PIANO BY NATURE Concerts present
JAZZICAL® with pianist JOEL A. MARTIN
November 8 at 7PM and November 9 at 3PM
Join Piano by Nature for an extraordinary union of classical
composition and jazz innovation ignited with a fresh spirit all its
own. On November 8th and 9th virtuoso pianist Joel A. Martin -the
creator & trademark owner of Jazzical®-will perform a truly unique
brand of concert with his rare and captivating musical fluency in
both classical and jazz styles.
Mr. Martin was the youngest pianist ever, and the first African
American pianist to compete in the 1985 Van Cliburn International
Piano Competition, and has performed as soloist with the NY
Philharmonic, El Paso Symphony, Springfield Symphony Orchestra,
Philadelphia Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, and countless other
symphony orchestras. His Jazzical® concerts have been presented
throughout the world in the concert halls of Paris, London, Finland,
Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Russia & Kyrgyzstan, and as a
collaborative pianist he has toured with operatic superstar Kathleen
Battle who said “playing with Joel A. Martin is like riding in a
Bentley”. Mr. Martin has also worked for ten years as the director
and arranger for the Cab Calloway Orchestra.
Most recently, Mr. Martin is promoting two innovative concert/
recording projects- Jazzical Meets Menken, a tribute to Disney
composer Alan Menken,, and Footsteps of Mandela, an original
musical production promoting reconciliation, forgiveness and love
through the arts.
Make your reservations right away for these very special concerts.
Both appearances will be at the Hand House in Elizabethtown, on
Saturday, November 8th at 7PM and Sunday November 9th at 3PM.
Tickets are $15adult and $5 for 15-and-under. Call 518-962-2949 for reservations and/or visit
for more information.
(For further informtion on Mr. Martin I have included a New York
Times archived interview from 1999 below. )
Q&A/Joel A. Martin; Jazzical: When
Classical and Jazz Entwine
By DONNA GREENE
Published: March 14, 1999
HIS father plays 36 instruments, his mother, 12. It is no wonder that Joel A. Martin became a musician.
At 9, he was the youngest member of the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, where he played the tuba; at 13, he made his symphonic debut with the Newark Symphony Orchestra and a year later performed at two concerts at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 1984, at 17, he was the youngest competitor accepted in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The next year, he was a guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic
when Zubin Mehta conducted. Now Mr. Martin, 32, lives in White Plains, which he uses as a base for
a variety of music-related activities. In 1997 he released his first self- produced CD: ''Jazzical: a Marriage of Classical and Jazz.'' in which he shows the interrelationship between the two kinds of music he loves. Next Sunday Mr. Martin, who is a pianist, takes his patented Jazzical to the Fox Lane High School in Bedford, where he and the school district's instrumental and choral students will perform various works together. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with Mr. Martin:
Q. Have you been interested in music since you were born?
A. Well, no. I actually started music on the tuba at age 7. And about a year or so later I started my first piano lessons with my parents. My mother was an organist, and I was a little too small to reach the pedals so she put me on piano, and that's where I've been ever since.
Q. At what age did you and people around you realize you were really a
A. I think it started within the first year. I went through a couple of grade school music books and went from there to Rachmaninoff preludes. It was basically within my first year on the piano.
Q. Is a gift like that a burden or a joy?
A. There is no burden involved with this. When I first started on tuba, about a year or so later, I was accepted as the youngest performer in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Everyone said that's a large
deal, considering I was 9 years old. But to me, it was something that I enjoyed doing. There was no real sweat or burden involved; it came very naturally. The gift of music, which I believe I have, comes from God, and it also comes from the teachings and the work of everyone, all my teachers, my parents, my family. Everyone has given much time and support, energy, love and money. And there is a certain sense if you don't use the gift that is given to you, it will be taken away from
you. But for me, it has always been a joy.
