Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 9:53 PM on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Work in Progress musician shows different side of Martin



Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Homer Band "Work In Progress" opens a set at the Concert On the Lawn with "Memphis," an original piece written by the band's bass player, Jenny Martin, third from left.

Jenny Martin is boisterous, good natured, armed with a guitar and a standup bass, and plays in a band of eight. The local musician is quick to grasp a bar, and lower it beneath the roof of collective expectation.

She says of her bluegrass and folk imbued company, "We called ourselves a 'Work in Progress,' because it keeps the bar low."

Despite her time carving melodies with the saxophone as a young adult, and grabbing guitar grist out of happenstance in her early 30s, the Minnesotan born musician leaves little slack to bundle for herself among the eaves of a songbook. "Basically, I've learned enough to play some easy songs, and keep the rhythm on the guitar, but I am not a soloist in any way, which is why my performance Friday is going to be 'Jenny Martin and Friends,'" Martin said.

Martin and friends perform "Sad Songs, Slow Songs, and Silly Songs" at 7 p.m. Friday at the Homer Council on the Arts. Tickets are $15 general, $10 members and $5 youth.

Martin describes the concert as songs she doesn't normally play with Work in Progress.

The concert will give Martin's audience a chance to see another side to her music.

"They're not appropriate to play at a fundraiser or a bar when you're trying to get people up and dancing," she said. "I've picked these songs that I've never had a chance to perform in front of anybody before, but because they're sad and slow, I thought I needed to mix in some silly songs so people didn't leave depressed and sad — I've got some of my silly songs in there, too, because unfortunately I've had some interesting run-ins with animals at home."

Over the past eight years, Work in Progress has grown from a weekly jam group to a bluegrass-folk performing band. Martin said the band started when her friend Dillon Wiser invited her to join a group of musicians.

Sad Songs, Slow Songs, and Silly Songs


Martin and friends


7 p.m. Friday


Homer Council on the Arts


$15 general, $10 members and $5 youth

"We would get together Tuesday nights and everybody would bring music to play, and usually there would be like six guitars... and a banjo," she said. "Eventually our Tuesday night group started to play at local functions, like the Cabin Fever show out at Anchor Point, spaghetti feeds, fundraisers, wherever anyone would take us, and it would be for free, so we weren't very worried if we didn't sound that great, but we were all very nervous because we had never done this before."

For Martin, music is a communal experience. Ranging from her earliest endeavors with the tenor saxophone — which saw her play in the school jazz and marching bands respectively — to an impromptu cycling of Europe in "a concert band made up of high school students from all around the United States," Martin has experienced music through a mutual lens.

"The people in Alaska have influenced me. When I was working up in Denali National Park, my friend Mindy Parks decided one day that she wanted to learn how to play guitar, and so she got a guitar, and there were some other people and we would sing songs together at night."

This sense of artistic community has clearly marked Work in Progress. As Martin lists off the bluegrass alumni, it's difficult to abandon the intimation that smoothing cracks has been a shared endeavor.

"There's myself, on the standup bass, there's my friend Emily Ward and she plays guitar and cello, my friend Mindy Parks plays guitar, Bobby Creamer, she plays the banjo, harmonica, and fiddle, Breezy Berryman plays fiddle, Randy Creamer plays percussion — he also sings — Mike Allen plays the mandolin, and Johnny B. plays the accordion with us."

Martin's performance will perhaps lift her endemic bar to a height unassailable; it is Homer's duty to hold its place.

James Hutchinson is a Homer High School senior who writes about arts.