March 15, 2008

R.I.P. The Meeeester!!!





by Moss 3/15/08

R.I.P Martin!! I had the opportunity to play with Martin several times in the early to mid '90s. Both when he sat in my with my band at the time, This Side Up and when I sat in with Zero for a couple of shows in San Francisco and Eugene, OR. He was always warm, funny, supportive, a great musician and a great family man. Below is an article / Obit from today's Marin IJ:

Beloved saxophonist Martin Fierro dies at 66
Paul Liberatore
Article Launched: 03/14/2008 11:15:20 PM PDT

Martin Fierro, a renowned jazz-rock saxophonist who played with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead and became an elder statesman of the jam band scene, died of cancer Thursday at Marin General Hospital. He was 66.

Known for his fiery playing, magnetic personality and zany on-stage antics, Mr. Fierro, a longtime Marin resident, was one of the Bay Area music community's most beloved characters.

"He was a beautiful dude; I adored him," counterculture icon Wavy Gravy said, fondly recalling the prank Mr. Fierro liked to play on him at concerts. "He's not going to pull my pants down on stage anymore," he lamented.

Of American Indian heritage, Mr. Fierro, whose first name is pronounced "Mar-teen," was born in Mexico in 1942 and raised in El Paso, Texas.

Excited by 1950s rock and the tenor sax sound of fellow Texans like David "Fathead" Newman, he picked up the saxophone in high school and cut his teeth in jazz groups in Mexico City and Southern California. He settled in the Bay Area in 1968, lured by the burgeoning psychedelic movement and the San Francisco Sound.

Shortly after he arrived, while considering a move to New York's simmering jazz scene, he was playing with conga drummers in Golden Gate Park when he met another young musician - Garcia.

"Jerry walked up to him, introduced himself and two days later they were playing together at the Keystone in Berkeley," said Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally. "He never made it to New York."

In the '70s, Mr. Fierro,
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who doubled on flute, played with Garcia and keyboardist Merl Saunders in the Saunders-Garcia Band and in the short-lived group Legion of Mary.

At about that time, he also played on the Grateful Dead's "Wake of the Flood" album and the Dead's 1973 tour. He and Garcia also teamed with keyboardist Howard Wales on an album called "Hooteroll."

McNally described Mr. Fierro as "a thread running though Bay Area music over the past 30 years." He played with Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth and with Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet, among other aggregations.

With his own early fusion band, Shades of Joy, he recorded the soundtrack for the classic cult film "El Topo."

For 15 years, he was a member of Zero, a Marin-based jazz-rock band that also featured Quicksilver founder John Cipollina and guitarist Steve Kimock.

"I played 1,500 gigs with that guy and he blew my mind every time," said Zero drummer Greg Anton. "He was pure music. His whole life was like a saxophone solo."

In recent years, Mr. Fierro led his own groups and was often invited to play with new generation jam bands like String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dark Star Orchestra and New Monsoon.

Mr. Fierro, who sometimes wore feathers or a headdress on stage, was revered for his penetrating sense of humor. He deflated heady egos with his signature saying, "Chut up!" His ebullient greeting, "Hello meester!" earned him the nickname "The Meester."

"He made me believe in the spiritual power of music," said Matt Eakle, flutist with the David Grisman Quintet. "If there is magic in the world, Martin knew how to channel it."

Mr. Fierro is survived by five children: three sons, Raphael Fierro of San Anselmo, Miguel Fierro of Los Angeles and David Fierro of San Francisco; and two daughters, Xochitl Fierro of Novato and Jessica Fierro of Mill Valley. He also leaves a grandson, Quincy, of Novato and a sister, Maria Teresa Orozco, of El Paso.

A private family funeral will be held. A public tribute concert is being planned for mid-April.

Information on memorial contributions may be found at martinfierromusic.com.

Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at liberatore@marinij.com