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Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard

Nick Catalano By

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On Thursday February 4 paradigmatic guitarist Pat Martino led his trio into The Jazz Standard for another seminal Big Apple performance. Gotham has been very lucky in recent years as Martino has rarely missed an opportunity to perform here and has headlined at most of the leading clubs.

Quintessential hard swing has long been a Martino trademark and his signature phrasing along with his uncanny picking style immediately roared across the bandstand as the group opened with "Lean Years"—a longtime favorite. Precisely articulated trades with organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre were featured along with the guitarist's intriguing improvisational styling—a pictogram since his musical naissance in Philadelphia many years ago.

Actually, Martino's theory of improvisation was addressed in an important book he published in 1983. In Linear Expressions Martino introduced a system utilizing minor chords and minor line forms in improvisations over chord changes. The incorporation of this and other theoretical approaches has characterized a long career with many different aggregations. Much of his theory is available in delightful pedagogical chats available in YouTube. He describes his unique development as a musician as follows: "There are two doors to every house, front and back. The front door is the procedure for formal training. I'm self-taught and that's the back door in. The melodies I have created over 50 or so years have very little to do with scales." Out of this background has come the theory expounded in Linear Expressions.

Melodic innovations continued to titillate as the trio wound its way through the set. Performing Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" Martino fingered languorous lines that reminded me of material he played in the early 80's after re-emerging from his horrific brain illness. The final tune "Mac Tough" came out of Martino's association with Jack McDuff one of the many Hammond B3 stars he has performed with through his career.

Martino's most frequent choice these days has been the organ trio format. This is fortuitous as it affords us the greatest opportunity to view the latest ideas in his improvisational grab bag.

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