March 17, 2009
JamBase Honors Martin Fierro!!!
REFLECTIONS ON A SOUL MAN OF THE FIRST ORDER
Meester by Susan J. Weiand
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the passing of saxophonist and all-around amazing human being Martin Fierro. If you knew him, then the man known to many as "Meester" likely lingers like a good kiss or any other sweet memory that lives in the body and soul. If you didn't know him personally but had experienced a slice of his time and talent in concert, well, you still got a lil' bit of the dude's buoyant energy all over ya. As a member of Zero or Legion of Mary, his jaw-dropping chops were evident, and he rarely failed to make a big impression when he popped up as a guest in the studio- that's Meester blowing life into the Grateful Dead's Wake of the Flood & From The Mars Hotel, The Sir Douglas Quintet's 1+1+1=4 and Mother Earth's Living with the Animals. In the Bay Area, he was a fixture on stages with his own bands but also with the extended family of S.F. merrymakers, and again, he rarely failed to light our collective fire when he played.
While I don't often personalize Saturday Eye Candy, I feel compelled to share the story of the first time I met Martin. It was backstage before a show a few years ago. He burst into the dressing room and barked, "Who's gonna get me high?" His grin was brighter than any bulb in the room and I quickly extended a peace pipe. With that simple, oft-repeated gesture in our circles, I found myself in a beautifully fragmented, multi-hour conversation with one of the coolest, nicest, most quietly brilliant people I've ever encountered. And kids, I've met some giants. What stunned me about Fierro was how none of his pedigree, none of his brushes with stardom had done anything to diminish his raw humanity. When folks talk about the "salt of the earth" they are talking about Meester, even if they don't know it. He made you feel like the moment you were in was the only place to be. His exuberance for living and gusto for music – in the grandest, broadest, deepest sense – was infectious. Even as his health faltered, he still radiated a light few of us will ever produce.
We pause for a moment to remember him and dwell on a few examples of his craft in flight. It is a bittersweet thing but Martin Fierro excelled at bittersweet, showing us the rough and tender in this world through his music and presence. You are mightily missed, senor.
We begin with one of Meester's signature tunes delivered at ground zero for the modern jam music scene, The Wetlands Preserve.
Does jazz get any better than this?
When he put his mind to it, Fierro gave even Maceo Parker a run in the ol' funk race.
2006 was a really good year for Meester's playing, and anyone who caught the Zero reunion shows that year knows that to be true. Here's a stellar example with Judge Murphy also shining brightly.
He didn't sing often but when he did it arrived like a warm breeze, an untutored but thoroughly inviting sound altogether different than the crystalline purity of his sax work.
Singing I die
And I get to sing
At the foot of the eternal Father:
Hence from my mother's womb
I came into this world to sing
excerpt from Argentine poet José Hernández's epic poem Martin Fierro, written in 1872