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Get Funky with the Craig Martin Experience

on March 12, 2012 - 11:00pm

The Craig Martin Experience. Photo by Minesh Bacrania Photography

By Bonnie J. Gordon

It’s swingin’ on Arizona Street in Los Alamos every Thursday night when the Craig Martin Experience (CME) gets together to jam. The seven-piece jazz combo has been together since December 2010. CME is Craig Martin on tenor saxophone, Quinn Marksteiner on alto saxophone, Carl Hagelberg on trumpet, Mike Rogers on guitar, Aaron Anderson on keyboards, John Frary on drums and Rob Heineman on bass.

The group emphasizes a relaxed atmosphere where everyone can develop their skills and have a great time doing it. With the exception of Heineman, no one in the group is a full time musician, but jazz is a shared passion that brings all of them together.

Don’t expect ballads from CME. It’s the hard bop rhythms of the mid-fifties to mid-sixties that have captured the heart of the combo.

“We’ve found our niche with a funky, bluesy kind of jazz,” Martin said.

“I had been trying to find some other musicians to play with and was trying to get Carl to get together and jam with me, because I knew was interested in jazz guitar,” said Rogers.  “I ended up being invited to the jazz jams at Craig Martin's house, and that band became CME.  We're all having a blast.  I don't know how far we can, or are prepared to take it, but we're having the time of our lives, right now and I think that's what CME is all about.”

The group has been playing a few local gigs and will be featured March 17 at The Blue Window Bistro Jazz Night.

“We never intended to play in public,” Martin said. “Thursday nights were just for fun, but the pressure of playing in front of people makes us better musicians. We enjoy it and it keeps us working at our music.”

Tenor sax player Craig Martin’s first professional music gig was the 1969 Pulaski Day Parade in Philadelphia with Les Harvey’s American Legion Marching Band. His second was in 2012 with CME. In between, he gave up the tenor saxophone for 35 years, concentrating on the guitar. Starting in 2008, Martin studied sax with Santa Fe’s Trey Keepin.

“CME is a life-long dream of playing jazz with a solid group of musicians,” Martin said.

Alto sax player Quinn Marksteiner grew up in Houston, Texas, and joined the middle school band in sixth grade. He played in the jazz and concert bands in high school, and played in numerous jazz and classical groups in college. After college, Marsteiner played in the Southlake Community Swing Band while living near Dallas for a year, and then played in the Jazz/Funk band Lo Jazar while studying physics at Columbia University. Since coming to Los Alamos, Quinn has played with the Los Alamos Community Winds in addition to being a proud member of the CME.

Trumpeter Carl Hagelberg learned to play trumpet in second grade. He switched entirely to classical guitar after high school. Hagelberg studied guitar performance and music composition, earning a music minor with his bachelor's degree. Through the decades since college, Hagelberg wandered back to jazz, first with the guitar, and while playing duets with a local saxophone player became interested in returning to the trumpet. Hagelberg is currently studying with Jan McDonald.

“I’m fulfilling a long standing dream of playing in a small, dedicated, jazz group,” he said.

Guitarist Rogers got into jazz in high school, playing with the high school jazz band and taking lessons from a jazz guitarist. Rogers played in a number bands and combos, including his own quartet and thought of a career in music before falling in love with physics in college. He eventually received a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics. Rogers continued to play music, despite career and family obligations

“Since I've been playing seriously again, I've been honing my jazz skills every day,” Rogers said. “I've put a lot of effort into learning to play through the complex chord changes common in modern jazz.”

Despite his piano teacher's best efforts to keep him classically focused, keyboardist Aaron Anderson’s ears and hands were won over by rock and roll from the 1950s-1970s. Anderson got into jazz in college. After a brief hiatus for grad school and a foray into bluegrass guitar and folk singing, Anderson found himself back at the piano again, and has played with various groups around Los Alamos, including the Rio Grande Mud Band, the Generations Praise, DK and the Affordables, and of course the Craig Martin Experience. By day, Anderson is a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Although band was his favorite activity in school, about 37 years would pass before drummer John Frary again took up playing the drums. In the fall of 2009, he bought a new drum set with the intention of learning jazz drumming. He started out by taking a jazz music theory class at UNM-Los Alamos, conducted by Lenny Tischler. Later in 2010, he really caught the jazz bug when he began jamming with Craig Martin and company. He started taking drum lessons with music professional Joe Cox in 2011.

“I’m thrilled to play with a great group of likeable and talented guys in the Craig Martin Experience,” Frary said.

