It’s a good deal: Jerry Martini never gets tired of playing songs by Sly and the Family Stone, and people never get tired of hearing them.
The San Francisco-bred saxophone player, one of the band’s original members, brings The Family Stone — along with co-founders Cynthia Robinson (vocals, trumpet) and Greg Errico (drums) — to the Rrazz Room this week for a particularly special series of shows.
“We’ll be doing a few songs for die-hards, some different songs, and songs we played at Woodstock,” says Martini, adding that ground-breaking hits such as “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music” and “Family Affair” will also be on the set list, of course.
He attributes the material’s longevity to the fact that band founder Sly Stone wrote “absolutely brilliant lyrics” with a message, and that the music really is about everyday people and families: “There’s no swearing,” he says.
Today, the Family Stone plays to multigenerational audiences, and young people actually know the songs that came to fame in the late 1960s and early ’70s — either through their parents, from the first “Shrek” movie or from Toyota commercials in the late 1990s.
Although he took a 20-year break from the Family Stone in the 1980s when he moved to Oahu, Hawaii, he’s never really been away from its songs. In Hawaii, he says, “I kept my lip going,” and there was a period where he had two jobs and worked six nights a week, sometimes playing his “local Sly tribute.”
Joined by Robinson and bass great Larry Graham (also a Family Stone member), he played the music on an international tour with Prince in 2000.
Although he’s pleased to be living in California again — Folsom, not San Francisco, where he found home prices outlandish and unaffordable upon his return to the area — he also is looking forward to future Family Stone bookings in Japan and Europe.
“There are so many more places I want to go. I’ve just turned 70. I’m still jumping around onstage.”
Martini still is friends with Stone, his Balboa High School classmate whose life has taken dramatic, and not altogether positive, turns. He says, “Sometimes it’s hard to live up to what you write,” adding, “I’ve always remained in touch with him and I will for the rest of my life.”