Will Friedwald




"John di Martino is fast emerging as one of the major pianist-musical directors around town"-Will Friedwald




Todd Barkan

"John di Martino is a melodic and harmonic magician who birings a large helping of unique wonderfulness to a musical journey"-Todd Barkan



Bob Bernotas

John di Martino’s Romantic Jazz Trio - by Bob Bernotas
John di Martino has established a widely respected reputation as an adaptable straight-ahead player and a sensitive and sought-after accompanist of singers.

THE SWEETEST SOUND—Venus Records TKCV-35329. www.johndimartino.com. La Comparsa, My Melancholy Baby, And I Love Her, The Gentle Rain, The Sweetest Sound, Drume Negrita, In My Solitude, The Lamp Is Low, The Things I Love, You Must Believe in Spring, Historia de un Amor.
PERSONNEL: John di Martino, piano; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Grady Tate, drums.
By Bob Bernotas

In his time on the New York scene pianist John di Martino has established a widely respected reputation as an adaptable straight-ahead player, a sensitive and sought-after accompanist of singers, and, having worked in the bands of Ray Barretto and Bobby Sanabria, among others, a brilliant Latin jazz keyboard artist. How wonderful it is that the versatile di Martino, at last, has gotten the chance to highlight his many gifts in a classic trio setting with two exemplary associates. Ugonna Okegwo is one of the most active freelance bassists working today, and with good reason. For over four decades Grady Tate has served as “the musician’s drummer,” having backed an astounding array of instrumental and vocal talent.

Di Martino presents Tate with a rhythmic tour de force on the opening track, infusing Ernesto Lecuona’s “La Comparsa” with a New Orleans street beat. Two other Cuban standards, the rumba “Drume Negrita” and the bolero “Historia de un Amor,” receive more traditional treatments, revealing di Martino’s experience in and regard for the genre.

Jazz musicians know that “My Melancholy Baby” is one of those tunes—OK, you all may roll your eyes now—but the pianist, supported by Okegwo’s clean two-beat feel and Tate’s clipped, tightly closed hi-hat time, paraphrases the shopworn melody without a hint of irony or condescension. The trio’s handling of “And I Love Her,” leisurely and languid, until suddenly energized in the coda, demonstrates that there still are many riches left to mine in the Beatles’ songbook.

Di Martino seems to take inspiration from the title of Luis Bonfa’s bossa nova, “The Gentle Rain,” employing a light touch that makes each notes fall like drops of rain. This lovely track also offers up still more joys of Grady Tate, whose subtle brush work is, at times, more felt than heard. He truly is the “anti-Buddy Rich,” making his presence known, not as an overpowering or dominating force in the ensemble, or even as a soloist (although he is a wonderful one), but by what he can contribute to enhance the collective performance. You may not always notice Grady Tate when he is there, but you miss him when he is not.

The same can be said of Ugonna Okegwo, who, on a straight-ahead, unpretentious treatment of Richard Rodgers’ “The Sweetest Sound,” does exactly what a bassist should do in a trio setting, working in close tandem with di Martino, strengthening and supporting the pianist’s elegantly swinging lines. The romanticism of “John di Martino’s Romantic Jazz Trio” is unbound in “The Things I Love,” based on a theme by the ultimate romantic, Tchaikovsky, but discreet touches of the blues help keep it real.

At over nine minutes, the CD’s longest track, “You Must Believe in Spring,” affords di Martino an opportunity for extended, inspired exploration. Especially instructive is his use of block chords, richly voiced, effectively placed, always an enhancement, never a cliché or a crutch,

John di Martino’s Romantic Jazz Trio is, in fact, a recording session-generated group, but after hearing this CD you just may think it was a permanent working unit—and you’ll wish it was.

Bob Bernotas (trbnplyr@aol.com) is a freelance jazz journalist and the author of Top Brass: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz’s Leading Brass Players and Reed All About It: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz’s Leading Reed Players (Boptism Music Publishing, www.boptism.com). He also is the host of “Just Jazz,” heard every Monday morning from 1:00 to 6:00 over 91.9 WNTI-FM, Hackettstown, NJ.

Time Out New York

K. Leander Williams

"...one of the jazz scene's finest, a pianist who is just as comfortable with bop as he is with Afro-Cuban rhythms and salsa..."

San Francisco Examiner

Phillip Elwood

"Pianist John di Martino seems to play in and out of a trance, but there is so much happening in his style, that the listener becomes mesmerized. his amazing piano had the audience roaring approval! He was particularly impressive with a touch comparable to the melodically challenging finesse of Kenny Barron."

Ray Barretto "I express my admiration for one of the most musically honest young musicians I know. John di Martino's middle name should be 'taste', for he conveys that quality whether he is in a solo or a supportive role, both in Jazz and Latin music."

Jazz Times Magazine

Bobby Sanabria

"John is probably the most versed pianist today, in terms of sensitivity in jazz, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music. I hear everything from Ravel, Stravinsky and Prokofiev to Bud Powell and Monk in his playing, through his own voice. Just a great player and a great person, too."

Mark Levine

pianist, educator

"...John di Martino has always been one of my heroes, someone who truly understands both jazz and Afro-Cuban music and he swings his ass off!"

Piano & Keyboard

Bob Bernotas

Playing For Jazz Singers

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    "...Pianist John di Martino, kommer vi til at høre mere fra, tror jeg, og han er Ray Barretto koncertens store oplevelse..."