Pat Martino at Birdland

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The legendary musical power of Pat Martino was on display at Birdland on April 4, 2013, in all its glory. The myths that have arisen about this formidable guitarist will have new layers when the jazz cognoscenti begin commenting on his latest feats.

Martino's burning swing, long the trademark of his improvisational wizardry, acquired added zip, with seminal saxophonist Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
joining him on the frontline of his latest quartet. The sound of the guitar and tenor articulating the heads of the tunes is rare and compelling. And the admixture of Pat Bianchi
Pat Bianchi
Pat Bianchi
b.1975
organ, Hammond B3
's Hammond B-3 allows the group to perform without a bass—another longstanding feature of Martino aggregations ever since he stepped on stage as a 16 year old at Small's Paradise in Harlem .Since then, the guitarist has continually preferred to engage in his aesthetically laden conversations with a litany of organ giants including Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
1926 - 2001
organ, Hammond B3
, Willis Jackson, Don Patterson
Don Patterson
Don Patterson
1936 - 1988
organ, Hammond B3
, Trudy Pitts
Trudy Pitts
Trudy Pitts
1932 - 2010
organ, Hammond B3
(who appeared on Marti no's 1967 Prestige debut as a leader, El Hombre), Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
b.1971
organ, Hammond B3
,and Tony Monaco
Tony Monaco
Tony Monaco
b.1959
organ, Hammond B3
.

The group began with a trio of Martino compositions : "Turnpike"; "Inside Out"; and "Dead Center." Listening to the vast cornucopia of improvisational designs and ideas articulated with his famous staccato attack is always a wonder, and on this night the Birdland audience (consisting almost entirely of Chilean tourists) was in rapt attention. Martino specializes in high- speed chases on the bandstand and his drummer Carmen Intorre certainly had a thorough workout. Bianchi's languorous soloing contrasted nicely with Martino and Alexander's clipped excursions, and the eight-bar trades in most of the tunes excitingly intensified the dialogues.

The group concluded the set with Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
's "Oleo," which was serendipitous for me because the last time I had heard Martino perform this tune was before he had his aneuryism in 1980. It is one of the most amazing stories in music history because after life-saving brain surgery which eradicated his memory, Martino had to entirely relearn the guitar—which he did by listening to his own records.

These days Pat Martino continues apace, conducting jazz clinics, headlining in leading jazz clubs and festivals, and planning new recordings. His talent is a marvel for the ages and fans everywhere will want to catch his latest creations.

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