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Interviews

Pat Martino: Martino Unstrung

By Published: November 3, 2008


1. Martino Reflects on Martino Unstrung 2. Filming Pat Martino's World
3. The Neuropsychology of Pat Martino 4. Review of Martino Unstrung


Pat MartinoA new documentary film about legendary guitarist Pat Martino, Martino Unstrung, focuses on his brain disease—AVM or arteriovenous malformation—emergency surgery, profound memory loss, and miraculous musical and personal recovery. It also presents intimate portraits of Martino, his music, his wife Ayako Akai, his friends across the decades, his family, and important locales in his life. It is only natural that one would want to know Martino's own reflections on a film which is not only about him but in which he actively participated both on and off screen.

Martino has been a big part of the jazz scene for so many years that it is easy to take for granted that he is one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. A virtuoso, his sound and technique on the instrument are impeccable. His musical range extends from deep and rich interpretations of ballads to fast-moving extended runs that are almost impossible to rival—from blues and standards to complex original compositions of his own and others. His mastery of the instrument and consummate teaching ability lead aspirants from around the world to study with him. Martino's understanding of guitar goes well beyond style and technique to include spiritual and theoretical insights.

Early recognized as a master, Martino has been performing and recording since the early 1960s. Unbeknownst to himself, he grew up with an abnormality of blood vessels in the brain called AVM, or arterioevenous malformation. According to medical experts, this condition worsened until, well into his career, he began to have serious mental complications which were improperly diagnosed. In the late 1970s, these symptoms proved to be caused by a brain aneurysm that required emergency surgery. As the now nearly legendary story in jazz circles goes, he woke up from the surgery with total amnesia for past events and persons. He did not even recognize the guitar or his record albums.

From that traumatic point, he gradually recovered his playing ability and resumed his career to where his accomplishments are even greater than before. He won the NARA Heroes Award for that achievement. Recently, the British film director, Ian Knox and his friend in England, neuropsychologist Paul Broks, collaborated with Martino on a film documentary about his memory loss and recovery, including an intimate portrayal of Martino and his wife, Ayako.

Martino Unstrung is one of the best documentaries about a jazz musician. Ian Knox is a terrific director. The film is spellbinding from beginning to end. It offers a moving, intimate portrayal of Martino as a person, a musical icon and someone who had undergone a traumatic loss of memory and made a miraculous recovery. It's a deeply personal testament. The following interview, conducted in person at his home studio, offers Martino's own reflections on the film and its personal meaning to him.

Chapter Index
  1. Agreeing to the Film
  2. Recovering from Surgery
  3. Examination of the Brain
  4. Martino's Life on Film
  5. Friends Les Paul and Joe Pesci
  6. Symptoms of Illness
  7. Healing
  8. Martino's Wife, Ayako Akai


Agreeing to the Film

All About Jazz: You are a high profile musician, and in a sense your music defines you, so what prompted you to participate in a film which is deeply personal and is focused on your memory loss and recovery as such rather than the music? What led you to get involved in such a project?

Pat Martino: That's a really interesting question in that normally what leads me to do anything that takes place prior to its fruition was the very thing that led me to want to interact with Ian Knox when I first saw his presence in the room I was sitting in at Ronnie Scott's in London. I was relaxing between shows, and in walked a very interesting individual whose hado, or aura, attracted attention. We turned and looked at each other, greeted each other's presence, and then sat down and talked. I asked him what he did, and his qualities were very magnetic and exciting. And it moved from there. And the film was no different from that moment.

To me, the outcome is what is left behind compared to the very moments of filming when it's been enjoyed as life itself. So, for me, each and every moment on the film is not what I see on the film, even though it's a replica. It has been captured, very much like a photograph of a loved one in a catalog. There's no life in it to me personally. I'm more interested in the enjoyment of my life, and that's what the film is all about. And that went from moment to moment to moment. Even now it still continues, and I enjoy what I'm doing.

AAJ: The film was stimulated by conversations between director Ian Knox and the neuropsychologist Paul Broks, who became fascinated by your story. So once you discussed the film with them and started fleshing it out, the central focus of the film became your brain disorder, surgery and subsequent recovery and re-starting your career?

PM: Yes. It leaned towards Broks' interests as a neuropsychologist, and I shared his interest in terms of the events that took place in my life. It was interesting to me personally as a former patient.

