Jazz, Pop, Rock Trumpet, Fluglehorn, Piano, Drums Temptations, Martha Reeves, Tuscaloosa Horns

Born: April 16, 1955 Birmingham, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Mart Avant  Trumpet, Arranger, Founding member of The Tuscaloosa Horns graduated in 1980 with a B.M. in arranging from the University of Alabama. Named outstanding soloist at the Kentonian Jazz Festival, Mart quickly moved into the studios of Birmingham, Al. as an arranger for horns & strings. The Tuscaloosa Horns were merged with Slo-Gin 60'sband in the fall of 1981.  Slo-Gin still enjoys great success around the region. Avant was the staff brass arranger for Southwind Drum & Bugle corp. from 1983-1993 winning DCI division II championship with "The Little Mermaid" & "Robinhood". Mart began contracting for the Tuscaloosa Horns with the Temptations, 4 Tops, Frankie Valli, and Martha Reeves in 1984. That list has been continuously expanding and now includes Frankie Avalon, Kenny Rogers, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Fabian, Lou Christie, The Tommy Dorsey Band, Guy Lombardo, Peter Duchin Orchestra, & Denny LeRoux Orchestra. Locally Mart directs the Alabama Cavaliers Alumni Big Band as well as the Night Flight Jazz Quintet. He also Subs both the lead and jazz chairs in several area big bands. Under his leadership, The Tuscaloosa Horns have gained a reputation or precision and quality that currently has them first call with The Temptations at many of their performances through the country. In January 1999, as a member and co-founder of The Tuscaloosa Horns, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Music Achievers.

Source: http://www.tuscaloosahorns.com/

Mart Avant is a jazz trumpeter and arranger / composer residing in Tuscaloosa. For a number of years, Avant has been leader of the Tuscaloosa Horns and the Night Flight Big Band. He is a graduate of the jazz arranging program at the University of Alabama, where he worked with noted jazz educators Steve Sample, Sr and Ray Reach. The Tuscaloosa Horns make regular appearances with notable popular music groups, such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson and many others. The Night Flight Big Band appears regularly at Ona's Music Room in Birmingham and recently recorded their first CD, titled SuperBlue - Eric Essix and the Night Flight Big Band.

Source: http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Mart_Avant

Mart Avant's Night Flight Big Band

MART AVANT'S NIGHT FLIGHT BIG BAND (in session at CBS Recording for the CD, “Superblue,” featuring Eric Essix ).

This powerhouse ensemble has appeared at Ona's Music Room in Birmingham, Alabama (www.onasmusicroom.com) on most every 1st and 3rd wednesday night for the past 6 years. In this period of time, the Night Flight Big Band has played host to numerous guest artists, including saxophonist Lou Marini Jr, vibraphonist Chuck Redd, and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.

Mart Avant, the founder and director of the Night Flight Big Band, is also a founding member and primary contractor for The Tuscaloosa Horns (www.tuscaloosahorns.com), one of the nation's finest horn sections. Follow the link to the right for more about this group.

The Night Flight Big Band recently completed the tracking for a new CD release, produced by Ray Reach , featuring guitarist Eric Essix as guest soloist, with a brief appearance by Lou Marini, Jr. The CD was recorded at CBS Recording in Centerpoint, Alabama. (See links to the right of this column for further information about this project.)


Anyone trying to categorize or “pigeon hole” this CD will have a rough time, mainly because the featured artist‘s style is so hard to categorize. When I listen to Eric play, I hear a wealth of stylistic diversity, reflecting influences ranging from B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and T-Bone Walker to Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell, George Benson and (Eric’s personal idol) Wes Montgomery. So, this album is such a “mixed bag,” I am told, that “… It’ll be hard to market.” (typical words from most major label A & R persons). But how do you tell an artist so eclectic as Eric Essix “You can’t do that”?

In fact, telling Eric not to play in such a broad ranging eclectic style would go against my very philosophy as a producer. I say, “Let the artist choose their direction and stay out of his (or her) way.” Further, it is my belief that an experienced artist usually knows far better than most producers where their musical heart lies.

