Most artists who put a “Doc” in their name do it out of cleverness, for marketing reasons, or as a crafty way to express their mastery of their instrument or vibe. Since the release of his 2003 debut Saxappeal, Phillip “Doc” Martin has all that down pat, wowing audiences everywhere from Blues Alley in D.C. to the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and the Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival and earning inspiring amounts of airplay (including on XM Watercolors and The Weather Channel) for tracks like “Deep Pockets” and the title track from his 2009 set Realization. His latest Innervision Records release Pocket Love further establishes this powerful expertise via his dynamic flow and tight, funky old school driven alto vibe.
While many independent artists with cool, successful “day jobs” prefer to avoid references to them when they talk about their music, Martin is the complete opposite, fully embracing the inspirational factor of being a top notch practitioner in two very different professions. Beyond his ever-expanding musical fan base, hundreds of patients in the Washington DC area know him as “Dr. Martin,” a board certified dentist in group practice there. He called his previous album Good Day At Work (2013) to reflect his artful balance between the rigors of life as a dentist and the sometimes exhilarating, often challenging grind of being an independent artist and performer. One of the insert photos in the packaging of Pocket Love finds him enjoying the best of both worlds, embracing his treasured alto while wearing his green scrubs and cap.
Another aspect of Martin’s artistry that sets him apart from other fine indie saxmen is the fact that Pocket Love isn’t just an uplifting collection of infectious tunes. There’s a larger camaraderie based concept going on. On another insert flap in the artwork, he explains the idea behind the album title: “Pocket is the groove that is created when playing with a group of musicians. The better the individuals, the better the pocket. Pocket is only created when everyone in the ensemble is working as a cohesive unit. I love the feeling I get when I am in a great musical situation where everyone is listening to each other and we are creating good vibes. Now THAT is Pocket Love!”
Working once again with producer Marvin “Tony” Hemmings – who has worked with pop greats Montel Jordan, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez as well as instrumental stars Jeff Lorber and Kirk Whalum – Martin makes a fresh switch from the recording approach he took on Good Day at Work. That one featured all live instrumentation, and this time he wanted to create a more constructed studio album featuring a pocket created by incredible musicians working strictly with grooves created by drum programming.
The 11-track collection puts Martin’s fresh horn melodies front and center, surrounded by the soulful harmonies and grooves fired up by some of his favorite South Florida based “cats” he’s known and worked with since he was an up and coming musician there. The bright and spirited atmosphere-rich soul ballad title track and a lush, seductive cover of the Grover Washington, Jr. classic “Just The Two of Us” feature the distinctive tones of Grammy winning guitarist and urban jazz star Paul Brown. Elsewhere, the percussive mid-tempo seduction “Club Life” features exciting horn doubling textures, old school key harmonies by Hemmings and trumpet and a flugelhorn solo by Marvin Winder. The moody and whimsical ballad “Black Shoebox” finds Martin soaring over an easy shuffling groove, while the spirited jam “Hip Today” blends the best of modern and old school sensibilities (Fender Rhodes flavor, jangling rhythm guitar) and includes a jazzy piano solo by Hemmings.
Other highlights include the mystical soul-jazz sheen and dark guitar strumming on “Groove Love” providing a foundation for Martin’s candlelit sax passion; the crunch-groove and wistful synth harmony driven “LA Nights”; the swaying, sensual funk ballad “Pardon Me”; and the high octane, brass-fired jam “REM Funk” (with Martin’s sax conversing joyfully with a snazzy horn section). The saxophonist closes Pocket Love with a thoughtful and hypnotic cover of John Legend’s #1 pop ballad “All of Me,” performed to perfection as a stripped down duet by Martin and Hemmings.
Born in Indiana to Jamaican parents, Martin grew up in South Florida and began playing music in the Broward County public school band program. Developing his fiery performance style by age 14, he became a leading soloist at South Plantation High School Jazz Band and was honored as a first chair selection to Florida’s All State Jazz Band. He went on to study music at the University of Central Florida, where he was soon invited to play as a sideman with Grammy Award winner Sam Rivers, Grammy nominee Kirk Whalum, Sunnie Paxton, Wes Hamrick, Davonda Simmonds and Susaundra Lewis and the Sounds of Soul.
As Martin continued to hone his skills, he became influenced by influential sax players from across the traditional and smooth spectrum, including Charlie Parker, Everette Harp, Grover Washington Jr., Dave Koz and Gerald Albright. In addition to his acclaimed discography (which includes the 2007 set Pride and Joy), his appeal as a live performer has secured him shows at prominent venues like Ram’s Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland, Philadelphia’s Dell East and SoCal’s Spaghettini, in addition to appearances at the Bahamas Jazz Festival, Carolina Music Festival, Trenton Jazz Festival and Berks Jazz Fest.
Because of the financial ups and downs of being an independent artist, Martin made an important life decision to become a dentist, moving to the Metro DC area to attend Howard University College of Dentistry, where he received his degree and certification. His love of music and his commitment to dentistry were both so strong that he rebranded himself as Phillip “Doc” Martin and relabeled his early releases under that name so new fans could find them. With the release of Pocket Love and continuing in his thriving practice, he is showing the world that a person who dreams big can succeed at anything they set their mind to – even two professions at the same time!
“The truth is, as frustrating as things became for me as a musician over the years, I couldn’t put the sax down,” he says. “My first love was always playing the sax, and I continue to strive to be the best sounding alto player you’ve ever heard. I wanted to quit man times, but playing brings me so much joy, and I’m so glad I made the decision to continue. If it’s unheard of that a saxophone artist also wants to be the best dentist you’ve ever gone to, that’s a testament to the hard work I have put in so that I may enjoy these two amazing careers. In both worlds, success comes from working with incredible, dedicated people and developing inspiring, enduring relationships.”