Martin Kay


Martin Kay is accomplished saxophonist, clarinetist, improvisor and composer. In the past decade he has released ten albums as a leader or co-leader, with each featuring his compositions and/or his improvisations. In 2014 Song Fwaa, an experimental trio of sax, guitar and drums released their second album ‘Sons Of No Guns, For We Are Anomalous.’ In the same year Martin released a double album of his chamber works: ‘Chamber Music Feasts One and Two.’ This is a document of the Sydney classical saxophone scene of which he is an active participant. The double album features ABC performer of the year Nic Russionello, as well as members of Continuum saxophone quartet, a leading Australian ensemble Martin co-founded and has played with for 15 years, dedicated to developing Australian compositions. Continuum have recorded eight of Martin’s saxophone quartets, spread across four albums. Martin’s clarinet playing is featured on two albums by The Fantastic Terrific Munkle. Tim Davies’ Grammy-nominated extended composition ‘Counting to Infinity’ features an improvised solo from Martin. Recent international performances of Martin’s compositions have been at the Dutch International Saxophone Convention, and the World Saxophone Congress in St Andrew’s Scotland, and the World Sax Congress in Strasbourg.     Martin has performed with the Sydney and Tasmanian symphony orchestras, the Malaysian Philharmonic orchestra and Opera Australia. In 2001 Martin graduated from a Master of Music (Performance) degree from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 2001 Martin studied in New York City on a Churchill Fellowship.

Composer website:


As They Howled at the Bloodstained Groove, for 17 saxophones

“I composed this work for the Sydney Saxophone Orchestra to play at the 1997 Australasian saxophone and clarinet festival in Brisbane, which I conducted. It was a busy summer of handwriting and drinking coffee! The basis of the piece is a duel between a big band section a la Thad Jones and a saxophone section playing music inspired by Franco Donatoni and Olivier Messiaen. I liked the way Donatoni used filigree in his chamber music and I liked the way Messiaen played blocks of sound against each other. The idea was that the two ideas would duel, then blend into a combined idea: a dramatised reflection of two aspects of my own performance history. The rest of the saxophones are laying a canvas and weaving the two ideas together. Everything joins together for the climax in 17 part microtonal chords.  After the performance Joern and Nigel Harris kindly offered to record the piece. I spent a week lugging saxophones from Darlinghurst to Narrabeen, overdubbing all of the parts myself. I think this gives the recording an unusual quality. “

Featured in Playlist 11 – Saxophone Waves (30/11/2015)