Guitar and fusion fans will surely welcome this excellent 32 Jazz set featuring all of Joyous Lake and Starbright, guitarist Pat Martino's two 1976 Warner Brothers albums. Martino left Muse Records in 1976 with the promise of mega-giant Warner's clout to reach a wider audience. Usually that spells concession to popular tunes or sellable formulas. And while this music is often more fusion-oriented than anything Martino had recorded up to this point, there's no sell out.
Joyous Lake catches Martino with keyboardist Delmar Brown and Kenwood Dennard, who reunited with the guitarist on last year's similar Stone Blue (also featuring Martino's delightful "Joyous Lake," which prefigures the music of Pat Metheny by nearly a decade). Here, electric bassist Delmar Brown also helps the quartet move around several flavors of funky fusion that recall then-sounds of Magical Shepherd -era Miroslav Vitous and Allan Holdsworth with nods toward Headhunter funk ("M'Wandishi")and Eleventh House rock ("Song Bird").
Starbright features a larger, all together different Martino group featuring three keyboardists (Gil Goldstein, Warren Bernhardt and Mike Maneri), three percussionists, bass, violin, flute and tabla. There are Martino's patented ruminations ("Starbright," reminiscent of Al DiMeola/Return to Forever, and "Prelude"), worthy fusion ("Law," "Deeda," "Blue Macaw) and two of Wayne Shorter's more contemplative ballads from Miles' 1967 opus Nefertiti ("Fall," "Nefertiti").
As always, Martino remains an engaging technical dazzler - as opposed to all those forgotten 70s guitar heroes who thought speed and sound meant good playing. Martino even experiments with guitar synthesizers and other effects (especially during the Joyous Lake tracks). But the strength of the guitarist's melodic personality, particularly during signature solos, is never in question.
This is music that can be enjoyed well beyond 1977. Over two decades later, there is substance and sustenance to Pat Martino's music and First Light is a valuable part of this great guitarist's ever-enduring legacy.
Track Listing: Line Games; Pyramidal Vision; Mardi Gras; M'Wandishi; Song Bird; Joyous Lake; Starbright; Eyes; Law; Fall; Deeda; Starbright Epilogue; Masquerada; Nefertiti; Blue Macaw; City Lights; Prelude; Epilogue.
Personnel: On Joyous Lake: Pat Martino: guitar, EML 101 synthesizer, synthesizer, percussion, flexiglass; Delmar Brown: Fender Rhodes, EML 500 synthesizer, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer; Mark Leonard: electric bass; Kenwood Dennard: drums, percussion. On Starbright: at Martino: guitar, synthesizer; Gil Goldstein: keyboards; Warren Bernhardt, Michael Maneri: synthesizers; Will Lee: bass; Charles Collins, Michael Carvin: drums; Alyrio Lima Cova: percussion; Marty Quinn: tablas; Al Regni: flute; Joe D'Onofrio: violin.