Pat Martino: Live At Yoshi's

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Having received the advance CD of Pat Martino's performance at Yoshi's, I can't contain myself. Really. The street date for Live At Yoshi's is June 19, but a little pre-promotion can't hurt, can it?

I'm not excited because I've been eagerly awaiting the next in a sporadic string of Pat Martino CD's. I'm not a Pat Martino cultist. I'm not in awe of the fact that Martino had to learn the guitar again from scratch after an operation to correct a near-fatal brain aneurysm.

I'm excited about the music.

It's that good! Five stars! Without a doubt, Live At Yoshi's will be at the top of the list of the best jazz releases of the year.

Basically, Live At Yoshi's is the CD that Martino's fans have been waiting for. Both Sides Now was too concept-driven and inconsistent, never allowing Martino to stretch out sufficiently. Stone Blue was a better album by light years as Martino revived his Joyous Lake band of the 1970's, but with significant changes, including the addition of tenor sax phenomenon Eric Alexander. But Live At Yoshi's stresses Martino's mastery of his instrument as he's allowed the time to develop his solos and as it captures the thrill of a live audience.

In the same manner that Jacky Terrasson's Live album conveyed the interactivity of his trio as did no other album, Live At Yoshi's draws in the audience with the magnetic force of Martino's group's camaraderie. Blue Note intentionally left in the 1-1/4-minute-long hooting and hollering ovation, the Yoshi's patrons shouting "we want more!" and "Joey D.!" A roar engulfs the room when the trio walks back on stage. Even though "Recollection" is the sixth track out of eight, it was the actual encore during the first night of the three-night engagement.

Recalling his early work with B-3 giants like Jack McDuff and Trudy Pitts, Martino put together an organ trio. As of only a few years ago, Martino hadn't played with a B-3 in his group for 30 years. Now, after Live At Yoshi's is released, and after his tour, Martino, it seems, will be engaged in three groups: Joyous Lake's, his regular trio with pianist Jim Ridl and now his organ trio.

One of the revelations of this recording is how Joey DeFrancesco has grown to be the leading B-3 player of his generation. Even though some of his signature technical elements remain—such as changes of timbre in the middle of a solo and his building a simple idea into an intensifying theatrical denouement—the strength of DeFrancesco's bass lines comes through on Live At Yoshi's as never before. His effortless propulsion of the bass lines of "El Hombre" hold together the 6/8 meter with force and yet with the respectfulness of an accomplished accompanist

Martino's repertoire was meant to represent tunes from his past albums, thereby creating a retrospective of his highly influential career. Starting with the funk of "Mac Tough" from the Stone Blue album (and I love his and DeFrancesco's offhanded accents they throw in), Martino goes all the way back to 1965 when he recorded "All Blues" with Eric Kloss, Don Patterson and Billy James.

Martino's long-time friend, Billy Hart, intuitively supports the group without ostentation but with an understanding of the feel that Martino tries to get across on each song. Cannily brushing in the background of "All Blues" and lightly employing the hi-hat to capture the second and third beats, the soulfulness of the tune seeps through as a result of the excellence of the solos.

A guitarist's guitarist, Pat Martino has returned full force, enlisting the hearts and minds of his listeners with the unrestrained power of the instrument. From his knockout solo on "Catch" to the melodic vibrancy of "Blue In Green," Martino electrified his audience at Yoshi's. The crackle remains in the air, even after the fadeout at the end of the CD.

Track Listing: Oleo, All Blues, Mac Tough, Welcome To A Prayer, El Hombre, Recollection, Blue In Green, Catch

Personnel: Pat Martino, guitar; Joey DeFrancesco, Hammond B-3; Billy Hart, drums

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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