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Pat Martino: A Tribute to Wes

Victor L. Schermer By

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When I first heard Pat Martino perform, a series of exclamation points went off in my brain. (Like wow!!! How did he do that!!!?) Like most listeners, I was blown away by his technique. Even on his earliest recordings with Willis Jackson, when Pat was just a kid starting out in the business, his rapid-fire improvisational ability stood out. All the mature guitarists around him—Les Paul, George Benson, and others- immediately sensed that a true phenomenon had arrived on the scene.

Then, when I started listening to him in person and going over his repertoire of recordings, I heard what was even more impressive and moving: his "soul. There is an "inner presence in his playing that is deeply rooted in the blues and all of jazz tradition. When you listen to Pat, as to any great musician, you are changed, transformed by what you hear.

I won't go into Martino's life story here, including his miraculous comeback after a battle with a brain aneurysm and total memory loss, which is well documented in my 2003 interview, "Pat Martino: To Renew A Life In Jazz". Suffice it to say that Pat's life experience impregnates his music as an expression of his deeply felt love of life rescued from tragic events. But I want to say that when I listened to his new CD, Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery, I realized that Pat's soulfulness was also inspired by his relationship with Wes, who was his hero and mentor for a period of time early on. Wes never played a note that didn't come from a desire for expression of something deep in the jazz lexicon. And that is an inspiration that goes well beyond the "how to of Wes' innovative chord changes and sound on the guitar.

In this audio interview that I did with Martino in March, just prior to the release of the CD, which is already topping the charts, you will get Pat's own views on how Montgomery influenced his music and his life, as well as some spontaneous illustrations on his guitar of what he tried to accomplish on the CD dedicated to his beloved hero and friend. Pat shows us how his technique and approach is similar to and different from Wes', but more than that, he explains the motivation for producing the album, his intent, and what he hopes listeners will absorb and utilize from the recording.

These days, Martino often incorporates tunes from the album in his live performances. If you can get to hear him as he travels the circuit of clubs and concert halls, do so. Even if you've heard Pat many times before, it's a very moving experience to hear him engage in this deep musical dialogue with Wes, whether on the CD or in person or both.

I hope you enjoy listening to this audio interview and that you'll join the exciting discussion with Pat in which he has graciously agreed to participate. You will be engaging with a man who is not only a master musician but also a deeply loving and thoughtful human being who has inspired so many of those who have had contact with him.

Part 1: The Martino-Montgomery Connection (25:10)
Pat reminisces, discusses and plays the music of Wes Montgomery.

Part 2: Remember: The CD (21:23)
Pat talks about the production of Remember.

Audio produced by Tony Miceli

Meet Pat Martino on the All About Jazz Bulletin Board.

Photo Credit:
Richard Timbers II

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