Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 18, 2008

ONTARIO HOUSE: Celebration to honor jazz musican John "Spider" Martin

John “Spider” Martin believed jazz was live music in its most perfect form.

That’s why organizers think this year’s third annual Ontario House Jazz Reunion is a fitting tribute.

The festival, titled a “Salute to Spider Martin,” will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 6 at the corner of Main and Ontario streets and feature a series of performers who cut their teeth at the old Ontario House.

“He deserves the recognition,” said Kevin Cottrell, an event organizer and the main force behind the North Star at the North End initiative. “And also the City of Niagara Falls deserves to be part of his legacy because we gave birth to him.”

Cottrell, who is organizing the festival along with City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione has ambitious plans for the festival. He said its most important focus is to honor the important jazz roots of the Ontario House.

But they also want to see it grow, with more performers and possibly a second day sometime in the next few years.

“We can bring people in from Hamilton, Toronto, Syracuse and Rochester,” said Pappy Martin, who is Spider’s brother and will play at the event with his band, the Love Supreme Jazz Ensemble. “We can bring those people here and they’ll spend money in different parts of the city.”

The festival’s playbill includes headliner Joey DiFrancesco and his band. DiFrancesco was born in Niagara Falls, grew up in Philadelphia and played at the Ontario House when it was open.

Organizers said last year’s event was successful despite poor weather conditions and they expect to continue that success this year.

“We have a solid historical jazz past and we don’t want to just lose the (Ontario House) to the ashes,” Cottrell said. “We want to make this part of the North End concept of creating a destination.”

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