Pat MartinoAAJ: Beyond your personal interest, do you have a reason for wanting the public to know about what happened to you medically?

PM: Not necessarily. I'm a very simple human being. To me the most valuable thing is action, to be active. Automatically, it's as creative as it can be because it's my top priority. No matter what I do, if it's in action, if it's happening, it's a creative act. It's my life. Therefore, anything that takes place that triggers that productivity in any shape or size. It doesn't have to be music. It can be just social interaction, I enjoy the same way as a musical performance. I'm into action.

AAJ: In other words, you approach living the way you might approach jazz?

PM: However it manifests, whatever masks it wears, it's the same thing. It's a moment of my life.

AAJ: Did you do much deliberation about the message you wanted to get across about your illness and recovery?

PM: Absolutely not.

AAJ: What made you agree to let the film makers take such an intense look at your medical condition? Most people would prefer to keep these things private.

PM: What comes to mind is rather profound for me, and I'll tell you what just occurred to me about this. To me, privacy is something that must be protected, and as such the weight of it will only remain private as long as you carry it and protect it. It's like baggage. Since that operation, I've been deeply interested in freedom, freedom of all the things that until that point were carried by me as an individual. Today, I find it unnecessary to protect the truth. The truth is what it is and it will always be what it is. It cannot be protected or hidden.

So once a person reaches a point, in my opinion, that he evaluates what hampers him, he begins to make changes. Definition. Changes of the very things that used to necessitate my protecting and hiding from others because that was my privacy. That became redefined. And by redefining it, I didn't have the weight of my privacy. It was as if I had a post office box where I would get all my mail and wouldn't have to worry about anyone else seeing it. I no longer had to pay the price of that P.O. box because I gave it up. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Recovering from Surgery

AAJ: Did you get to that position shortly after you began to recover from the surgery?

PM: Yes.

AAJ: So even though the memory loss was traumatic, it was also a release?

PM: It was a redefinition of many things that at length began a metamorphosis from define to refine. My life became more refined, my intentions became more refined, primarily because there was less baggage to carry on its back.

AAJ: So there was a lightness of being that you arrived at from not having to hide a private part of yourself. It happened to you, and it's natural to disclose and talk about it. If I understood correctly from the movie and other sources, when you awakened from the surgery to remove the aneurysm, you couldn't remember anything. You literally saw your own father and couldn't recognize him.

PM: Yes. Even though my father denied it. In Open Road [1993], Phil Fallo's video about me, my dad really refused to accept that. He said I remembered him.

AAJ: A poignant moment. And at that point you couldn't recognize your own album covers and music. So what was it like to wake up literally to nothing, to a total blank about your history? What is that like?

Pat MartinoPM: I can't really answer that because there was a side effect of the surgery, namely a short-term memory deficit.

AAJ: So you don't remember?

PM: I don't even remember what it is to not remember. There's something profound about that. It reminds me of part of the New Testament where Christ says "For a rich man to get to heaven, it's like trying to enter through the hole of a needle." And what he meant by "rich" is the baggage that's carried. You can't go through that tiny little hole with any of the baggage that you carry. And that's what it reminds me of. And that's what the loss was in terms of memory. Memory was and is to this day only the past. It has nothing to do with now, and now is the only thing that is real. So the only change that I can point at is just that. The change is in my interest, my attention, what I define as real, what I define as false.

AAJ: So you were able to see what the Zen masters tell us, which is that everything is in the present moment, and that past and future are to some extent illusions. But that must have hit you like a ton of bricks.

PM: Well they are cataloged, so the past is materialized, and one can swim in the pool of his achievements. But that is negative and obscures what could be done in terms of real time.

AAJ: Would it be fair to say that as a result of your trauma, you became acutely aware of real time in a very profound way?

PM: Yes. My only responsibility is to live. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Examination of the Brain

AAJ: Now there's a moment in the film, which I think took place right here in your home, where you're looking at an MRI of your own brain. And both you and Paul Broks, the neuropsychologist, express anxiety. What was it like to look at a graphic representation of your own brain?

PM: I would say that there was actually one thing that was very valuable about it. And that was the similarity between looking at an item that is a tool, that is very demanding to use, and the condition that it's in. The brain is simply a tool, an instrument, like the guitar. And because of that, it was similar, for me personally, to looking at a guitar as another tool that I use if it's in bad condition. The feeling that I get prior to the creative act is one that is difficult, anxious because of its condition. But that is not me. It's a tool that I use. So to look at the MRI of the brain and see these deficits revealed was not about me, but about a tool.

