Saturday 9 February 2013

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee Even Make A Tuba Rock

I had never heard of Billy Martin (shame on me). A friend asked me if I'd like to come along to his Wicked Knee show in the Bimhuis jazz club. The description looked interesting and a band founded by a drummer always sounds good to me.

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee at Bimhuis, Amsterdam February 6 2013

Martin explains that they have known each other for years and finally put together this band after talking about it for a long time. It's obviously not a standard band, since the other musicians are all part of the horn section: a trombone, a trumpet and a tuba. So no bass player? I was about to find out that you don't need a bass player when you have a great tuba player. It starts out with a bit of free jazz. Martin is playing around with the bells on his well filled percussion table and the horns are having fun producing strange noises. But it doesn't take long for them to kick off with some great tunes.

It's a mix of standards, "ragtime funk" as Martin calls it and a few surprising songs. We hear The White Stripes' 'The Hardest Button to Button' and Jimi Hendrix' 'Manic Depression' followed by the classic 'When The Saints Come Marching In' later on. What they have in common in arrangement is a New Orleans feel. Martin is playing some great swing grooves while Marcus Rojas is supporting him with his tuba to form the rhytm section. Rojas is great at it, he's coming up with brilliant bass lines and I've never seen such a swinging tuba performance. Curtis Fowlkes on trombone and Steven Bernstein on trumpet add playful accents and hearty solos. The performance is bustling with creativity and a delight to watch. There's plenty of time for some fooling around too, without making it cheesy. This only brings more life to the performance and is obviously pleasing the musicians as well. And so at the end they receive a well deserved standing ovation.

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