Bass player Rob Heineman is the newest member of the Craig Martin Experience.  He is a full-time musician and owns and operates a recording studio in White Rock.  In addition to the bass, Rob also finds his way around keyboards, guitars and brass instruments from time to time, as well as being an accomplished vocalist. Currently, Heineman is also working with the Tiho Dimitrov Band in the studio and live performance, DK and the Affordables, a local Rockabilly act, and recording with Ramon Bermudez, Jr. Previous endeavors include “Julie Stewart and the MotorKings, a nationally-touring blues act, among others. His studio accomplishments include executive production or co-production rights to a few albums, most notably Fuego En El Alma, which won the 1998 New Mexico MIC Awards “Best of the Year”, MotorKings – Live, and Eddie and the Nomads.  Originally from the Midwest, he toured as lead vocalist and keyboardist for TranZZit, a 70’s rock act, and as a guitarist for The King of the Road Show, an Elvis Impersonation Act.

The Craig Martin Experience is a real mutual admiration society, with each of the musicians emphasizing what a privilege it is to play with the others. After 10 months together, the group has become more and more attuned to each other.

“We do the jazz thing, where we communicate without saying a word,” Martin said.

The Craig Martin Experience is available for bookings. They can be reached at 695-4350.

CME is an informal group of musicians who have been playing jazz together since December 2010. The group emphasizes a relaxeatmosphere where all members can develop their skills. Their focus is on traditional swing, hard bop, and soul jazz with a touch of funk.

John Frary first played drums in 7th grade, in school band and continued through 12th grade. During that time, he enjoyed playing rock music on his own kit. Although band was his favorite activity in school, about 37 years would pass before he again took up playing the drums.

In the fall of 2009, he bought a new drum set with the intention of learning jazz drumming. He started out by taking a jazz music theory class at UNM-LA conducted by Lenny Tischler. Later in 2010, he really caught the jazz bug when he began jamming with Craig Martin and company. He started taking drum lessons with music professional Joe Cox in the beginning of 2011. He is thrilled to play with a great group of likeable and talented guys in the Craig Martin Experience.

Aaron Anderson grew up in Idaho. Part of his upbringing was learning to "appreciate music," so his parents enrolled him in piano lessons when he was 10 years old. Despite his piano teacher's best efforts to keep him classically focused, his ears and hands were won over by rock and roll from the 1950s-1970s, namely the sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Johnson (Chuck Berry), and Ray Manzarak (the Doors). Aaron got into jazz in college, playing in the jazz ensemble and vocal jazz ensemble, and studying with Chuck Smith, Sandon Mayhew, Maryanne Saunders, and Art Houle in the Boise, ID area. After a brief hiatus for grad school and a foray into bluegrass guitar and folk singing, Aaron found himself back at the piano again, and has played with various groups around Los Alamos, including the Rio Grande Mud Band (2007-2009), the Generations Praise Band (2004-2010), DK and the Affordables (2005-2007, 2011-), and of course the Craig Martin Experience jazz ensemble, which, appropriately enough, is a time machine set to the 50's and 60's. When he's not playing music, he is at work (Chemist at LANL), outdoors, spending time with his family, or woodworking.

Carl Hagelberg, trumpet in CME, fist learned to play trumpet in 2nd grade. Following the public school route through high school marching band and stage band, dabbling in piano, flute, and trombone, he switched entirely to classical guitar after high school. Carl studied guitar performance and music composition earning a music minor with his bachelor's degree.

Through the numerous decades since college, Carl wandered back to jazz, first with the guitar, and while playing duets with a local saxophone player became interested in returning to the trumpet. Carl is currently studying with Jan McDonald, and fulfilling a long standing dream of playing in a small, dedicated, jazz group.

Craig Martin’s first professional music gig was the 1969 Pulaski Day Parade in Philadelphia with Les Harvey’s American Legion Marching Band. His second was in 2012 with CME. In between, he gave up the tenor saxophone for 35 years, concentrating on the guitar, and playing “acoustical-country-folk-rock” to impress the women (and that is how he met his wife, June.) He and June raised two musical children, and it was his son Alex that brought Craig back to the saxophone by asking if they could play together in the Los Alamos Community Winds.  Way back in the sixties, Craig studied clarinet with Gil Guillume. Under the influence of Philadelphia radio’s Sid Mark, he conned a friend into lending him a trombone to play jazz. When Guillume found out, he gave Craig a saxophone and a spot in the high school jazz band, but never gave him a lesson. Starting in 2008, Craig studied sax with Santa Fe’s Trey Keepin. CME is a life-long dream of playing jazz with a solid group of musicians.

Quinn Marksteiner grew up in Houston, Texas, and joined the middle school band in sixth grade. The band director suggested that he play an instrument other than the saxophone, “because he got good grades,” but Quinn insisted on playing the saxophone and has never regretted it. Quinn studied jazz with Martin Langford while in high school, and studied saxophone with Steve Jordheim in college. Quinn played in the jazz and concert bands in high school, and played in numerous jazz and classical groups in college. After college, Quinn played in the Southlake Community Swing Band while living near Dallas for a year, and then played in the Jazz/Funk band Lo Jazar while studying physics at Columbia University.

Since coming to Los Alamos, Quinn has played with the Los Alamos Community Winds in addition to being a proud member of the CME.