AAJ: Like a guitar that needs honing or fixing?

PM: Yes. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just fine the way it is. Let's be as objective and optimistic as possible.

AAJ: So if you took a Stradivarius violin and there was a nick in it, it would still be great.

PM: Yes.

AAJ: One of the stars of the film, so to speak, was the surgeon who performed the operation.

PM: Frederick Simeone.

Pat MartinoAAJ: I had the good fortune to meet him at the screening, and he really is a fine human being. He's a renaissance man, and very warm and caring, the opposite of what you'd expect a surgeon to be. Not many people have a chance to meet their surgeon ten or twenty years later and talk with them.

PM: And then to go out and have dinner and spend the entire evening with him enjoying ourselves.

AAJ: So what's it like to get to know your surgeon, who usually is behind that mask, as a person, as someone who doesn't just cut people up?

PM: It was a special moment, the enjoyment of mutual respect for one another. It was the pleasure of living, just as it would be with any other person.

AAJ: I know that Dr. Simeone loves jazz. So when you were flown in from Los Angeles for this emergency operation, did he know you were a jazz icon?

PM: He told me that he was fully aware of my career. I'm sure that it was brought to his attention, because when I called my parents from Los Angeles about the diagnosis and the warning that I had only two hours to live at that time, they contacted Dr. Simeone here at Pennsylvania Hospital, and I'm sure they filled him in on all of the details about me.

AAJ: If they felt you were at such immediate risk, why didn't they find the best neurosurgeon in L.A. to do the operation, instead of taking the further risk of a long flight back here to Philly?

PM: I myself had already made that decision, for personal reasons. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Martino's Life on Film

AAJ: The film not only explores the medical side, but takes a candid look at Pat Martino, the person, in various facets of your life. For example, there are several scenes in the film where you greet strangers on the street and start talking to them.

PM: I do. I enjoy it.

AAJ: Typically in a big city, people are very guarded and avoid contact with strangers. So what gives you the comfort to reach out, start a conversation, and have compassion for others in that way?

PM: I don't in anyway protrude when I make such contact. The moment someone or something enters my space, I immediately identify that person or thing as part of my life. One of the most valid and important things to me is the enjoyment of life. I don't fear them or that they'll injure my life. They are my life. To me, that's more realistic than to protect that which is private and represents the baggage that weighs a person down with that armor.

AAJ: I suppose it's like letting go of ones ego.

PM: No, it's not letting go of the ego. There's nothing wrong with the ego. The ego is a tool that is part and parcel of who we are. It has anger, joy, all these different feelings that are ignited by various triggers. So there's nothing wrong with that. What matters is what it brings to your oneness, your wholeness, the part of you that is conscious and aware at enough distance to be able to visually, consciously see good and bad, yin and yang, polarity, from a third point. What is many times referred to as the third eye. That is necessary. And from that third point of view, you're no longer living within it, you're a witness to it, to action.

AAJ: So once you're in that space, friendship becomes completely natural.

PM: Exactly.

Pat MartinoAAJ: You really know how to be a friend.

PM: The more one's definition changes, the more refined one's life becomes. I remember a time when I was afraid of the word, "God." And yet I was hampered that way. Whenever the word "love" would come in, I would ask, "What does that mean to me? Why doesn't it last? Why do have to prove myself to someone I love?" And then it dawned upon me that why do I need the word "God?" Why shouldn't I be concerned with life itself, instead of something separate? Maybe what I referred to as God is love itself. So I asked myself these questions. Why am I not seeking a relationship with love itself? Why am I looking for love from someone else? I made a decision to attain a relationship with love itself. And there's a noticeable difference in continuity, fulfillment, and a more realistic evaluation of growth, evolution, change, forgiveness. Because there are things that hamper, stand in between the totality of the truth of that.

AAJ: Someone once said, perhaps with a touch of humor and paradox, that "There is a God, and he's the only one who knows that he doesn't exist." You seem to be deconstructing what it is that gets in the way of the wonder of things and people in this world.

PM: That's also one of the reasons I find it hampering to refer to a craft: a musician, a priest, a lawyer, an athlete. These are merely the tools one uses for their own intention.

