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Saxophonist Scott Martin and his Latin Soul Jazz Sextet stopped by the Saville Theatre on Tuesday, July 19, to record a live album and lay down some dance party grooves, with varying degrees of success.

Martin, who spent 14 years in the employ of award-winning bandleader Poncho Sanchez, has earned his Latin music credentials, and the cat can play the saxophone. Moreover, he has a very tight, crack ensemble to work with: guitarist Rick White was sparkling the entire evening with a clear, chorused aesthetic that occasionally threatened to steal the show; Mark Massey's piano was always supportive and meshed well with the guitar; Don Littleton's congas and assorted percussion fired the ensemble's heartbeat, and the rhythm section of Ernie Nunez and Warren Ontiveros on electric bass and drums, respectively, kept faultless time.

They led off with an appropriately grooving, "Voodoo Juice", which recalled Latin giant Cal Tjader's oeuvre . As long as their set list stuck with that orientation, Martin's light, airy attack and White's John Scofield meets Wes Montgomery soloing kept the engines stoked and the fires burning.

A welcome surprise was the straight-ahead (almost free-bop) groove of "Flim Flam" a swinging tune that brought out the best performance of the evening, with Martin's tightly coiled saxophone improvisations weaving through the changes like a rattlesnake trying to escape a hot-plate.

Less fulfilling were "Gregory Is Here", which bordered on "smooth-jazz", and "More Today Than Yesterday", which was marred by unclear vocals.

On the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo standard, "Manteca" and the Willie Bobo classic, "Fried Neckbones", though, this super tight "Latin Soul" sextet lived up to their billing and rocked the enthusiastic full house to a satisfying climax.

photo by Anthony Cecena

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