2007. The principal musicians were all involved on a musical and personal level with Benny Carter and the band's mission is to perform his music and music closely associated with him. There will be several performances in July, August and September and in the succeeding year.

"Benny Carter is one of the most important figures in 20th Century music. His pioneering efforts spanned over eight decades. It was a true honor and privilege to have been associated with him in his later years. He was a genuine mentor and great friend and resource for me. He set the standard for how a musician should carry himself with dignity and professionalism. I miss being able to call him and just have a simple conversation as we did many times. I miss going to his Hollywood home and sitting in his music room lined with recordings, written music, many, many awards and pictures with several Presidents. Above all, I miss being able to play music with him because that was our singular, passionately shared interest. We rarely spoke of anything else other than family whose names he always remembered. It is with great pleasure that we are releasing this live recording of us together with such a great band in tribute of Benny Carter’s Centennial Birthday."
Mel Martin, March, 2007

" I am most impressed with Mel Martin's musicianship."
Benny Carter

"I grew up in the neighborhood and went to school with Benny's daughter. As to Benny - I wish I could be as great as Benny Carter."
Sonny Rollins - 2007

“It is obvious on this great recording that Mel Martin was finely mentored by Benny Carter, my number one saxophone hero, due to the clear Carter influence on Mel’s playing. His flute playing is also quite good on People Time.” Jimmy Heath – 2007

Benny Carter Tribute Band

Special Guests

JAckie Ryan
Jackie Ryan

Winard Harper
Winard Harper

Don FriedmanDon Friedman

"A Conversation with Benny Carter"

"Just Friends"

"Isn't It Grand"

"A Conversation with Benny Carter" - Courtesy of SF Jazz Festival
"Just Friends" and "Isn't It Grand" - Original production by Kennth Martinez Burgmaier for Jazz Alley TV
Video clips produced and edited by Bret Primack AKA the Jazz Video Guy


RealAudioClick here to hear the Mel Martin / Roger Kellaway Interview with Chuy Varella on KCSM-FM on 8/14/07

Mel Martin has proven to be one of the most versatile and creative musicians to emerge from the San Francisco Bay Area. His virtuosic abilities on woodwinds combined with his vast range of experience have brought him to a position of pre-eminence as one of the most inventive and innovative of performers. His unique abilities as an improviser, arranger and composer have made him a favorite of such greats as Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and many others.

His work as a leader has been documented on several brilliant recordings with the groups Listen, featuring Mel Martin and his current band Bebop and Beyond as well as his solo recording Other Side Up where he displayed his fascinating abilities as a multi-instrumentalist, arranger/producer, composer and jazz soloist and his popular recording Mel Martin Plays Benny Carter featuring Benny Carter as special guest on the Enja label. He has applied these talents to a wide variety of performing and recording situations including Santana, Azteca, Mongo Santamaria, Boz Scaggs, Cal Tjader, Vince Guaraldi, Denny Zeitlin, Hubert Laws, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, B.B. King, Billy Cobham, Freddy Cole, and the Afro Blue Band as well as a multitude of independent studio projects. In performance Mel displays a rare combination of fiery soloing abilities and telepathic communication and projects a joyously spirited vibrancy to his audiences.

Andrew Speight is a clear-toned, hard driving alto sax player, one of the Bay Area's most lively and lyrical exponents of straight-ahead, joyous jazz. A native of Sydney, Australia, Speight came of age playing with American stars like Percy Heath, Nat Adderley and Benny Carter as they passed through town. His 1998 CD, Andrew Speight Quartet, won an Aria Award, the Australian version of a Grammy. Speight has been in the U.S. since the early 90's, leading jazz programs first at Michigan State University and now at San Francisco State. But most importantly, Speight has been blowing the doors off of every joint lucky enough to have him on the bandstand. Speight appeared with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb on this year's highly acclaimed CD, Marsalis Music Honors Jimmy Cobb, released by the record owed and run by Branford Marsalis.

After touring with Nat Adderly, Joe Williams and Louie Bellson, Speight came to the U.S. in 1991 to compete in the prestigious Thelonius Monk International Saxophone Competition, where he was the only non-American finalist. He went on to join the jazz faculty of Michigan State University, collaborating while there with Branford Marsalis, Jimmy Heath and Benny Carter. He moved to San Francisco to join the SFSU faculty five years ago. Since arriving in the U.S., Speight has performed at major venues and festivals and performances around the world with the likes of Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Milt Hinton, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Speight has developed a distinct, lyrical style. His playing draws inspiration from Charlie Parker’s classic sound while reflecting his own unique perspective. The result is distinctive and compelling--at once vintage and fresh, elegant and articulate.

Robb Fisher - Robb grew up in Los Angeles, the son of a jazz musician who played in and directed an Air Force Band throughout World War II, arranged for the Dorsey brothers, and hosted a jazz show on KPFK. In 1967, Robb moved to San Francisco where he played his first gigs. For over seven years, he toured and recorded with the late, great Cal Tjader, anchoring Cal's Grammy Award winning album, "La Onda Va Bien" and Grammy Nominee album, "Gozame Pero Ya." He has recorded or worked extensively with such luminaries as Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Tania Maria, Carmen McRae, Anita O'Day, Poncho Sanchez and Clare Fischer. Along with his bass work, two of his compositions are featured on the Monarch CD entitled, "The Nighthawks Featuring Eddie Marshall," released in 1996. Rob recently performed at the San Francisco Jazz Festival with Mel Martin's Bebop and Beyond with Bobby Watson, Jack Walrath, and Wynard Harper. He also performs locally with the group XNY that includes Rob Schneiderman and Ron Marabuto. He is also a member of the Mel Martin  All-Star Big Band and the Tenor Conclave.

Jeff Marrs - Jeff Marrs has a masters degree in performance and composition from the prestigious New England Conservatory where he worked with great trombonist/composer/arranger/band leader Bob Brookmeyer. Since returning to the bay area last year Jeff has become one of the most in demand drummers in town. He has performed with Blue Note recording artist Stephon Harris, Marcus shelby, Doctor Lonnie Smith, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Mark Levine, Matt Clark, Michael Bluestein, The Collective West Orchestra, Dave Mac Nab, Art Hirahara, Mike Zilber and many other local greats. He is a current member of the Marcus Shelby Orchestra and the Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee group.  .

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