AAJ: And the true end is love. The theologian Thomas Merton said, in a similar vein, "God is love."

PM: Well, yes, there you go. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Friends Les Paul and Joe Pesci

AAJ: Speaking of friendship and love, one of the things that is so touching in the film is the testimony of your friends and fellow musicians: Red Holloway, the actor Joe Pesci and your mentor Les Paul, who took you in almost as a father figure. They talk about you with great tenderness. How did you get to meet Les and Joe?

PM: I met Les at the age of 12 in 1956. My mom and dad took me to Steel Pier in Atlantic City where Les Paul and Mary Ford were performing. That's where we met for the first time. We went backstage, and my dad introduced me to Les, who was so loveable. I also played a little for him, which he remembered later. He fell in love with me as a little boy. And I did what children do to me nowadays. They look up at me with twinkling eyes. And you want to grab them and hug them and give them all you've got, the power. But you know what you have to do, but your power is not power at all. It's just action, like the director who says, "Action!" And everybody gets into action. And that's what the child is: action. Then some years later, I met Les again, and he recognized me because he remembered my facility on the guitar.

AAJ: When did he begin to mentor you?

PM: That was when I went to Harlem and was becoming active professionally.

AAJ: And how did you get to know Joe Pesci?

PM: I met Joe at Small's Paradise in Harlem. In those years of jazz, there were some bands that were located at a place where all the musicians would go to hang out after they finished their own gigs. Willis Jackson was one of the attractions at Smalls. They used to do that with Art Blakey's band as well. All the players around town would go up to Harlem—Count Basie's, for example—and sometimes go to the Vanguard or Village Gate in Greenwich Village as well. And that's what happened with Joe Pesci. Joe was at that time a vocalist and guitarist for a group that was playing on Route 46 in Northern New Jersey. They would finish at 1 or 2 in the morning, and then drive to Harlem, where we'd play until 4 in the morning seven days a week. And they would come to Small's Paradise, and the place was just rockin.' And that's how I met Joe.

AAJ: And your relationship with Joe has lasted over many years, as with Les.

align=center>Pat Martino / Joe Pesci Pat Martino with Joe Pesci



PM: Absolutely, but there was a big gap with Joe, primarily because due to the amnesia I forgot I even knew him.

AAJ: What led you to renew your acquaintance with him?

PM: I think I mention this in the film. I was performing at the Blue Note in New York in the late 90s. After a performance with a full house, I went upstairs to the main dressing room, and went to the rest room to refresh myself for the next set. Then I opened the door, and two gentlemen were standing there: Joe Pesci and Tommy de Vito, Joe's personal manager. And I said, "Oh, wow. Joe Pesci." And Joe said to me, "You don't know who I am." And I said, "Of course I know who you are. You're Joe Pesci, the actor."

He said, "You don't remember me." I said, "I know you," and I mentioned some of the films I enjoyed him in. And he said, "You really don't know me." And I said, "I don't understand what you mean by that." And he said, "I'll tell you what you used to drink," and he told me. And at that moment, a flash exploded in my mind, and I pictured various events that included Joe at Small's Paradise way back when.

I think the majority of my career, even prior to the surgery and memory loss, the latent disease affected me without my knowing it. All those years of misdiagnosis and staggering complications. The AVM was actually present at birth, and the surgery was in 1980. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Symptoms of Illness

AAJ: Do you have any idea when the symptoms first appeared?

PM: I was having seizures by the age of 10 or 11.

AAJ: The film suggests that you lost most of your long term memory for events prior to the surgery, yet you would occasionally have flashes in which selected memories were re-awakened. I spoke with Dr. Simeone, and he said that some of the lost memories are still stored in the brain, but may be inaccessible to recall.

PM: They may be stored somewhere in the heart as well as the brain.

AAJ: Did you in fact begin to have some recall of past events?

PM: Yes, especially on the guitar.

AAJ: Your mastery of the guitar is, of course, outstanding today, some would say even more than ever. Do you sometimes flash back to the recordings you did prior to the surgery, and recall your music from that time?

PM: Not specifically. What came back to me are technique and precision. What comes into view is the value of what has been defined, precision. Not the specifics as such.

