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Pat Martino: To Renew A Life In Jazz

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: You're looking to find what's underneath.

PM: Absolutely. I'm more concerned with reality than I am with a repetitive basic formula that will just give a skeletal framework that someone has to depart from once it has been established. That's 'education.' It's a framework that has no identity of its own, and it has no meaning of its own. And it's the individual who then departs from that structure, totally familiar with all its component parts, and moves outward in a new direction. And that is the icon, that's the innovator.

AAJ: That brings me to what I was going to ask you about J.S. Bach. I once had the privilege of having a conversation with the great choral director and Bach scholar, Helmuth Rilling. I asked him a na've question, 'What is it that you see in Bach that was so special for you?' Instantly, without batting an eye, he said 'The architecture.' I was struck by the power of his conviction about that. When I listen to your own music, I also get a feeling of architecture, of structure as central.

PM: Very much so.

AAJ: I'm curious to know if Bach's music, the baroque way of building structure, was an influence for you.

PM: It's difficult to answer that without personal feelings, due to the fact that I was listening to the Brandenberg concertos just this morning in the shower! Over there (pointing to his record collection), I can see the St. Matthew Passion. These things are part of my enjoyment of life itself, so it's a continuance of this architecture that is a part of this every day experience. And as far as architecture itself, the skeletal framework of the building itself is based upon an invisible format that holds all the parts together. So, it's not only Bach, but it's everything that everyone has ever done and will ever do. It's all subject to the same architecture. It's their solid. It's the spine of truth. It's literally how music really works. It's why everyone goes to school, because they believe in what's happening. It's an expansion of that. The only thing that I do feel I'm missing from this architecture is once again going back to its simplicity, its polarization. Here, I'm touching my keyboard. It's seven plus five. It literally can be seen as seven plus five, the white and the black. The guitar doesn't work that way. But it taught me something about why music is taught this way. And it also taught me something about the individual and the importance that each one of us has as specialists.

The specialist is the instrumentalist who has mastered through dedication on any given instrument. The educational curriculum is based on one structure alone: 'The Well-Tempered Clavier.' Bach. And there's your architecture that was formulated once and for all, but has nothing to do with any of the singular instruments that have their own identity and their own temperaments. So in this particular context, I find it extremely interesting how at this point of the evolution of social interaction, and jazz especially being encased for the sake of improvisation, the sake of spontaneity, the magic that comes about from the dimensional expansion of perception itself. The seven plus five context, the scale, major, minor, harmonic minor, and all of its derivatives with regard to up to 512 different types of scales worldwide, all of the exotic forms. Each of these is based upon addition: seven plus five, etc. It's a social language- when in Rome do as the Romans. We all study music, we learn the modes, we learn the scales. But we learn nothing about our instrument. Here, the guitar has revealed two things: the triangle and the square (the augmented and the diminished). Not the heptagon and the pentagon, as in the piano. So what the guitar does is it expands and multiplies. It's almost like Pandora's box. It opens the door to all things pouring out all at once, as opposed to sequentially. In this context, I want to find these 'secrets' that transcend the social language of music to a higher level of continuity. I find that to be the most powerful thing to offer to the master class.

AAJ: You want the master class to discover the essence of the guitar, what it can generate.

PM: Exactly.

AAJ: It also suggests a method of composing.

PM: As Villa Lobos has proven.

AAJ: Last night, I heard the pianist Leon Fleisher in recital at the Curtis Institute. He played a transcription of the Bach violin partita movement, the 'Chaconne.' He played a piano transcription, but with great power and control, so it had the quality of an organ piece. The point is that Bach's music is more readily transcribed among instruments than some other composers. I suppose that comes from the fact that he worked with an underlying set of principles, rather than for a specific instrument.

PM: That's interesting. I see a figure, and I see myself walking around that figure, seeing it from many different angles.

AAJ: Like a hologram.

PM: Now that you've seen the complexity, it might be worth going back to your initial question, so that I could answer it more simplistically, namely, that I bring in two things, the augmented three and the diminished four.

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