Mike Rogers

I was born in Denver but moved to Iowa at six, where I mostly grew up and went to school. I was the youngest of three - I have an older sister and brother. When I was a kid, my Dad was a businessman and my Mom worked occasionally as a secretary, but was also a semi-professional big band singer. She had been something of a singing prodigy, performing since she was three, winning a national contest and briefly attending a conservatory. She frequently sang the great standards to us kids, while accompanying herself on the piano. That's where I first learned to love the old standards, the big band and jazz tunes. They're divorced now, but Mom sang for something like 30 years with a popular local gospel group in Des Moines.

I was the most musical of my siblings. I began playing trumpet in elementary school but quit by about middle school when my parents briefly separated and my Mom and I moved to the small town of Adel (near Des Moines) to live with my grandparents. When I was a freshman in high school, my parents reconciled and my Dad moved to Adel, where I finished high school. I took up the guitar at 16, taking lessons from a local working musician who lived in the apartment below us. At that time, I was mostly playing rock.

I was good at science and math but fell in with the music clique because the few other science nerds in that school besides me were also musics nerds. (Adel was all about football.) I got the guitar seat in our high school jazz band and held that through my junior and senior years. I began taking lessons from a jazz guitarist in Des Moines, so I'd have some idea what I was doing. We had an energetic young band director who built a good band and we won our division in the state jazz band contest. I got outstanding soloist award for my solo on “Gonna Fly Now.” In my senior year our jazz band attended a jazz workshop and concert featuring Dizzy Gillespie. This was a life-changing event for me. Afterwards, I could still hear all those amazing, beautiful bebop lines running through my head. I became a serious student of jazz guitar following that concert.  Shortly after this I started taking private lessons from a jazz guitarist and music professor from Drake University. After high school I attended Drake for one semester as a jazz performance major. During this period, I played in several big bands and combos and sat in on a number of sessions and performances with many musicians in the Des Moines area and performed with my own quartet.

However, I wasn't settled on my career choices yet and ended up leaving Drake after my semester there.  I still liked science so I started taking pre-engineering courses but fell in love with Physics after taking the first year class and ended up as a physics major at the University of Iowa. I got a BS in Physics at UI and continued on there to get my PhD in theoretical nuclear physics. During my days as a physics student, I went through periods where I'd practice a lot for a long time, then wouldn't touch the guitar for months or years.  I briefly played guitar in a rock band with my room-mate and some friends of ours.

My wife and I were married within a few months of receiving my PhD and we moved to Colombia, Maryland where I started my first post-PhD job at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. I started practicing the guitar a lot more then because I had more time and there was a lot of music there, but I never performed for the roughly two years we were in Maryland. After a couple years, my job at APL had gotten a bit stale, so I found a job in Los Alamos and we moved to New Mexico and have been here since. I've played a lot in private since we've been here but only recently in public. I took lessons for a while from the great Santa Fe jazz guitarist Bruce Dunlap. But, as a father of two young daughters and with limited social connections in the area I haven't had a lot of time or opportunity to get deeply involved with the local jazz community. However, since I've been playing seriously again, I've been honing my jazz skills every day, from working on basic musicianship (ear training, sight reading) to improving my solo chord melody playing to working on accompaniment and soloing skills by diligently working through books and practicing with play-along CDs to master and internalize the sounds. I've put a lot of effort into learning to play through the complex chord changes common in modern jazz.

I had been trying to find some other musicians to play with and was trying to get Carl Hagelberg to get jam with me, because I knew was interested in jazz guitar.  About a year he approached me about playing with some people.  I ended up being invited to the jazz jams at Craig Martin's house, and that band became CME.  We're all having a blast.  I don't know how far we can (or are prepared to) take it, but we're having the time of our lives right now. And I think that’s what CME is all about.

Rob Heineman, bassist, is the newest member of the Craig Martin Experience. He is a full-time musician and owns and operates a recording studio in White Rock, New Mexico.  In addition to the bass, Rob also finds his way around keyboards, guitars and brass instruments from time to time, as well as being an accomplished vocalist. Currently, Rob is also working with the Tiho Dimitrov Band in the studio and live performance, DK and the Affordables, a local Rockabilly act, and recording with Ramon Bermudez, Jr. Previous endeavors include “Julie Stewart and the MotorKings, a nationally-touring blues act, “The Ramon Bermudez Group,” “Fat Guys With Money,” “Los Amigos” and a local favorite of the 80’s – “New Wavos.” His studio accomplishments include executive production or co-production rights to a few albums, most notably Fuego En El Alma, which won the 1998 New Mexico MIC Awards “Best of the Year,” MotorKings – Live, and Eddie and the Nomads. Originally from the Midwest, he toured as lead vocalist and keyboardist for TranZZit, a 70’s rock act, and as a guitarist for The King of the Road Show, an Elvis Impersonation Act.


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