AAJ: The movie discloses many things about you, and one thing in particular startled me, namely, a time when you angrily chastised Matt Resnikoff, a recording producer. To your credit you later tried to apologize to him. I know you as such a loving and gentle person that it is hard for me to imagine you getting so angry. But, then, everyone has a dark side.

PM: Well, I don't know if it's a dark side. I would say it's a weak side on my part. I was upset with the futility of having been such a nice person, again and again and again. Finally, when it didn't work, I literally lost control and literally turned the table over. Things were going wrong with the production, and I just couldn't take it any more. I exploded. Later, I told a mutual friend to apologize for me to Matt. This morning, I received a letter from a prisoner who asked for a photo and an autograph, and in my response, one of the things I told him by way of advice was, "Give to others what you ask of them, and never look back." With Matt, I failed to follow that advice.

AAJ: So it was something you regret having done, but it was inevitable in view of all that had been building up inside you.

PM: Yes.

Pat MartinoAAJ: I suppose that the movie portrays you as you really are, including your shortcomings, and this is a good message to convey to people, that it's OK to be human.

PM: That thing with Matt was something I carried around and felt badly about for a long time, and I wanted to get that across in the film. But so far, Matt hasn't responded to my apology, which I conveyed to him through a mutual friend, and I hope to meet him face-to-face at some point.

AAJ: Getting back to the medical side, you were having serious symptoms such as severe headaches for a number of years before they diagnosed the brain disease.

PM: And extreme depression.

AAJ: It must have been a nightmare.

PM: I felt suicidal. But I do want to correct something that is a common error in the media. Prior to the actual aneurysm, what I had is called AVM or arterioevenous malformation. The aneurysm was the end point of it growing gradually to the size of a pear from my birth in 1944 to the time of the surgery in 1979.

AAJ: But the point is, they didn't diagnose your disturbance as stemming from a brain disorder for quite some time.

PM: No, they thought it was manic depression and schizophrenia. And I was given psychotropic medication and electroshock treatments, and put in locked wards.

AAJ: What you're describing, in effect, is abuse by the medical profession, although it was certainly not intended that way. They just didn't diagnose it correctly.

PM: I used to feel that it was abuse. I remember a time when I was extremely volatile about the mistreatment. But, finally, when I began to take control of my life and determined to enjoy life again, then I began to view everything that came before, including the suffering, as a necessity, as part of my evolution. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Healing

AAJ: You were able to get beyond the resentment.

PM: Yes, I had to re-evaluate everything. It's what I said to you earlier. I re-defined and refined my life. Prior to that, what I lacked was faith. I had no faith. That's why I was so angry and volatile.

AAJ: But also you were being manhandled in a way, and you must have felt angry about that.

PM: Of course I did. Everything fell apart. Despite all that happened, I'm thankful for everything.

AAJ: You have gratitude for losing what was taken away from you, because it turned out you didn't need those things as much as you thought you did. That can be the healing, transcendent aspect of going through a traumatic loss.

PM: Exactly.

AAJ: After the surgery, you continued to feel depressed, and in a way helpless, and then something changed in you. You started to get interested in music and in life again.

PM: That took considerable time.

AAJ: What helped you pull out of that depressed state to where you began to live fully again?

PM: I can tell you exactly what that was. Procrastination. (Laughter) ... I took time to take notice, to redefine things, to stop resenting people for what they did and didn't do. I actually underwent deep suffering, and didn't recover until the suffering itself led me to seek something I could lose myself in and forget the pain. That was, of course, the guitar. Just as it was when I was a child and had seized the guitar as a way to deal with my emotions.

AAJ: Was it the same guitar, so to speak, as before the surgery?

Pat MartinoPM: It was the same in that it was a way to escape. But the guitar didn't feel familiar to me at first. Rather, it magnetically drew my attention. So my pursuit of it began to get more and more consuming and complex. And as that happened, my depression subsided. But then, as my ability to play returned, I procrastinated about my friends' suggestion that I get back into the music business. Finally, after a time, I made the most important decision any patient can make: to be a serious human being and begin to re-shape my life in a way that I would enjoy it. And I no longer needed the burden of isolation and privacy.

I remember that during those periods of deep depression, I would sit at a little tavern around the corner from my house, a place called Sarge's. I'd sit at the bar. There were almost all men in that bar, and they were gambling. And apparently they all knew about me, but they didn't tell me that. They left me alone, until I became more social again, and as I came out of myself, they told me they knew what happened and welcomed me.

