James Martin sees his second solo album, Something’s Gotta Give, as a reflection on his first fifteen years as a professional musician.
It’s a reflection on the grind, the late nights and the hustle of the local music scene, as well as on the travels that have taken him all over the world to perform for fans hungry for authentic New Orleans music.
“Whether it be Sao Paolo, Brazil, Moscow, Russia, or some barnyard in Virginia, there are New Orleans fans and people that love the city, people that will come out and support New Orleans musicians,” says Martin.
The album, to be released January 13, also pays tribute to some of Martin’s biggest influences. “For some reason I have this fascination with New Orleans pianists, because the only two cover songs on this album are a sax arrangement of James Booker’s ‘Too Much Blues’, and also a tribute to one of my personal heroes, Alan Toussaint – ‘Southern Nights’.
The spark for another song, “Same Old Same Old,” came from a drumbeat he heard on an Earl King song. “I just loved the drumbeat, so I sampled the drumbeat, made it my drummer, and I wrote a song over it.”
The saxophone wasn’t Martin’s first instrument. “I was kind of forced into it,” he says. “I was a guitar player originally, but…I couldn’t be in the Rummel High School jazz band playing guitar. I was also in the marching band, and there’s no guitar in the marching band.”
The band director offered Martin the cymbals, “and I was like, no, no, give me the saxophone.”
Once he switched to the sax, though, “it was instant love,” Martin says.
He was also helped by a father who played the saxophone, and also by his time at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.
“NOCCA is a great institution for young musicians,” Martin says. “It was paramount to where I am in my career now.”
It was at NOCCA that Martin met fellow student Trombone Shorty and began performing in his band, an affiliation that would last for seven years. And on January 28 at 10:00 p.m., Martin will come full circle with an album release party for ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ at the Maple Leaf, the site of his first gig with Shorty fifteen years ago.