Concert Date:
August 24, 2008

reviewed by:
Harvey Cline

Matt Marshak, Philip “Doc” Martin, and Ken Ford – Bowie Center for the Performing Arts

This weekend, we attended a concert at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts in Bowie, MD.  This concert is the initial offering in a concert series called Seasons of Music. It is another opportunity to bring live smooth/contemporary jazz music to the DC Metro area.  Their goal is provide an avenue for talented independent artists, as well as national acts, in each of the four seasons.   I think this is a great concept.  We all know that even when we had smooth jazz radio, it was never an outlet for independent artists.  As the music business continues to change, more radio stations flip, and more record labels fold, we will see more and more independent artists looking for ways to get their music heard.  Seasons of Music is attempting to address that need.  Tonight’s winter concert, Sax & Strings, featured guitarist Matt Marshak, saxophonist Philip “Doc” Martin, and electric violinist Ken Ford.

Matt Marshak opened the show and was soon joined onstage by Philip “Doc” Martin and Ken Ford.  What a great way to open, and give the audience a little taste of what’s to come.  We knew about Matt; we’ve seen him perform in the Capital Jazz Challenge a few years ago, and reviewed some of his CD’s and concerts, but I don’t think he was that familiar to most of the audience.  That didn’t seem to matter; it did not take them long to warm up to Matt and his music.  He performed a number of tunes from his releases, as well as some covers made famous by other well known guitarists like George Benson, Prince, and Larry Carlton.

Up next was Philip “Doc” Martin.  It’s always exciting seeing a performer for the first time.   Martin proved to be both talented and charismatic.  He opened with the Roberta Flack tune, “Feel Like Making Love.”  He was confident enough to play an a cappella version of “Misty,” which worked well for the crowd.  He also played the first tune he ever wrote, “Rock the Boat,” and a rousing cover of the gospel tune “More, More, More.”  This was an emotionally charged crowd pleaser. 

Ken Ford closed the show that night.  This is who the crowd had been waiting for, Ken Ford and his electric violin.  Most of the audience was already familiar with his music, having seen him on the Capital Jazz Super Cruise, and at the Capital Jazz Festival.  Ken has an incredible and unique talent.  He played tunes from his three releases, including “Butter,” and some really interesting covers of “Get Busy,” “Can’t Hide Love,” and “Moments of Love.”  The crowd really got into Ken and his music.

The problem I have is the tendency of musicians to constantly revert to playing covers of old school songs, as opposed to putting the emphasis on their own original music.  (Apparently, I am in the minority here because this audience seemed to like hearing the familiar cover tunes.)  I don’t mean to single out the musicians and artists at Sax & Strings; this seems to be the overall, across the board trend of smooth jazz artists.  I didn’t mind when Ken Ford played some covers (actually, I rather enjoyed them) because it was different.  The electric violin is not an instrument you hear often in the jazz genre.  That makes the music sound fresh and exciting, as opposed to redundant and overdone, like some of it tends to be.  

Other than that, the venue was packed, and everyone appeared to have a good time, including the musicians.  Here in the Baltimore/Washington Metro area, we are very fortunate to have people who love live music and are willing to support it.  In these trying economic times, that says a lot.  We’ll not only go to the shows, but we’ll sell them out.  Jazz artists of every kind will always have a place, and a following here in this area.  Just let us know the time and place, and we’ll be there.