AAJ: So part of what helped you improve was that people respected your personal space and let you procrastinate, that is take time to recover.

PM: Exactly.

AAJ: And the guitar, in a way, was your therapist.

PM: Yes, and one of the paradoxical benefits of the memory loss was that my profession became history, so that I no longer had to be in the competitive race that was my career. I became free of that intention. I was no longer playing to get a five-star rating so to speak.

AAJ: The severe trauma and suffering you underwent turned out to have a positive aspect. It freed you from pressures and role expectations that we ordinarily place on ourselves. And somehow, you were freed of illusion and were able to see that the greatest thing is to live in today and nourish your own true spirit.

PM: The greatest success is to become a happy human being. In the midst of this worldly chaos, there can be nothing more successful than someone who is nourished by good health, good interests, and the enjoyment of life. People will flock to this person and ask them how they got there.

AAJ: I know that you yourself have at various times meditated and been involved in spiritual endeavors. Did your spiritual interests and pursuits play a role in your recovery? What have you taken out of these spiritual experiences?

PM: Earlier in our conversation, I mentioned the difference between looking for love from the outside, for someone to give you love in return for the love you give them, as opposed to seeking a relationship with love itself, free of bondage with anyone. Meditation is that state where love exists in truth, and to find truth and to love being on that path, leads you to reside within it rather than looking for a key into it. When you meditate, you return to your residence. That's what meditation is, and that's what gives you balance in life in my opinion. class="f-right s-img">Return to Index...

Martino's Wife, Ayako Akai

AAJ: Now the movie has some scenes with you and your lovely Japanese wife, Ayako. You met her in Japan in the 1990s.

PM: In 1995, going into 1996 in Tokyo.

AAJ: You met her after a performance there, and within a short time, she came to the U.S. and you married her. It may seem like an unusual question, but did your aneurysm and recovery contribute in any way to you falling in love with her? You were married prior to the aneurysm. Did your recovery allow you to attach romantically to Ayako?

PM: No, not in that context, although recovery did not end with that particular challenge of the brain operation. Later on, in 1999, I contracted pneumonia while in France. Five days later, I was going to open at Birdland with my group, Joyous Lake. I was touring on behalf of my Blue Note album, Stone Blue. I came back to Philly from JFK Airport in New York. I immediately went to bed, and the pneumonia got worse. The disease amplified, my lungs collapsed, they rushed me to the hospital, and I stayed in the hospital. I lost weight, down to 76 pounds, and they were going to transplant both lungs.

Dr. Fish was in charge of the Respiratory Section at Jefferson Hospital. At first, it was the left lung, and then they added both lungs for a transplant. I was dying in an oxygen tank in the Intensive Care Unit. As it turned out, my wife, Aya, disagreed with the proposed transplant, and she became very angry about that as the only option. So she, and a very close mutual friend, Marian Garfinkel, who was in charge of carpal tunnel syndrome at Pennsylvania Hospital, took me out of the hospital. In a period of six months, I improved radically, due to a change in diet, from meat, fish, and poultry, to a strictly vegan diet with juices, including the skins and seeds of fruits which were juiced and liquefied. I also did basic yoga with Marian to expand my respiratory system. Within six months, I went up to 165 pounds, and was no longer in a wheelchair. With further control of diet and yoga, I haven't even needed an aspirin since then, and that was around 2000-2001. From that period forward, I've remained healthier than I've ever been in all my life.

AAJ: Another miracle, and partly inspired by Ayako.

PM: Aya's grandmother is a master of shiatsu in Japan, and Aya grew up in the middle of such things and is fully aware of the body and of a number of medical conditions.

AAJ: The fact that she was able to help you with your medical issues, and I know she has her own medical problems, that seems to me to be a neglected part of how couples might help each other. What would you like to say about that possibility?

PM: It's one of the greatest examples of how profound opportunities emerge in our lives, often not recognized. I learned about this through thinking about the guitar as an instrument and now I think of music itself as an instrument. This is my third marriage. In the two before now, there was an alienation due to my over-dedication to my music and resulting lack of participation with my spouse. There was a disconnect in the relationships due to our separate and distinct pursuits. The result was, "You can't understand where I'm at because you don't participate in it." We tried to connect, but there was that gap.

