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Ralph Martin

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Ralph Martin Obituary
Ralph Lawrence Martin

Long Beach, MS

Ralph Martin, dubbed the "Pianist Extraordinaire" by friends, passed away Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Gulfport, MS.

On October 28, 1926, Ralph Lawrence Martin was born in North Jersey. He joined the United States Navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II following which he graduated from the University of Miami Music School with a degree in Musical Composition. After moving to New York City he studied with Henry Brant, joined AFM Local 802, and became acquainted with jazz music critic Leonard Feather who included him in his two-volume "Encyclopedia of Jazz." Martin was cited in the New York Times as one of five pianists seeking to add a note of "funkiness" to the traditional "tinkling-piano" sound of the popular cocktail pianists then appearing in lounges and supper clubs.

Soon after his arrival in New York, he went to Europe as part of the Glenn Miller aggregation sent behind the Iron Curtain as the second musical tour dispatched by the US State Department. The group was hugely popular with fans in Eastern Europe. The Soviets, who were dismayed by the group's popularity, canceled the final concerts of the tour and locked the band in a railroad car for several days.

Safely back in the US, Martin became associated with stellar jazz names including Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Kai Windyng, Bobby Hackett, and Terry Gibbs. As an accompanist, he played behind Anita O'Day, Jackie Paris, Grammy Jazz Award winners Helen Merrill and Sue Ramey, jazz duo Anne Marie Moss and Jackie Paris, and popular vocalists such as Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, and Johnny Desmond. When the Pass Christian Library was called upon by the Smithsonian Institution to represent "Roots Music" in Mississippi, he performed with local virtuosi including George Mason and the late Jerry Ball.

His brother was the late, MAD Magazine's counter-culture cartoonist Don Martin.

He will be forever mourned by his wife, Bette, his daughter, Raphaelle Carlesimo, his grandchildren Sean Michael Carlesimo and Adrianna Carlesimo, as well as his nephew, Max Martin.

Edmond Fahey Funeral Home in Bay St. Louis, MS is in charge of the arrangements.
Published in The Sun Herald on Apr. 29, 2018
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