So that’s what I tried to do - stay out of the way. Quite often, when we finished recording a take, Eric would ask, “Was that O K?” (in his typical self effacing fashion). To which I’d reply, “Is that O K with YOU?” Eric would answer in a mild-mannered tone, “I guess so.” And so each recorded take went down.

We knocked out the recordings in short time, with very few alternate takes (a tribute to the band’s musicianship). “What tempo? 1... 2... 3... 4... We’re done.” Amazing readers, amazing players. I’m in awe. And it’s no wonder. Mart’s famed horn section, The Tuscaloosa Horns, backs up popular acts such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Mary Wilson (of the Supremes), Smokey Robinson, and many others. They are in demand all over the country.

When it came time to mix, the tracking had gone so quickly that I had forgotten just how good the playing was. “Incredible! These cats can’t be from Alabama.” But they are. They play with enviable skill and enthusiasm. Great ensemble work… Great soloists. And let us not forget to mention the stellar soprano sax solo of Lou Marini, Jr. on Dave Grusin’s great tune, “Modaji.” One of the most in-demand and highly respected musicians on the New York scene, Lou has been a member of numerous notable musical groups, including the University of North Texas One O’clock Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Doc Severinsen’s band, The Saturday Night Live Band, The Blues Brothers Band (as “Blue Lou”), James Taylor’s band, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Stevie Wonder’s band, Steve Tyrell’s band, and the list goes on and on.

Most of my arrangements for this album were written for Eric’s appearances as guest artist with the UAB Jazz Ensemble, which I directed from 1998 to 2005. One other, “Sundown,” was transcribed and adapted especially for this project. Mart Avant and I collaborated on the orchestration of “Rainy Night In Georgia,” while Mart originally wrote his arrangement of “Come Rain Or Come Shine” for a Miss Alabama contestant some years ago. Annie McClendon does a great job on the vocals on this one.

Funny how this CD came about. I don’t exactly remember how I first had the idea to do a big band project with Eric. I just remember thinking it was a good idea. Of course, all the “nay sayers” told me I was crazy to do a big band recording considering today’s music industry, with it’s low (or no) budget financial climate. My wife tells me I’m a megalomaniac, that I find it impossible to think small. Well, maybe so. But I have a plan for touring this material… and I think it will work:

We will tour major cities, using local college jazz bands as our orchestra. It’s a potentially win-win proposition. There are fine college jazz bands all over the United States, most which would be glad to have the opportunity to work with successful, seasoned professional musicians. So we’ll give them that opportunity. Such concerts could expand the listening audience of the college jazz band, and in addition, Eric’s listening audience might be expanded. We will share the financial proceeds between Eric’s production team and the local college jazz program. We (Eric’s guys) get a great orchestra, and they (the local college jazz guys) raise money and (hopefully) have an edifying musical experience. And everybody’s happy. How cool.

If you enjoy listening to this CD one-tenth as much as I enjoyed producing it, you will be overjoyed.

~ Ray Reach, Director of Student Jazz Programs, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, www.jazzhall.com


Founder and Director: Mart Avant

Alto Saxes: Sam Williams, Gary Wheat, Kim Bain.

Tenor Saxes: Rich Daviston, Steve Black, Dave Amaral.

Baritone Sax: Steve Collins.

Trombones: Bob Black, Chad Fisher, Jim Moeller, Will Shaw, Demondrae Thurman

Trumpet / Flugelhorn: Chip Crotts, Mart Avant, John Taylor, Bo Berry, Tim Brannan.

Piano / Electric Piano: Coleman Woodson, Jr. and Ray Reach

B-3 Organ: Ray Reach

Bass: Thomas Furlough, Chris Wendle.

Drums: Steve Ramos

Percussion: John Nuckols

Vocalist: Annie McClendon


Eric Essix and the Night Flight Big Band: Superblue

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