Aya did it differently. One of the things she did was to ask me to teach her to play the guitar. At first this made it more difficult than prior relationships, primarily because it was so painful when she refused to follow my advice, which was just like how I would rebel against my teachers. We've been doing this for over a year, and her playing is getting better and better all the time. And for the first time, there is a totality in our relationship. If you go to my website, you'll see a photo of us on the homepage. If you click on the photo, you'll hear us play a duet. So there's a unity in it that transcends the professional activity and brings it into the truth of living together in the moment.

I would love to say to musicians at guitar clinics that part of the problem of being a musician is how distant it carries you from your loved ones. Bring your music into their lives, too, and you'll amplify your love for them.

align=center>Pat Martino / Ayako Akai Pat Martino and wife, and Ayako Akai



AAJ: Music brings people together. I see that many times in your own life, Pat, the music has been a way to get closer to someone, or to break a barrier in yourself. We usually think of music as a luxury like a good glass of wine or a steak dinner, but it also is a necessity in our lives.

PM: It's a utensil, a tool.

AAJ: Any number of people who see the new film will have undergone their own personal traumas, whether medical, divorce, natural disaster, and so on. What would you like those people to learn from the film? I know you've given talks at hospitals on this subject, what would you like to say to those who have suffered memory loss?

PM: Something very simple. Definition. How we define what we like or dislike. If we could see like and dislike from a distance, we'd no longer be subject to either of them. And that allows us to consider our suffering in a different light. Try to remember a time when you wanted to change the color of your complexion, and you went to the beach, and you prepared to put on suntan lotion, lie down on your blanket or towel, and consciously suffer to become what you wanted to be, namely get a tan. If you could suffer like that to reach any of your goals in recovery, you will achieve them.

AAJ: You don't see a difference between intentional suffering to achieve an end and the suffering that is brought on by traumatic events?

PM: No suffering should be intentional. If you are brought into a situation that requires professional or medical assistance, get another opinion as to alternatives. But any way that you go is going to be difficult.

AAJ: In other words, part of meeting the challenge is to accept the difficulty, not fight the difficulty.

PM: Exactly. And do it from the bottom of your heart. That's called courage. And there's something healing about it. Self-esteem is healing. To do the best you can and be proud of yourself in the process.

AAJ: That's such a beautiful statement. The way you phrased it is so eloquent.

PM: Plant, plant seeds, let them grow, and move forward.

Selected Discography

Pat Martino, Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery (Blue Note, 2006)

Pat Martino, Think Tank (Blue Note, 2003)

Pat Martino, First Light (Starbright, 1976 and Joyous Lake, 1977 on one CD) (Savoy Jazz, 2003)

Joey DeFranceso, Ballads and Blues (Concord, 2002)

Pat Martino, Live at Yoshi's (Blue Note, 2001)

Philadelphia Experiment, Philadelphia Experiment (Atlantic, 2001)

Pat Martino, The Maker (Muse, 1994)

Royce Campbell, Six by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration (Moon Cycle, 1994)

Pat Martino, The Return (Muse, 1987)

Pat Martino, We'll Be Together Again (Savoy Jazz, 1976)

Pat Martino, Exit (Muse, 1976)

Pat Martino, Consciousness (Muse, 1974)

Pat Martino, Live! (Muse, 1972)

Pat Martino, Footprints (Muse, 1972)

Pat Martino, Desperado (Prestige, 1970)

Eric Kloss, In the Land of Giants (Prestige, 1969)

Pat Martino, Bayina (The Clear Evidence) (Prestige, 1968)

Pat Martino, East! (Prestige, 1968)

Charles McPherson, From This Moment On (Prestige, 1968)

Pat Martino, El Hombre (Prestige, 1967)

Pat Martino, Strings! (Prestige, 1967)

John Handy, New View (Prestige, 1967)

Richard "Groove" Holmes, Blues Groove (Prestige, 1966)

Willis "Gator" Jackson, Soul Nite Live! (Prestige, 1964)

Photo Credits

Top Photo: DaisyBasie

All Other Photos and Stills from Martino Unstrung, courtesy of Ian Knox and Sixteen Films



Visit the movie website for Martino Unstrung here and watch the film trailer here.




1. Martino Reflects on Martino Unstrung 2. Filming Pat Martino's World
3. The Neuropsychology of Pat Martino 4. Review of Martino Unstrung




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