Pat Martino: Martino Unstrung
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.
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.
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.
Pat Martino and wife, and Ayako Akai