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27th Cape May Jazz Festival

Ken Franckling By

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Cape May Jazz Festival
Cape May, NJ
April 20, 2007
Pat Martino was the natural choice to lead the weekend's jazz guitar brigade when the 27th edition of the semi-annual Cape May Jazz Festival focused on the jazz guitar legacy with a tribute to Wes Montgomery. Guitarists featured in Cape May for the weekend included Teddy Royal, Brian Betz, Royce Campbell, Bob DeVos and Cape May Jazz Festival fixtures Geno White and Monette Sudler. Martino not only headlined the weekend, his powerful performance dominated it—because of his Montgomery connection, his Wes stories, his own stirring performance and perhaps most of all, Martino's personal link to the idyllic southernmost point on the Jersey shore.

During a 15-year near-absence from jazz from 1980 to 1995, while the Philadelphia resident battled back from a near-fatal brain aneurysm that erased his memory, it was to Cape May that Martino came in the summer of 1983 to rebuild his chops and regain his musical confidence, sitting in nightly and rather anonymously with the house band at the defunct Shire Tavern under his given name, Pat Azzara.

Flash forward two decades, to April 20th, 2007, when Martino took over Cape May on a weekend ripe with two-dozen musical afternoon and evening choices for attendees with concerts, bar sets and jam sessions at venues up and down Beach Drive.

Martino opened his two-set Convention Hall evening with a swinging version of Carl Perkins' "Groove Yard (the title track of a 1961 Montgomery Brothers recording). He recalled a night early in the '60s when he was playing at Small's Paradise in Harlem. During a break, he took Les Paul over to a nearby club, Basie's, because Paul had never heard Wes Montgomery. Montgomery had told Martino previously that Charlie Christian and Les Paul had been his biggest influences. After a few minutes of introductions, Martino headed back to his own gig, but he says Paul never made it back to Small's Paradise that evening. "When I returned to Basie's at the end of the night, there was Les talking with Wes, George Benson and Grant Green.

When he got a chance to play in Montgomery's hometown of Indianapolis last year, Martino says he asked Montgomery's widow what her favorite recording was. She named the Milt Jackson composition "Heart Strings , which Martino played with poignancy before ending his first set with Montgomery's own "Four On Six , throwing in a tasty and Shore-perfect quote from "Summertime on one of the first balmy days of Spring.

The second set was even more powerful musically. Martino performed "El Hombre from his second (1967) album of the same name and JJ Johnson's "Lament , leading into an almost psychedelic exploration of Coltrane's "Impressions that was dominated by Martino and Rick Germanson, who shifted seamlessly from piano to electric keyboard. The band, with Dave Ostrom on bass and Scott Alan Robinson on drums, ended with Sonny Rollins' "Oleo after Martino proclaimed that Wes Montgomery "is still alive in the music of so many guitar players.

Bassist Charles Fambrough's all-star sextet with Mark Shim (sax), Clifford Adams (trombone), Maurice Brown (trumpet), George Colligan (piano) and Mike Clark (drums) provided Saturday night's fireworks in a set highlighted by clever arrangements of McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance and Bobby Timmons' "Moanin' . Saturday headliner Terence Blanchard's finest moment was the New Orleans trumpeter's post-Katrina ballad arrangement of "I Thought About You with an "Amazing Grace coda.

Photo Credit
Ken Franckling

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