“Rebecca Martin is a singer/songwriter with a small but devoted following. After Midnight is a unique project for her, a collaboration with a well-established orchestra from Portugal. Martin’s husband, bassist Larry Grenadier, is a featured soloist.
Martin is a rarity among jazz singers: a true composer. But her songs are performed infrequently by others, perhaps because they are so specific to her. They are real-time dispatches from the front lines of life in the 21st century. They document the circumstances of her soul. They deal with common subjects like love, with uncommon insights into love’s ongoing paradoxes (“In the Nick of Time”). Often she writes about the fragile dynamics of the creative process itself (“Don’t Mean a Thing at All,” “All Day Long She Wrote”). Her language never concedes the obvious.
The orchestra is a continuous source of beauty on this album. It surrounds Martin with an envelope of complementary impressionism. Its lush textures and rich colors deepen the rapt atmosphere that is Martin’s natural habitat.
Martin’s vocal instrument is very fine, but sometimes what a singer can do with her voice is less important than who she is. Martin sings from the heart with plain-spoken humanity. When she takes on well-worn standards like “Willow Weep for Me,” she gives witness, without self-pity, to heartbreak. “Lush Life” is perfect for her. It is a song as stream of consciousness. Martin thinks it aloud, like a diary entry…”
In the midst of releasing “After Midnight” (the recording), the idea of highlighting the lyrics for the listener was an intriguing and creative way to introduce these songs as poetry to this noisy world of ours.
We talked initially about a single lyric which that led to an entire audiobook and an opportunity for me to curate it with some of my dearest friends + my mom. Because the eleven women featured live all over the globe, this project was made possible only by using zoom technology during Covid.
The audio book is available when you pre-order AFTER MIDNIGHT
Preview: The actress Rachel Weisz reading “Don’t Mean a Thing at All” by Rebecca Martin
About the cast:
THE SPACE IN A SONG TO THINK
Read by Gretchen Parlato
Gretchen Parlato is thought of as one of the most inventive and mesmerizing vocalists of her generation.
IN THE NICK OF TIME (STATE OF THE UNION)
Read by Alice Bierhorst
Alice Bierhorst is a visionary singer and songmaker. Her voice is clear and plaintive, airy and grounded, full of wonder, tenderness and love.
BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME
Read by Terry Martin
Marie Therese Martin is Rebecca Martin’s mother. Her new memoir “The Accidental Witness” will be published in the fall of 2022.
Read by Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson is Waterkeeper Alliance’s Advocacy Coordinator for the Western United States.
Read by Francisca Guedes de Oliveira
Francisca Guedes de Oliveira is an Assistant Professor at Católica Porto Business School of the Portuguese Catholic University.
Read by Judith Enck
Judith Enck is senior fellow and visiting faculty member in the Center for the Advancement of Public Action. She is the President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator, appointed by President Obama.
DON’T MEAN A THING AT ALL
Read by Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz was born in Westminster, London. She is an actor, director and producer with a career that has spanned many decades.
WILLOW WEEP FOR ME
Read by Sue Collins
Sue Collins is an artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sue received a fine arts degree in Theater from UCLA.
ALL DAY LONG SHE WROTE
Read by Rebecca Martin
Rebecca is a singer/songwriter and the Director of Community Partnerships at Riverkeeper.
Read by Helena Hansen
Helena Hansen is an MD, Ph.D. psychiatrist-anthropologist, Professor and Chair of Research Theme in Translational Social Science and Health Equity, as well as Associate Director of the Center for Social Medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
Read by Amy Correia
Amy Correia delivers songs with a raw power that’s both vulnerable and fierce. The New York Times calls her “a singular talent.”
Pre-order “After Midnight” now on BANDCAMP
Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos featuring Rebecca Martin and Larry Grenadier
Pedro Guedes, Conductor
Rebecca Martin, Voice, Guitar
Larry Grenadier, Bass
João Guimarães alto sax, flute in C, Clarinet in B Flat
João Pedro Brandão Alto Saxophone, Soprano Sax, flute in C , Alto Flute, Clarinet in B Flat
Mário Santos Tenor Sax, Clarinet in B flat
José Pedro Coelho Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet in B flat
Rui Teixeira Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet in B flat, Bass Clarinet
Trumpets & Flugelhorns:
André Fernandes, Guitar
Carlos Azevedo, Piano
Marcos Cavaleiro, Drums
Recorded at CARA/OJM Estúdios, Matosinhos, Portugal
January 20-22, 2020
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mário Barreiros
Assisted by Nuno Couto
Photo credit: The interior of Hanover Mountain House thanks to the Town of Olive, NY
Album art: Dobra
After Midnight, due out January 28 2022 (and on January 12, 2022 in Japan), also features bass great and Martin’s longtime collaborator Larry Grenadier, with lush arrangements by the OJM and pianist Guillermo Klein
Singer/songwriter Rebecca Martin has a particular gift for creating intimate, introspective moods, as if her songs are secrets whispered into the listener’s ear, or treasured memories drifting up from the subconscious.
