Phillip Martin

Pride & Joy

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It would be easy to compare upstart urban grooving smooth jazz saxman Phillip Martin to Eric Darius, who was in his launching pad position a few years earlier but has gone on to become a major genre artist. Beyond their Florida roots and commitment to finishing their educations at major Sunshine State schools (Martin later studied dentistry at Howard University), they're both young (early twenties), African-American, hip, funky, and sensuous. Darius' first two discs made slightly more of an impact than this one -- Martin's second after Saxappeal -- but Martin is still all about expressing all the things that make his genre appealing to its audience: instantly infectious melodies, caressing retro atmospheres, passionate straightforward playing, bright horn texturing (rendered most appealingly and hypnotically on a cover of Aaliyah's cool, laid-back "Rock the Boat"), and on key infectious tracks like "American Garden" and the title track, with seductive, just bouncy enough grooves. While Martin and his keyboardist/producer Tony Hemmings often texture his sax with those Najee-esque vocals that add a certain sexiness, they also add a sweet unexpected surprise deeper in the mix: the beautiful, classically tinged "Shades of Gray" features the sweet, soaring and melancholy cello of Cindi Kornhaus. Most likely, touches like these aren't going to gain Martin any big radio play, which a young artist needs to get his feet wet. But it shows a commitment on his part to developing a voice that can not only emerge through a powerful sea of great sax veterans, but can also eventually stand out.

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