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Keeping Leesburg Beautiful With a Song

Artist Profile

Stuart Martin will perform at the Town Green in Leesburg’s Historic District as part of the Keep Leesburg Beautiful Celebration, Saturday, April 14, 9 a.m. Visit www.leesburgva.gov or call 703-771-2700.

Introduce yourself:

I am a professional musician who splits time between solo jazz pursuits and two different bands. While the bands are focused on original material that displays elements of folk, country, bluegrass, and hard rock — which allow me to play mandolin, banjo, organ, and Dobro [a type of acoustic guitar], the jazz realm is wonderful because it requires me to stretch and to grow intellectually and technically. The key to this experience is combining the knowledge with my "inner voice" so that the music conveys the full range of complexity from "the natural" to "the esoteric."

How did you get your start?

I began playing trumpet in fifth grade. Because I wanted to be able to play chords as well as single-note melodies, I started picking things out on the banjo. As I entered the teenage years, it became obvious that switching to guitar was the best avenue for venting enthusiasm, angst and love.

How long have you been performing for?

My first "gig" was playing at a Key Club party in ninth grade (1980). It was a toga party at which we played music from the Clash, Sex Pistols, Pretenders, Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, etc.

What has been your best memory when it comes to music?

One of my favorite memories involves my wedding. At the time I was playing with my band up and down the East Coast, around three to five gigs a week. My wife was concerned that she didn’t know what our "first dance" was going to be. She had relied on me to pick a song, but she thought I had neglected to follow through with it. When it came time for the dance number, I went to the stage, strapped on a guitar and sang "She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife," by Lyle Lovett with the band. It brought the house down and we have been married 16 years.

Describe your sound:

I have always worked at being technically proficient within a soulful foundation. I constantly listen to new and old music. There are periods of time when I will concentrate on one person’s style, but only as a study to open my ears to a new aural vista. I assume that anything that I listen to will eventually make its way into my playing.

I try to incorporate many stylistic motifs by achieving a balance between impressionistic soundscapes, rhythmic phrasing, distilled melodic lines. This is the goal, not necessarily what I think I have achieved.

Biggest musical influences:

Most anyone who has lived in the last 20 years has a myriad of musical influences. My main ones have been Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins, Joe Pass, Jaco Pastorius — particularly on Joni Mitchell’s "Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter" and his solo album, John Scofield, Leo Kottke, Jimmy Bryant, Luther Perkins — with Johnny Cash, Jim Hall, and Leo Nocentelli — with the Meters. There are many great local players who are also influences like Danny Knicely and Rick Whitehead.

Other influences:

Rhythmic figures can often be suggested by the world around me: the sound of a tractor "loping," a horse walking, speech cadence of someone who is excited, etc. Melodic motifs from birds, a trickling stream, the wash of jet engine passing overhead are also apparent.

Favorite pieces? Why?

Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring" is appropriate now, but the performance always lightens my day. The thought of ballerinas dancing to the ponderous rhythmic figure is one of my favorite juxtapositions. I love Jimi Hendrix’s "1983 … A Merman I Shall Be." Its soundscape was a tremendous opening to my musical experience. The opening two minutes of Joni Mitchell’s "Cotton Avenue" gives an aural and vibrational experience that stays fresh. Howlin’ Wolf’s "Wang Dang Doodle" is a complex blues that depends on two different lines that occur simultaneously. That kind of complexity and inner rhythm is a terrific counterpoint to Wolf’s voice. Baden Powell’s "Orfeu de Samba" is poignant and full of languid tension. It’s a feeling that is as palpable as an afternoon in Havana. Lately, I have greatly enjoyed Christian McBride’s compact disc "Vertical Vision" and the Dave Holland Big Band’s CD "Overtime."

Where is your favorite place to perform and why?

I most enjoy playing jazz for afternoon or evening soirees. The music lends a "genteel" aura that dovetails with social celebrations. I also enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at Market Street Coffee as well as several restaurants that I frequent. It’s a pleasure to try to provide an aesthetic that will enhance someone’s experience. This is a different orientation from the band situation.

What do you enjoy most about performing live?

The challenge of creating something interesting, fresh and appealing is what excites me. In jazz, the music is focus.

Anyone you would really like to play with? Why?

I would like to find an upright bass player who would be interested in exploring original as well as jazz standards.

Best compliment about a performance?

The best compliment is when someone continues to come hear me play.

Anything special about the upcoming show?

The show on the Green is a short morning stint from 9:30-10:10 a.m. It is special because the show is part of an appreciation for the people who volunteer for "Keep Leesburg Beautiful."

How can people hear your music?

I’m still recording a jazz CD, but I also have several recordings that people may purchase, download or demo. My Web site has several clips from the projects I am currently involved in — Jerry Joe Reno, One Horse Town.

What is Keep Leesburg Beautiful?

It is a community, volunteer effort to improve Leesburg by picking up trash. It heightens awareness of our environment while exposing the sense of community that leads to good fellowship. It is also an opportunity to get outside and enjoy a beautiful day.

What can people do to keep Leesburg looking beautiful?

Thoughtfulness, recycling, proper waste removal.