Pianist Benny Green says of GRAMMY® nominated pianist/arranger/producer, John di Martino: “John di Martino is one of my absolute personal favorite pianists of today. I consider him an unpretentious master with a golden heart. The range of human emotion he conveys is quite engaging to me. Blessed with a unique touch which reflects warmth, passion, humor, vulnerability, and adventurous, fearless exploration, his transitions flow in a most friendly, inviting manner which keep me fascinated and are clear voicings of a pure and peaceful soul. John Di Martino is a blessing in music today, respected deeply by his fellow musicians. I hope that the general public can have more opportunities to savor his music, his music is an honest outpouring of light.”
Born in Philadelphia, John studied with Lennie Tristano and Don Sebesky.
John di Martino, based in New York City, has been described as a “shape-shifter”, for his creativity across musical genres. John has performed and recorded with David “Fat Head” Newman, Pat Martino, Houston Person and Taj Mahal.
di Martino is a sought after musical director. He has
accompanied Jon Hendricks, Keely Smith, Billy Eckstine and Janis Siegel.
John’s talents as arranger and pianist, can be heard on recordings with
Gloria Lynn, Grady Tate and R & B artists Joe Thomas and Chico
DeBarge. His discography includes several Grammy nominated cd’s: “Love”
with Isaac Delgado, “Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B”, and “Live And In Clave”
with Bobby Sanabria. John was a member of Ray Barretto’s “New World
Spirit”. He is pianist and arranger on several of Mr. Barretto’s
recordings featuring James Moody, Kenny Burrell, Joe Lovano and Steve
Turre, including the Grammy nominated, CD: “Contact”.
“John”s soul and being come straight through to his music, the jazz
world needs him! “ – Sheila Jordan ( NEA Jazz Master )
“John di Martino’s middle name should be ‘taste’, for he conveys that
quality in both solo and supportive roles, in jazz as well as latin
music!” – Ray Barretto ( NEA Jazz Master )
I had the pleasure of meeting John while our family was front row at a Pat Martino show at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. He and I smiled at the same things throughout the set, and had a warm meeting directly after. We found that our birthdays are a day apart, (his April 2, mine April 3) and we’ve been friends since. Whether hearing a recording of his, experiencing him live, or just meeting him at a cafe, you can’t help thinking “John di Martino is one of the sweetest souls on earth”. He has a so many gifts, two of which are kindness, and gentility. What a pleasure it is to hear art created by one with those gifts.
John recently returned stateside from Thailand, where he toured, and recorded “A Tribute to King of Jazz”. You can hear a sample of that album here, which features Paul Meyers, guitar, Ed Howard, bass, & Willard Dyson, drums.
John answered FIVE QUESTIONS via email.
1) My first question is about your practice habits. How/how much do you
practice on the road? What’s your routine? What’s your process for
writing music on the road?
JM – Being a pianist, I don’t practice on the road, it’s usually
impossible, and it would take energy and freshness from my performance,
when I am “on the road”, I replace practice with yoga and chanting ( I
practice Buddhism ), this helps me to focus, and hopefully open me up to
channel some creativity from the universe! I don’t often write music on
the road, but experiences on the road inspire ideas for new
2) You play in so many different settings, and with various artists. Is
it difficult switching gears for you? Are you always thinking of your
own music in the back of your mind? What inspires you to create new
JM – I love all music, and I believe that being open to many musical
languages helps one to grow. All the great jazz artists were inspired
by a wide range of music. It’s all about being in context to whatever
style you are dealing with, and making it your own by bringing your
unique personality to the creative process!
3) What artists are creating new work that catches your ears right now?
Who are the heaviest cats out there now in your opinion? What artists
are you having the most fun working with?
JM – Herbie Hancock is, as always, a model and inspiration to me. He is
constantly re-inventing himself, in his own words: always open to new
“possibilities”! I enjoy working with Janis Siegel, Freddy Cole, Houston
Person and Nicki Parrott: also with very talented younger artist’s such
as: Alexis Cole, Sacha Boutros and Hilary Cole.
4) You’re such an emotional, sensitive player. How do you remain so
emotionally raw artistically? Can you speak a bit about your artistic
JM – I pray everyday to surrender to the joy of making music, I try to
dig deep inside of myself, to find the key which opens the door to the
essence of the music!
5) What are your goals long term/short term? What project(s) do you have
in the works that your fans can look forward to?
JM- I want to make an orchestrated cd, some of it will be a kind of big
band orchestration, and some will be a chamber ensemble. I did a project
with singer Chris McNulty and orchestrater Steve Newcomb. The title of
the cd is “Eternal”. It will be released on Palmetto Records. I will
soon be completing a Brazilian Jazz project with Janis Siegel and
percussionist, Nanny Assis. Together we are the “Requinte Trio”.