Joe Martin is one of the most sought-after bassists on the current New York City jazz scene. Known for his warm sound, facile ear, harmonic flexibility, and lyrical solos, he has performed with a diverse range of musicians including Andy Bey, Vinicius Cantuaria, Bill Charlap, Billy Drummond, Art Farmer, Aaron Goldberg, Jon Gordon, Ari Hoenig, Joel Frahm, Ethan Iverson, Guillermo Klein, Ivan Lins, Lionel Loueke, Bill McHenry, John McNeil, Brad Mehldau, Mingus Big Band, Ben Monder, Jane Monheit, Chris Potter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jaleel Shaw, Edward Simon, Mark Turner, and many others. He has performed on dozens of recordings as a sideman and has two critically acclaimed recordings as a leader, "Not By Chance" (Anzic) featuring Chris Potter, Brad Mehldau, Marcus Gilmore, and "Passage" (FSNT) which features Mark Turner, Kevin Hays, and Jorge Rossy. Continuous musical dialogue amongst great musicians is a major source of inspiration for Joe. Composition is another indispensable component to Joe's musical world.
Born in Kansas City in 1970, Joe grew up surrounded by music in Pella, Iowa. His father, a retired music history professor, was clarinetist with the Des Moines Symphony for 28 years, and his mother, a librarian by profession, is an amateur violinist. His younger brother Phil is a drummer who resides in Chicago. He listened regularly to his parents' extensive classical music collection, which also included records by Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and George Shearing. His grandfather was a jazz pianist who played nightclub and dancegigs in Joplin, Missouri. On family visits, his grandfather taught him many of the great American standards. Growing up in this nourishing musical environment gave Joe his deep love and respect for all music.
Joe began his musical studies on cello at age seven. He also played trumpet in his school band. At age fifteen he picked up the electric bass and with encouragement from his parents, band director, and Des Moines bassist Susie Miget, took the instrument home for the summer. He felt an immediate rapport with the bass, playing by ear and learning bass lines he heard on the radio. Initially drawn to progressive rock, he also listened to fusion and funk players like Stanley Clarke, Ralphe Armstrong, Larry Graham, and Jaco Pastorious, By the end of high school he had also begun playing the string bass and listening to Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Scott LaFaro, and Ron Carter. Joe attended DePaul University in Chicago on an academic scholarship, but continued his bass study with Larry Gray, with whom he studied both classical and jazz. After two years he craved a more intensive jazz environment and transferred to William Paterson College in New Jersey, where he studied with Todd Coolman, Rufus Reid, and Harold Mabern. During this period he frequented New York City jazz clubs and heard veteran bassists like Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Ray Drummond, George Mraz as well as younger players like Bob Hurst, Larry Grenadier, ChristianMcBride, and Peter Washington. Joe earned a Bachelor of Music degree magna cum laude in 1994 and subsequently moved to New York City. Since then, the experience he has gained performing with jazz legends, as well as his contemporaries, continues to further his growth and maturity as a musician.