“Pretensions (of a Stranger in a Strange Land)” was originally conceived in 2003 after Herman Martin’s first encounter with Bugge Wesseltoft, the Norwegian jazz pianist. “This style known as ‘Nu-Jazz’, amongst other numerous categories, is what I personally call ‘Scandie music’,” he says. “In other words music from Scandinavia. It’s a bit cold and dark up there so they haven’t got much else to do but stay indoors and practice, which is maybe why they have such a special touch and ability… very technical and dare I say it… a bit on the cold side… but definitely impressive and innovative.”
Martin’s slant on this sort of music is somewhat more eclectic. “I’m not a real ‘Jazzer’ in the true classical sense and I don’t like staying indoors too much. Nevertheless, I found this sort of stuff very interesting as it made a connection to some of my other all-time favourites like ‘Tutu’ by Mile Davis.”
Jazz and electronics
Again an album which on first hearing blew me away, as did the ‘Brecker Bros’ Skunk Funk’… one of the best Jazz funk tracks ever. Jazz and electronics with a large dollop of ‘Groove’…! This was actually the turning point for me stylistically, so I had to start the never-ending struggle to try to understand ‘Jazz’. I still find it mind boggling to this day! The best all-time quote about jazz comes from the great Frank Zappa. “Jazz ain’t dead, it just smells funny”. That says it all for me.
But the groove thing is definitely in my blood and will remain so… and I’d better not forget about Tamla Motown and all the other great musical influences that I grew up with… everything from the Beach Boys to Bach and Bartok. And as I never really realised up until now, film music in all its glorious forms (check out the original theme tune to ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’). So I think “Pretensions” could be deemed as a sort of jumbled homage to all these different influences.
Cool 80, revisited
Over the years, the standout track on the album has proven to be “Cool 80”, a favourite with playlists focused on jazz and laidback, easygoing grooves. The breezy West Coast vibe features Dick Farrelly on guitar, muted trumpet by Tim De Jong and Herman himself on piano. After being featured on a TV show, it was re-released in June 2022 as a single.
Stream it from the playlist below.
Stream “Pretensions” on Spotify.