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Falling In Love Supreme: Jim Martinez Connected With Oscar Peterson

Photo courtesy Jim Martinez

Jim Martinez, left, with Oscar Peterson

Photo courtesy Jim Martinez

Sacramento-based pianist Jim Martinez has been praised by Dave Brubeck, Clint Eastwood, and Lionel Hampton as a world-class Steinway artist.


Like most pianists, I started with Classical at a very early age. I was fortunate that my parents found a great teacher, who also happened to teach friend and fellow pianist, Joe Gilman. Until halfway through High School, I only liked Bach to Beethoven to Chopin to Copeland. 

But in my junior year of high school, Del Campo needed a pianist for Jazz band. I went in kicking and screaming (not really but I wasn’t thrilled). Band teacher, Larry Gilliland suggested I find a pianist that I enjoy, listen to and find out his style, copy, learn and then do my own thing. I loved many that I heard. But Oscar Peterson grabbed me from the first note/chord/phrase/song. He could play a beautiful ballad, stride piano, two handed parallel runs, lightning-quick solos, play quiet like Count Basie or drop a bomb like a big band! Oscar could do it all. 

Since then, I’ve fallen in love with pretty much every Jazz musician there is: past, present and the future young lions that keep sprouting up. I’ve been blessed to learn and be musically involved with many of them from all over the world. 

Not only am I excited about jazz, my 17-year-old son is, too! He plays a wonderful guitar and has sat in at many of my shows. His record and CD collection grows every day. He watches Jazz documentaries like they’re going out of style. He can tell you almost any sideman on most Jazz recordings from the '50s and '60s. He can identify (on any instrument) who is playing a solo just by hearing a snippet. Most parents deal with kids blaring Rock, Rap or Heavy Metal from their rooms and cars. Mine blasts Basie, Miles, Cannonball, etc…and Oscar. 

For me, Jazz is not just a profession, it’s a hobby. And I’m so happy that I can pass it on to my son. We both will never cease to enjoy the genre in whatever capacity we choose to live it.




This is part of a series about falling in love with the artform of jazz. 

We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to jazz@capradio.org before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.

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