Saxophonist, singer, and songwriter James Martin is pumped to get everyone on the dance floor of the Music Preserves Foundation‘s One Year Anniversary Party at the Marina Room Tavern in Laguna Beach on Jan. 23rd. The award-winning solo artist, band member and touring musician describes his contemporary-pop inspired sound as funky, danceable, melodic and heavily influenced by New Orleans jazz greats.

Before he hits the Marina Room Tavern stage as the anniversary celebration’s headliner, Martin chatted with us about his influences, favorite career moments, his undying work ethic, and his hopes for the future of jazz.

What challenges have you experienced as a jazz artist in the modern music climate? 

Jazz has fallen to about one percent of all music consumption. That’s concerning for jazz artists and I think that’s why many jazz artists often cross genres. The challenge is adaptability. So many jazz musicians seem trapped within what was being pioneered by the great jazz artists in the 20s, 50s, or whatever.  In reality, Coltrane and others were performing pop songs of their era so what’s so wrong with doing that today. I often pull out Nirvana and Christina Aguilera songs during my show and people go nuts. I’m still improvising and exploring harmonic possibilities and it connects with the audience. Connecting with the audience one of the great things about music and should be a top priority to every musician, jazz included. 

What’s on your current playlist?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Anderson Paak. I love the way his music is produced, the melodies, and the horns. Trumpeter and former New Orleans resident Maurice Brown is on a lot of his stuff. 

What has been the most treasured moment of your career so far? 

My most treasured moment is when I’m on stage and everything is clicking. The band is locked in and everyone is listening to each other on a deep level. The audience is in the palm of my hands and I’m choosing the right songs at the right moment. I never have a set list, I call the songs on the spot depending on what I’m feeling from the crowd. It’s exhilarating when it all comes together and everyone is feeling it. 

What will the audience experience at the Music Preserves Foundation 1 Year Anniversary Party? 

We’re bringing New Orleans to Laguna Beach! I plan on performing some of the New Orleans classics as well as my original music; something old, something new. 

What is your creative process? And how are you continuously evolving in that process? 

As a songwriter, ideas can come in a variety of ways. Some of the songs on my new album “Keep Movin’” were deliberately written. I made time, sat down, and started writing. Other songs just come to me. I heard “Leaf in a Hurricane” in almost its entirety in a Copenhagen apartment when my band performed the jazz festival there in 2018. I heard the melody, lyrics, key, and chords changes in my head. As a soloist on the saxophone, I listen and transcribe other players as much as possible. I try to expand my vocabulary and adventure to new approaches in improvisation. It’s all a never ending journey.  

What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever released, and why? 

This is hard! I like them all and often for different reasons. The lyrics to “Another You” always get to people even in the rowdiest of New Orleans clubs. I’m really proud of vibe and stories of “Rectify” and “Young Ambition” off my new album. The message in “Leaf in a Hurricane” is poetically powerful. I’m going to stop now because I can’t think of just one and I’ll keep going. 

What are your current and/or future projects? 

I’m a part of the “Soul Brass Band” in New Orleans. We just released an album called “Levels” produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman. Both Soul and the James Martin Band are scheduled to perform several of the top music festivals this year in the US and in Europe. I think after releasing two solo albums in 2 years, my direction will be to collaborate writing and recording singles with other artists. Hit me up on Instagram at @JamesMartinMusic if you would like to create some music together!

The Dana Point-based Music Preserves Foundation has the mission to “inspire and educate the community through the preservation and presentation of music.” The foundation generates an appreciation for music by creating music and arts programs at festivals, schools and in the city through preserving and presenting lectures, exhibits, performances, educational programs and cultural collaborations.

For more info on Music Preserves Foundation, visit

For more info about James Martin, visit

Photo by Zack Smith @zacksmith_photography 


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