Orkester Journalen, February 1979:
(July 14th, 1930 - January 13th, 1979)
Luis "Sabu" Martinez passed away on Saturday, the 13th of January, of a gastric ulcer. He was born of Spanish-African-West Indian origin on July 14th, 1930 in the "Spanish Harlem" section of New York City. In his early teens he and other boys beat rhythms on tin cans on 111th Street, and soon he was engaged on bongos and congas by local Latin bands. He entered military service for one year at age 17, and in 1946 he played jazz seriously for the first time, with Art Blakey's big band. The following year he played with the Lecuona Cuban Boys, and after that it was Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Miguelito Valdes, Harry Belafonte, and Art Blakey again. Later it was Tony Bennett, Xavier Cugat, and Sammy Davis, Jr. -- with whom he participated in a film set in Puerto Rico. There he met a Swedish woman, whom he married in January 1967. He came to Sweden in August of the same year to play in Lill Lindfors' show in Berns. He has stayed here since and has been engaged frequently by many different orchestras in different events around the country. At one time he lived in Dalarna County and played with Björbobandet. Also he started a few Latin groups of his own; these did not succeed, however. A more thorough biography can be found in the April, 1968 issue of Orkester Journalen, in which Lasse Mattson interviewed Sabu.
In Sabu we have lost a fiery, controversial and inspiring daub of colour in the life of Swedish jazz.
This obituary was published originally in Orkester Journalen (Sweden's Downbeat), February 1979. It is reprinted here by the gracious permission of Lars Westin, Editor.
© 1997 Hip Wax