Whole Lotta Love
The annual Led Zeppelin celebration Whole Lotta Love has been a winner for a number of reasons. Musical director Joseph Calderazzo digs into the goldmine, unearthing obscurities alongside the hits, and cross-fuse celtic and middle eastern arrangements. The names that they’ve used, like Steve Balbi (Noiseworks), Simon Meli (Sway/The Widowbirds/Oohlala), Zkye and Natasha Stuart — and last year they had John Swan and Dave Gleeson of the Screaming Jets — deliver.
But in the ninth year they’ve been able to up the ante. Aside from the hook of 2011 being the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin IV, they’ve also cast someone who can count Jimmy Page as a fan. In 2007, Jeff Martin of Tea Party fame was going to record with Page, who dubbed him “the sorcerer’s apprentice”.
“Unfortunately drummer Michael Lee, who played with Jimmy with No Quarter and in my solo band, died. He was going to be the bond. But, hey, Jimmy’s taking care of himself these days, so [a collaboration] could still happen.”
Martin was talking while taking time off from Whole Lotta Love rehearsals. He had been told to pare the arrangement of ‘Kashmir’ down to four minutes. Martin is doing five numbers. Kashmir was one of the first he put his hand up for.
“I agree with Jimmy that Kashmir was Zeppelin’s greatest moment. It was also a defining moment for rock and roll. The Beatles had touched on Indian music before, of course. But no rock band had touched on Middle Eastern music. It made a big impact on what we later did with Tea Party.”
Another song that Martin will lead is the bluesy Since I’ve Been Loving You. “I don’t get the chance to do the blues these days, so I grabbed it.” At ten years old, Martin’s early playing was defined by the blues records by traditionalists as BB King and Albert King, which his father introduced him to. At high school, one of his friends challenged Martin to recreate the solo from Heartbreaker. He nailed it. But more than that, he found in Page’s playing a sense of dangerous and sensuality that Martin tried to infuse in The Tea Party.
“The way Page played, it away seemed he was overlooking the precipice and not afraid to fall over. Even on the records his playing is not perfect, there are nuances that made it special, and also made it dangerous. You can definitely hear that he’s not afraid to take risks and to capture those risks. Those early blues tracks were, to me, some of Page’s finest moments as a soloist.”
From reading about Zeppelin as a teenager, Martin got into black magic and the works of Aleister Crowley, “A misunderstood man, a brilliant mind but power corrupts absolutely,” and sports talismans and necklaces around his body for power and safety. One is a 600-year old Arabian stone.
Martin also has a love for Morocco, which he will visit in January to charge his creativity. The reason is that after The Tea Party’s recent reunion dates in Canada, there are plans to cut two new tracks. “They have to be better than anything we’ve done, so I have to go and research.”
In between his solo work, Martin has also been producing Australian acts, including a Sydney DJ and a singer/songwriter from Byron Bay where he now lives.