A native of Andalucia, Spain, acoustic guitar virtuoso Juan Martín is a master of what Spanish musicians refer to as nuevo flamenco -- that is, flamenco that is contemporary and expansive rather than totally traditional in its approach. Nuevo flamenco is not straight-ahead flamenco any more than jazz-rock fusion is straight-ahead jazz; instead of being carbon copies of flamenco's traditionalists, Spain's nuevo flamenco artists have set out to expand flamenco's borders. That isn't to say that Martín (whose last name is pronounced Mar-teen) hasn't been affected by flamenco's traditionalists -- actually, straight-ahead flamenco and the Spanish classical guitar tradition have been ongoing sources of inspiration to Martín, whose major influences have included Paco de Lucía, Tomatito, and the great Andrés Segovia.
But Martín's influences don't stop at either traditional flamenco or Spanish classical guitar. While Martín is flamenco-oriented, he is not a flamenco purist -- instead, the broad-minded musician/composer views flamenco as something that can be combined with anything from jazz to Brazilian samba, Afro-Cuban salsa, and Argentinean tango. Latin America, in fact, is a major source of inspiration for Martín -- and that willingness to unite Spanish and Latin American aesthetics is reflected in song titles like "Cuba y España" ("Cuba and Spain") and "Bossa Rumba." Martín's output (which is largely but not entirely instrumental) has something for Paco de Lucía and Tomatito aficionados, but it also has something for Joe Pass admirers as well as fans of the late Brazilian guitar virtuoso Laurindo Almeida (who was one of the first guitarists to combine samba with cool jazz and is among Martín's non-Spanish influences).
Martín began building a catalog in the '80s, when he recorded a few albums for RCA's Novus label (including Through the Moving Window and 1986's Painter in Sound). Novus was essentially a jazz label in the '80s and early '90s, but even though Martín wasn't jazz in the strict sense, he had enough jazz influences to fit in -- and besides, Martín has, over the years, crossed paths with jazz greats ranging from tenor and soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter to Brazilian singer Flora Purim and her percussion-playing husband, Airto Moreira. Martín provided some albums for the Alex label in the early to mid-'90s, and the late '90s and early 2000s found him recording extensively for the independent Flamenco Vision label. By early 2005, Martín had at least 16 albums in his catalog. ~ Alex Henderson