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The New Cool: Barrett Martin Gets Busy

Charles Peterson
The Barrett Martin Group is sure you're wondering why they've asked you here today.

He may call himself a "rock musician by profession", but drummer, songwriter, bandleader, record label owner and producer Barrett Martin might more accurately be called a musician/student. His drive to learn about music has taken him all over the U.S. and around the world, and is evident in the five albums released as the Barrett Martin Group.

It's true that most of his fans know Barrett Martin as the drummer with great '90s rock groups like Skin Yard, Screaming Trees and Mad Season, but his own musical personality began to shine most brightly when forming the instrumental group Tuatara. A revolving-member "supergroup" that at times has featured R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Los Lobos sax player Steve Berlin, they're now nearly 20 years along with a new live album called "Shamanic Nights" released just last year.

Likely unknown to those rock fans, Martin has engaged music on an academic level for years as well, earning Masters degrees in anthropology, linguistics and ethnomusicology. He'll be releasing his first book this Summer, "The Singing Earth", about his 30 years traveling the world and studying music on six continents - including a CD with field recordings and rare songs recorded on his journeys.

This is a great time to explore Martin's music and pursuit of music, as his label, Sunyata Records, is throwing a showcase party at the Neptune Theater in Seattle on Saturday, June 24 with a CD release party for young blues/rock star Ayron Jones, promising groups Vaudeville Etiquette, Noelle Tannen & The Filthy No-Nos and of course, the Barrett Martin Group. We're giving away two pair of tickets to the show right here. Sunyata is also repressing all five CDs by the BMG, and the Group's leader says there's new music coming soon.

The first Barrett Martin Group album in five years will include an all-star line-up of some of the Seattle area's finest modern jazz players: Evan Flory-Barnes on bass, Ryan Burns on keys, and Andy Coe playing guitar, with special guests Skerik on sax, trumpeter Dave Carter and rock guitarist Dave Catching.

"Its a very adventurous album that fuses a lot of different styles, but of course jazz and blues is the foundation. It even has some group vocals on a few songs, as we evolve our sound further," says Martin.

This band, minus Catching and plus guest vocals from the wonderful Northwest soul singer Whitney Monge, will be on stage at The Neptune on June 24. (Enter to win a pair of tickets by clicking here.)

The New Cool features a song called "Cannibal" from the 2012 album "Artifact" on this week's show, which opens with the sounds of Indonesian gamelans, propelled into a lightly funky groove with drums locked in with the bass, guitar, piano and vibes, the brass of trumpeter Dave Carter and trombonist Ed Ulman unveiling the catchy melodic theme. The impression is one of an urban oasis, energetic and relaxed at once, with plenty of room for impressive soloing. Wherever Barrett Martin's music takes you, it's sure to be a thrilling journey.

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.