Barrett Martin

Born in 1967, Olympia WA

Barrett Martin is a drummer and composer who played with several prominent rock and jazz groups during the alternative music explosion of the 1980s and 1990’s, including Skin Yard, The Screaming Trees, Mad Season, Tuatara and REM.

Barettt  was also a session musician in Los Angeles and has played on or produced over 50 albums to date, including three solo albums and numerous film soundtracks. He has traveled the world extensively, performing and doing musical research in several different cultures. Barrett is also an ordained Zen priest in the Soto tradition, he holds a bachelors degree in anthropology, and he is finishing a masters degrees in ethnology/linguistics and music from the University Of New Mexico. Barrett also founded the world music label, Fast Horse Recordings, where he and the Fast Horse staff search for new and exciting forms of music from around the world.

I've always been impressed with Barrett Martin's creative artistry and keep an eye on his MySpace page as well.  He recently gave us an update as to what he's been up to and what's coming up. 
He granted permission to reprint his thoughts.
   - Editor, 1/21/08

Here's what's been cooking for the last few months, condensed into four weeks during the Christmas break.

My intention was to head to West Africa during the holidays to see the famous Festival Au Desert in the Sahara Desert of Mali. Sounds incredible from what my friends have told me, but alas, my schedule would not allow. Maybe next year.

Coleman BarkshttInstead, I got booked to do four albums back to back, all of which turned out magnificently well, considering their diversity. The first was with Coleman Barks (left), the famed Sufi poet and elder statesman of Mystical Truth. Coleman wrote "The Essential Rumi" and numerous other poetry books that I have read over the years. He's 71 years old now, and an old friend of mine from Athens, GA, back when I played with REM. So, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, guitarists of REM, and Kai Riedl of the band Macha came down to Santa Fe and we recorded close to 20 song-poems with Coleman. We basically made up the music on the spot to fit with Coleman's poems, although admittedly, we all came prepared with song ideas or at least riffs and rhythms, so that we could appear to be spontaneous, even if we are actually, dare I say, "professional"?
Rahim Alhaj, the Grammy-nominated Iraqi oud player came down for a few songs too, and he and Coleman bonded quite tightly. Coleman's album will be released in the late spring on Fast Horse (my label) and I think the album will really affect people, largely because of its beautiful Americana poetry, Sufi mysticism, and a helluva lot of humor that might actually shock some of the people who revere Coleman as a saint. Coleman is no saint, but he is a brilliant, warm, humorous bear of man. We love him dearly, and so will you.Dave Carter

 The second session was with Dave Carter (right), the great jazz trumpeter who also plays with Tuatara. We cut Dave's album with the studio house band – me on drums, John Rangel on piano and keys, and Luis Guerra on upright bass. Of course Dave was front and center on trumpet and his album is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I would describe it as a mix of jazz, blues, gospel and funk, a real mix of the Miles Davis second quintet era, and the more mellow sounds of Chet Baker. This is Dave's first solo album after years as a sideman and I must say I am dang proud of the man. We made a great debut album for him, also out in the late spring on Fast Horse. Check out Dave's my space page too, in my top friends.

Manny Oquendo aka MegManThe next album was with New York electronic composer Manny Oquendo aka MegMan (left).
I used to play with Manny a few years back when he lived in New Mexico - we had a drummer/DJ thing we called RE:SOUND. Manny and his lovely wife Bea and their young son Ezra moved back to the Bronx a couple years ago, and he now works in the New York public school system teaching music to troubled teens. Now that is what I call a true warrior, people! That's the good fight! But of course he has been continuing to write and compose music, so we finally booked dates to make an album together. This album is going to KILLER, but we still have much to do on it. Basically Manny brought electronic bed tracks that I threw down beats and percussion and vibes and even – a Japanese koto. It's a great, groovy, head bobbing, sometimes chill out record that is a vast departure from albums I have done in the past. It really does sounds like life in New York, electronic style, gangster beats and folkloric music combined. But you will dig it, I promise. Manny is in my top friends as MegMan, so check him out!

The last thing we did was my new solo album, titled Zenga. Zenga is a Zen painting tradition, something I have practiced for a while now, in combination with my regular Zen sitting practice. I painted the album cover first for this one, then we started recording the music – a little backwards but totally the way to do this! For my third solo album, I assembled good old Luis Guerra on bass (he played on my previous two albums) and John Rangel on piano. I also had the honor of Kanoa Barrett Martin - Earthspeaker Photo ShootKaluhiwa on saxophone, and of course Dave Carter will be cutting trumpet tracks as well. It's a real quintet this time around and although it's still in the works, I think this is going to be, by far, my best work to date. In fact, I'm going to try a little experiment and put some of the rough mixes up on my music player so you can all have a listen. Send me your comments.

 Well that's it in nutshell. I have one more semester of school to go on my long-pursued masters degree and I start next week. These four albums will be coming out in the late spring, right around the time I finally finish school. God, to be 40 years old and still in school - what in the hell was I thinking.   - Barrett Martin, January 18, 2008

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Barrett Martin's Solo Discography:

The Painted Desert
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