Pat Martino: At One with His Favorite Toy
"In its profundity," Martino explains matter-of-factly, "it produced the very thing that caused me to play to begin with. That was to get away from all the things that I was supposedly responsible to do. That's what children are interrupted with.
"You have a child who is totally in ecstasy; playful, creatively objective at all times; even subject to creativity. Along comes the parent, with loveable responsibility, and says to the child, 'Stop playing and do your homework.' That to me was an interruption in the ecstasy itself, and I think it is for each and every individual in the growing process. Those who adjust to the oncoming responsibilities to participate in a social architectural framework, and be utilized for purpose that is separate from the individual. These take their place within that household, in that factory, in that industry, in that society, within that culture.
"What took place when I forgot everything was the beginning, once again. It was the black border erased. It brought me to where I was in the very beginning. The only difference was, due to the compassion and the concern of so many others around me during that recovery period, it became clear I was in bad shape. I didn't realize whether I was or I wasn't. But everybody seemed to think that I was. This produced pain. That's why I had to recover and that's what I had to recover from. Procrastination on my behalf caused the pain to amplify beyond belief. That caused me to run toward the one thing that I ran to before when I was a child: my favorite toy. I lost myself in that. I procrastinated on a decision to be career oriented with that toy again, for the second time. Until I saw there was no difference in playfulness, whether it be publicly, or privately, isolated. It made no difference the second time through. Primarily because I was not participating. I was not entering back into it with a competitive intention. My intentions were totally self-rewarding."
It wasn't easy. There were still medications and therapy and problems with pent up anger, he says. Martino did not have to study the guitar, did nothing academically. Part of his therapy was using a computer graphics program. And the music returned. The dexterity returned. The creativity returned. In the late 80s, he was back performing, including the aptly named album The Return (Muse, 1987). But there were some setbacks, including the death of his parents months apart in 1989 and 1990. Still, music prevailed. Martino prevailed. With pianist Jim Ridl he recorded again, producing works like The Maker (Evidence, 1994). He was back, musically.
But poor health of another kind appeared. He got severe pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema and lost a tremendous amount of weight. Doctors felt a lung transplant was in order, but his wife, Ayako, who he met in Tokyo in the late '90s, refused and took him under her wing. Alternative methods of care that included an organic, all-vegetable diet, and yoga. He says he went from about 86 pounds back up to 165 in about five weeks.
In 2000 he was touring again, and recording for Blue Note records, who had signed him a few years earlier. "Yeah. Back to recording, back to social interaction and the enjoyment of old friends, artists in many different fields who were inspirational and stimulating. That's where it sits today."
The rest has been a succession of good records, outstanding performances, and carrying on life as a creative artist. His latest recording is a testament not only to Wes Montgomery, but also to how far Martino has come, and to the strength of his artistry.
Martino doesn't really concentrate on future projects, preferring to take life as it comes.
"I've always found it difficult to describe something that does not exist, primarily because in doing so, there is a lack of a concrete result," he says. "There are things I would love to do. I would love to do something with strings. Whether or not this can come about budget-wise is another story.
"So I have no idea what's coming next. It comes of its own accord. It comes as part of the growing process. So I let it rest and be what it wants to be when it wants to appear."