Q. How did Jazzical come about?
A. Jazzical came about because I always felt that classical and jazz music were very much similar. On the one hand, theme and variation, on the other, theme and improvisation. While others see the differences, I see the similarities between the two disciplines. Jazzical was my answer to the divisions that classical and jazz have. The classical people don't necessarily accept jazz as an art form, and vice versa, because they haven't found any common ground between them. So I pretty much reached the point that I was not happy with the status of classical music and jazz. About three or four years ago, I was
interweaving classical and jazz as I practiced, and my girlfriend heard this and said, ''You know you really have something there.'' And I said "This is something I've been doing all my life. I've been taking a Brahms intermezzo and all of a sudden expanding on that and coming back to it within the span of three or four minutes". She suggested that I do this as an encore at the end of one my classical concerts. After I had done this several times I realized there was a lot more to it.
Q. Meaning the audience received it favorably?
A. Yes. Also, theme and variation is very similar in improvisation as it is when Beethoven wrote theme and variations. He took the theme and he expounded upon that, and that allowed him to improvise on those expounded works. So to me there wasn't that much difference. It's just that the language hadn't been incorporated into the classical. For me, this music should always be effortless; it should never be contrived. There is a certain sense of equality or integrity -- honesty that you
have to take when you're doing this kind of work -- taking classical music and giving it a jazz context and still retaining the whole melody or a very large portion of the song.
Q. Are some classical pieces better suited to the jazz approach than others?
A. I think there is plenty of music from the classical composers to the Romantics to even Americans such as Aaron Copland or Leonard Bernstein. I don't, however, like using Baroque music because I feel that that is too easy a way to do that. Bach's music is in a sense too perfect to give it a jazz interpretation because it's already there. But Brahms and Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, the list goes on.
Q. Are other musicians doing what you are doing?
A. There are people who have used it, and it goes across all party lines. But a lot of people don't really do classical and jazz as a living. That is the distinction I make, because I feel you should be equally adept at both so that neither side looks at it and says, Here's this guy who is taking our music and has no real appreciation of this. I think that makes a huge difference in the end.
Q. So if you are asked which is your favorite, classical or jazz, you
would say both?
A. I love them both equally.
Q. Describe the Bedford school project.
A. At the beginning of January, the Friends of Music and Arts, which is the parental music arm of the Bedford public school system, contacted me because they were looking for someone who could play with their students and be part of this fund-raising event, which is held every March or April. I met with them and I realized there were a lot of things that could be done with the school system. They were looking for something that pretty much incorporated the band program and
the choral program. So after playing them a little bit of Jazzical, I suggested to them I would write for their big band a Jazzical piece, and I would also create a very special piece for the high school chorus. Then they said, Well, we'd like to incorporate the elementary and middle school and high schools. So that created more of a challenge for me.
To make a long story short, I wrote the music in about two weeks, and one was a piece by a Spanish guy named Xavier Montsalvatge. And I also used a piece from Chopin's D flat major Nocturne for the choral piece. And I used lyrics that I invented that basically talked about school and what kids go through. And for the big band piece I wrote a piece based upon Chopin's C minor Prelude, which was covered in a pop version by Barry Manilow, and was actually an inspiration for
turning into a big band piece. Basically, this whole concert is an answer to my long-term goal of bringing classical music to larger audiences through Jazzical. It is also a great alternative venue to the usual concert hall or a jazz club. It is my way of actually bridging those audiences and bringing people together, and because of the nature of the arts in education, I'm
bringing the music to many people instead of 30 or 40.
Q. Have you seen an appreciation of music in those students that they
did not have before?
A. Classical music has become more user-friendly to them, to use the computer term. Because I don't look too much older than they do and I certainly don't act like I'm an old man -- and I love kids and I love people in general -- they get a different appreciation because they can appreciate the man and the music. It's not like I'm some guy walking in there and saying in an authoritative voice, ''I have this piece and I would like you to try it out.''
Q. In the face of rap and rock and every other form of popular music, is it difficult to get teen-agers interested in classical music and jazz?
A. It is a little, but if the other things are great music, that's O.K. You just have to bring the level of quality up. I think, in general, record companies think audiences are stupid and will just accept anything they will give out, that it doesn't have to be good. In my house, I have everything from rap to heavy metal to the New York Philharmonic. But they're all classic records that have stood the test of time. I think that great art doesn't have to be sacrificed. I think
every record from the Mamas and the Papas to the Beatles had something that was special and very artistic and withstood
generations. Times change, but the music is still there. Who said that art and commerce can't walk hand in hand?