Make no mistakethis is a tribute not only to Wes Montgomery, but also the resilience of human creativity. While this might smack of hyperbole, it should be remembered that Martino completely forgot how to play the guitar some 26 years ago as a result of brain surgery, and if diligence and application can supply the kind of results heard here, then any suggestion of hyperbole is surely questionable.
To hear a musician as in touch with his or her instrument as Martino is on the likes of "Unit Seven" is arguably to hear a musician who is not on the face of this earth to do anything else. The fact that Martino has everything from the point of view of technique would amount only to an exercise in clinical efficiency if, however, it wasn't for the fact that he's able to ally that with a fertile imaginationif anything, even more important to an improvising musician.
Similarly, on "If I Should Lose You," Martino shows that he also knows the value of economy. Here his theme statement is nothing if not majestic. Indeed, comparing and contrasting this reading of the song with a version for Blue Note cut 46 years ago by Hank Mobley (on Soul Station) offers an object lesson in how diverse jazz musicians can be.
If, however, Martino's mood there is reflective, he offers an up-tempo solo on "Twisted Blues" in which the balance of technique and tonal nuance is so finely struck that it can only be remarkable. The fact that the same is also true of the guitar-piano unisons on the theme statement of "Full House" suggests that if the last 26 years of Martino's life have been some kind of journey, then he has reached some kind of ultimate destination with this quintet release.
Jazz guitarists at this moment in time are nowhere near as thick on the ground as jazz singers, or singers who would claim some sort of affinity for the music. More pertinently, there's only one Pat Martino. No one who professes an interest in improvised music should overlook this evidence of a master at work.
Personnel: Pat Martino: guitar; David Kikoski: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Scott Allan Robinson: drums;
Danny Sadownick: percussion.