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Jeff Martin Jazz Man

I believe I met Jeff at one of the open jams here in Syracuse. Our conversation began when we both noticed that we had D’Angelico guitars, which are very nice guitars. Wouldn’t’ya know it, pretty soon I saw him playing a certain style of Fender Telecaster that I had been eye-balling for some time. Coveting the thing I remember figuring out a way to politely need it so I could try it at one of these jams. He let me. It was cool.

As a fine player it’s no wonder that he remains busy out there playing shows all over Central NY. His brand of jazz guitar comes from the schools of George Benson and players like Larry Carlton. Adept at his craft, Martin is an asset to the Syracuse music scene as one of the area’s jazz representatives.

Chuck Schiele: I know you primarily as a Jazz guitarist. And I’ve seen you do other things. How would you describe your brand of playing?

Jeff Martin: Although I’ve been focusing on learning and playing mostly jazz guitar, I like to consider myself a guitarist that can do the gig in most musical situations. I can’t really shred, so you won’t see me on a hard rock or metal gig, but an R&B, blues or pop gig would be right in my comfort zone.

CS: How long have you been playing?

JM: My dad, Don Martin, is a great guitar player and tried to get me playing at a really young age with lessons at DeSantis music. My hands were too small and I wasn’t really interested in lessons at the time. When I was about 15, I wanted a Squire Strat and asked my dad if he could teach me guitar. From that time, I’ve played in bands in high school, college and off and on over the next 15 years. Around 2010, I really started focusing on my jazz playing and playing out more consistently.

CS: Who or what influences your music, most?

JM: I think my dad is my biggest influence just from playing with him and being around him at his gigs. I’m really into listening to great guitarists of all genres, so my influences would be too long to list. But George Benson, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell are my jazz influences and I’ve always been drawn to studio musicians like Larry Carlton and Steve Lukathar, who could play anything and do it well.

CS: Please share how you got started in music, and a brief history of your music path?

JM: I started going to my dad’s gigs when I was in high school. At that time I was hooked, not only with playing, but the hang and the camaraderie amongst musicians. Over the years, I played in mostly blues/Motown influenced bands. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I decided to take my playing a little more seriously and really focus on my jazz chops. I started learning the tunes, theory and started taking lessons with John Magnante from ESP. From there I started getting more jazz gigs and jumped into playing solo jazz guitar. Today, my gigs are typically solo jazz guitar, organ trios and quartets. I’m very fortunate to be able to play the music I love with incredible players.

CS: What are your thoughts on the Syracuse music community and music scene?

JM: Syracuse has a really great music scene. I’ve lived and visited other cities our size and they do not have anything like what we have in Syracuse. Not only do we have great musicians in town, but they are all good people and you can catch great music any day of the week if you want. That makes for a great scene.

CS: Please share a highlight or two from your music career.

JM: I look back on my years playing and I’m really blessed to be part of a musical family. We would play live music at almost all of our special occasions (graduations, weddings, holidays). Playing and hanging with my dad is definitely a highlight of my music career. Another highlight was playing with Tony Monaco at the Fulton Jazz Fest. Tony is a great B3 organ player out of Columbus, Ohio that Joe Cortini (drummer) and I have had the pleasure of playing with on multiple occasions when he came through Syracuse.

CS: What’s in the near future for your music?

JM: I’m always trying to take my music career to the next level. First, it was getting gigs and establishing myself as a jazz musician, then creating a website. Now it’s time for me to do some recording. I’ve recorded a few songs with my cousin Don Martin on bass and Josh Dekaney on drums. I want to record a few tunes with organ and drums and hopefully get an album together. 

CS: How do we keep track of you and your music?

JM: You can find my calendar and samples of my playing on my website, JeffMartinGuitar.com. I also post my upcoming dates on Facebook and Instagram if you want to catch me out. 

CS: Thank you Jeff, for chatting with us here at Sounds of Syracuse.

JM: Thanks Chuck. I appreciated the opportunity to share a little about my musical journey.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.