John W. ‘Spider’ Martin Jr. was a tenor saxophonist, and a highly respected jazz legend. He relocated to Niagara Falls New York with his family at a very young age. When his parents brought musical instruments into their home, Spider found his passion. He completed his education in preparatory musical studies, later studied at the Manhattan School of Music and then began his career touring with Lionel Hampton’s big band. His most ambitious musical period was in the mid-to-late Seventies, when he led a quintet featuring a very youthful Joe Locke. Spider’s band toured the east coast and backed numerous jazz giants, to include Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Ramsey Lewis, Pepper Adams, Jimmy McGriff and Tony Bennett. Spider cut a number of albums on Bennett’s indie jazz label ‘Improv Records’. These recordings, which are all out of print, included Absolutely’ with Locke on vibes, and ‘Tony Bennett/The McPartlands & Friends Make Magnificent Music’, which was taped live at the now defunct Pine Grill in Buffalo. The latter disc was reissued on the Concord record label as part of a four-album Bennett box set. Spider recorded four albums of his own and toured throughout the United States, Bermuda and overseas. He performed regularly back home in Western New York at the Art Park Jazz Festivals and was known to ‘walk the bar’ playing his saxophone at the Club Savoy and Pine Grill where he always brought the house down. Spider had a dedicated following in Buffalo during the 50’s and 60’s. He was a respected musician and very popular with jazz and R&B fans. Later on, Spider’s itinerary included high school and college workshops and concerts where he served as a mentor to many students. He has been noted as always being a spokesman for live music in its purest form (jazz) and the need for it to be understood and appreciated by all people especially today’s youth. He was involved throughout the country with education systems, teaching creative improvisation and giving lectures on jazz history. In Florida, he was co-founder of the Production Center for the Arts where he was board member and workshop instructor. He hosted several concert series in support of community events and charities. He conceptualized the Marathon for United Cerebral Palsy. He operated a jazz school in Miami with jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor. His performances were also on national commercials to include Twix Candy, Bensen & Hedges cigarettes, Broward Tourism, Coca Cola Classic, American Dairy Association, and a number of network television shows to include Miami-Vice, B.L. Stryker, and a dramatic role in a music video/television special featuring Julio Inglesias and Brooke Shields. He performed and recorded music with his youngest son, drummer Darryl ‘Pookie’ Martin and wrote many songs, the most popular being “Sweet Jenny Lou”. In his later years, while living in Niagara Falls, Spider composed, orchestrated and performed with the Rochester and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestras. The creative genius styles of Spider Martin have never been forgotten in the local jazz community. Because he was touring at a very young age, his return back home brought some national artists to the Niagara Falls music scene, especially the Ontario House, where many jazz performances and festivals have included famous musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Mariano and Lee Konitz. Annual jazz festivals continue to be held in his honor.
It is a great pleasure to honor John ‘Spider’ Martin and his legacy in the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame Class of 2018