In the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM), Martin, accompanied by her husband and frequent collaborator, bassist Larry Grenadier, has found a perfect match. On their first collaboration with Martin and Grenadier, After Midnight, the Portugal-based ensemble, conducted by Pedro Guedes, proves itself vividly sensitive to the hushed nuances and delicate impressionism of her finely crafted songs. The album, due out January 28, 2022 (in Japan on January 12, 2022) comprises pieces from Martin’s 30-year career alongside aptly chosen standards that spotlight her multi-hued interpretations. The release date is auspicious, landing on OJM’s 25-year anniversary
Nate Chinen wrote in the New York Times that Martin “exudes the plainest sort of poise, almost radical in its utter lack of flash,” saying that her performances “seem less like songs than like articulations of her state of mind.” She began her career in the early 90s as part of the groundbreaking duo Once Blue, with Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris (Norah Jones). Along with a half-dozen acclaimed solo albums, she’s recorded in collaboration with pianist Guillermo Klein and legendary drummer Paul Motian, and as part of the vocal trio Tillery with Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato.
It was through listening to Tillery that OJM co-musical director Pedro Guedes was inspired to invite Martin to collaborate. “Those three voices really got my attention,” Guedes recalls. “I knew Rebecca was not only a great singer but a great songwriter as well, and she also has a very special approach to the American Songbook. This combination of factors led me to make the call to ask her to work with us.”
Through the orchestra’s previous collaborations with a wide range of stellar jazz artists – an impressive list that includes Maria Schneider, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Carla Bley, Lee Konitz, Fred Hersch, Joshua Redman and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among many others – Martin recognized a large ensemble nimble enough to maneuver like a small group.
“Their work had the feeling of a small band to me,” Martin says. “It wasn’t grandiose, as if I had to put on a gown and walk out in front of an orchestra. It reminded me of my formative experiences in New York City, where there was deep listening and collaboration.”
“Rebecca’s original music is very intimate,” Guedes says. “It could seem like a challenge to bring out that intimacy within a big band context. But it ended up being really natural.”
A key component of that dynamic is Martin’s long personal and professional history with Larry Grenadier (Brad Mehldau, John Scofield). Over the course of 25 years together, the two have developed a stunningly attuned musical relationship, telepathic and intricate. “It’s a unique music connection,” Grenadier describes. “Because of the time spent on and off the bandstand with Rebecca over the years, we have the ultimate level of communication.”
Though the album After Midnight was recorded in the early weeks of 2020, long before anyone realized what that year had in store, the song reflects the cautious optimism that greets its release. It’s also a suggestion of the tone of the music, which seems to dwell in the twilit, liminal spaces late at night or just before dawn. Originally recorded in 2008 for Martin’s album The Growing Season, the title track After Midnight poetically depicts her brother’s wartime experience in Iraq.
“That song put me in mind of a [soldier] who comes home from a far away country, feeling at odds with being both war torn and thrust back into the comfort of their daily routine before they left and after they return,” says Guedes, who provided the song’s arrangement.
The OJM’s empathic touch can be heard from the album’s outset, as soft, shimmering colors usher in Martin’s “The Space in a Song to Think” – a title that could also serve as a guiding mantra for the album’s lush atmospheres. The Orquestra seems to weave through a path carved by Grenadier’s bass on “In the Nick of Time (State of the Union),” a tune the couple co-wrote for their 2013 collaboration Twain.
Working with the Argentine pianist/composer Guillermo Klein on 2017’s The Upstate Project was “a bucket list collaboration,” according to Martin, and Klein continues the partnership by contributing a pair of arrangements to After Midnight. Beginning simply with Martin singing over gently strummed guitar, Martin’s rueful “Don’t Mean a Thing At All” soon becomes swathed in kaleidoscopic colors; Guedes calls Klein’s bustling, metropolitan approach to Billy Strayhorn’s classic “Lush Life” a masterpiece – the arrangement reflects not the usual last-call bitterness but the heady rush of ceaseless urban living.
Sadly still relevant, the Depression-era “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” is given an achingly slow tempo, as if the narrator is muttering to herself with little hope of receiving the asked for assistance. It’s followed by the tender, swaying “Kentucky Babe,” a vintage lullaby that Martin discovered through singer Maxine Sullivan’s version. Charles Mingus’ “Portrait” feels woozy, as if overwhelmed to the point of dizziness by the subject’s elusive beauty. Accompanied by moaning baritone sax, Martin sings the rarely included opening verse of “Willow Weep for Me” before settling into a lovely rendition of the familiar classic.
“All Day Long She Wrote” is a poetic new Martin song about the creative urge, provided compassionate accompaniment via an arrangement by OJM pianist and co-director Carlos Azevedo. The album closes with a dream-like “Joey,” an early and oft-revisited song co-written by Martin’s Once Blue collaborator Jesse Harris.
The album was recorded and mixed by Mário Barreiros, whose masterful work in the studio Martin praises. “When we started the session, we had some trouble finding the right microphone for my voice with such a large group. During an early break, Mario set out into the city and returned with a ribbon mic borrowed from a friend. It made a world of difference. That effort and care made it clear to me that he was going to be a special engineer who would capture the performances perfectly – and he did!”
After Midnight is a gorgeous example of deep listening and sympathetic collaboration, illuminating profoundly emotional songs in vibrant shades. It’s a lovely reflection of the varied personalities that crafted it as well as the beautiful locale where it was recorded. “I find the city of Matosinhos, Portugal, to have a similar feeling to the orchestra,” Martin muses. “It’s familiar, earthy and approachable. I loved being able to meander from my hotel room to the studio and sit on the corner along the way with elders drinking their cappuccino and discussing their daily routines. It’s a magical place, a city that has maintained its culture and a slowless that is hard to find these days. It’s in part why I always feel so welcome there.”
For more information, contact: Patrice Fehlen, firstname.lastname@example.org
During the day, Rebecca Martin works with community partners to protect the Hudson River watershed and drinking water supplies.