At the Merrickville Jazz Festival Oct. 2014

Doug Martin ©2014, Brett Delmage

Doug Martin attracted careful listeners. ©2014, Brett Delmage

At 7 p.m., saxophonist Doug Martin teamed up with pianist Yves Laroche to play both standards and Martin’s originals in the Gad’s Hill Pub. The pub’s stage is in the middle of the room which gave everyone in the almst-full room a good view of the musicians.

Almost all the audience appeared to be there to listen, applauding appreciatively after each piece.

Most of the originals were based on his experiences while travelling through Europe in 2007, which he chronicled in his 2012 CD, Odyssey. They opened with one of Martin’s strongest and most memorable pieces, “Kafka Was Here”, with sinuous saxophone melodies over strong piano chords, and continued with several other pieces from the CD.

Martin premiered a piece for this show: “Southern Exposure”, a bright Latin number which he said he had written years ago but never played in public. Featuring him on alto, it had a happy dancing vibe. He also played several pieces from an earlier CD, including the bebop-influenced “First Steps” chronicling a baby’s efforts to walk, which ended in a vibrating sax note indicating success.

But despite the quality of Martin’s own pieces, the most notable numbers in the show for me were the standards, in particular Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, where Martin and Laroche dialed up the intensity and explored the full possibilities of the rhythms in that piece, and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, which they gave a rougher, more out-there – but also exultant – treatment. They were very much in-the-moment, not smooth, throw-away pieces, and received strong applause.