At a time when the individualistic and introverted maverick solo performer has become the basis for a whole new set of cliches, John Martyn's originality and impact are all the more startling. Martyn's obscurity -despite a long recording career, capped most recently by his third Island solo LP here-1 has seemed undeserved for a while; his power over club audiences, most recently at Passim's, suggests one more dimension to an artist of skill and substance.
Martyn's warm, mercurial stage presence forms an evocative context for a range of material that ranges from contemplative, mystical avant-garde (Man Walks Inside)2 to rolling acoustic blues (Jelly Roll Baker). His guitar work is both exploratory and distinctive, utilizing wah-wah pedal and Echoplex to create a uniquely textured, rhythmically dazzling electric style. On acoustic guitar (the same instrument with pickup removed), his stinging modal folk and blues style has evolved toward a more integrated music that has both power and tenderness.
Among the best work of the evening came with a pair of tunes from Martyn's new Inside Out set, an instrumental, Beverley, followed by Make No Mistake. The latter summarized Martyn's current conceptual approach to his music, offering a hypnotic view of pain and failure that turned suddenly toward mysticism. From a lesser artist, the effect would have been pretentious; Martyn was compelling, and increased his impact through a fluid third choice, his classic Bless The Weather.
For his second U.S. club tour, Martyn remains unaccompanied. With more support and a little luck, we might see this remarkable soloist with support of the calibre he's recorded with.
Opening was Lori Jacobs, Capitol artist recently reviewed here.
1 The man is referring to Inside Out.
2 The man is referring to Outside In.
This review was printed in Billboard of 14 December 1973. The date of the concert is unknown but 8 December might be a candidate. Lori Jacobs played Passim's a few nights during mid November but John is not mentioned in this listing.