What a journey this hombre has had. The man in question, Italian-American guitarist Pat Martino, as it has been often reported, fought through a series of severe predicaments throughout his career. After undergoing diverse medical treatments, he resiliently baby-stepped his way back in the music business. He has since catered to his creative force and connected it to others' in live and recorded performances and by getting involved in music education. He may now be in his early 60s, Martino was still a young man when he released El Hombre, his first solo effort for the late Bob Weinstock's Prestige label. Forty years later, Concord has reissued the original 1967 soul-jazz session with an additional track.
El Hombre is a blowing affair. It mainly features the guitarist, who even takes two solos on some tracks; organist Trudy Pitts and flutist Danny Turner take few, succinct outings. The influence of Wes Montgomery (introduced to Martino by label owner and fellow Philadelphian Joel Dorn) is evident throughout the record, and so is the kinship with George Benson. He plays long bouncy eighth-note lines and verbatim ideas interspersed with high-register double-stops and bluesy slidesflawlessly, using a similar tone and approach.
The title track captures the vibe of the era well. The brisk, almost trance-inducing flux of percussion rhythms, organ riffs and lengthy improvisations are reminiscent of the trippy dance gyrations and tie-dyed psychedelic swirls the late '60s are known for. "Jazz for Deadheads" might be a not-so-serious way of describing it.
Most compositions here are dedications. "A Blues For Mickey-O is a straight-ahead walking blues for the guitarist's performer-father, Carmen Azzara (pka Mickey Martino). It offers an opportunity for jazz guitar cognoscenti to hear Martino comp. The decision to cover Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Once I Loved as a cha-cha may have stemmed from producer Cal Lampley (the late pianist, critic, radio host and Columbia Records producer led an orchestra known for its recording of "red hot cha-chas). Martino shares the spotlight with Pitts on the other standard, "Just Friends, both swinging hard behind drummer Mitch Fine's shrill ride cymbal work.
The previously unreleased "Song For My Mother, an evasive ballad, closes the record with an inspired Wes-like octaves solo.
Personnel: Trudy Pitts: organ; Danny Turner: flute; Mitch Fine: drums; Abdu Johnson: conga Drums; Vance Anderson: bongos; Pat Martino: guitar.