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Pat Martino: To Renew A Life In Jazz

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: That's very beautiful. One of the top psychiatrists in the trauma field, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, has emphasized the importance of play and playfulness in recovery from trauma.

PM: You can't attain that as an 'adult'- that's your childish self, the self that has been subdued by our social and cultural demands. The part of you that wants to ride that bicycle, and culture will not allow you to do this, because you have to be at work at 9 o'clock. All of these things subdue the healing element.

AAJ: That's a way of saying how much the social neurosis operates in our lives.

PM: Of course. When you were born, you were exactly where you were supposed to be and how you were supposed to be. Just as you are now. (Chuckles')

AAJ: That also fits with the Zen idea that the true self is beyond words, beyond memory, desire, and understanding. There is a self, a being, a presence that exists prior to all that. You had a chance to access that self (or non-self, as some say) in a very direct way and use it to heal.

PM: Yes. I step back and look at dissonance and consonance, I look at my self, I look at my ego looking at the same central point of value, truthfulness, and purpose. And it's an amazing experience.


AAJ: We're getting into the area of spirituality. You've praised Coltrane for the way his spirituality was present in his music and vice-versa. You seem to have a similar kind of striving.

PM: Very much so.

AAJ: Do you have a specific philosophy, meditative practice, and/or religious preference?

PM: I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. I went to parochial school until tenth grade, then to public high school. I then went out to Harlem, and the only thing that was transcendental during that period of transition in Harlem was love. Love came from the people who found it necessary to watch over me. Being where I was, as young as I was, with so little experience, I noticed their concern and their compassion. And it transcended any kind of financial attainment and achievement with regard to judgmental critique on behalf of the magazines, the record companies. The one thing was that they cared. I learned how important it was to care for others. To go out of my way. To make the moment magical. To do something loveable was to provide love within myself. When that started to take place, what I had sought from religion itself became unnecessary to find in the midst of its rituals. It became unnecessary to seek in the community for this. It became more of an active element of life itself. It's hard to say 'spiritual.' It is spiritual but at the same time it's loving life itself. It has its moments of forgetfulness. Those are the moments that it becomes spiritual. Only those moments. Because those are the moments that labels for what it stands for re-reveal themselves due to prior interests.

When I'm feeling the power of love itself, and I'm feeling the fulfillment and joy of my own life at that very moment, I'm feeling what I refer to as God. I'm feeling what I refer to as love, the love of all things. I'm feeling what I refer to as 'I Am,' the Name of God, in the biblical sense. I'm feeling at that moment that I Am what I want, where I want to be. When I'm not in that plane, when I'm humanized, so to speak, then it's necessary to use such words as God. As love. In fact, any words. And these things bring the importance to focus on what is most important to me, my true self. Even though I may not be able to come into the mess that I've created, I must be Conscious in the midst of what I've created myself.

These are issues that I see in a more mechanistic context in terms of the senses. And that's where spiritualism and religion are necessities.

AAJ: To transcend the senses?

PM: Yes. This is really where it's at. This is what makes it so beautiful and so joyful. It's when this succumbs to other necessities that it is the constant.

AAJ: So you see spirituality in life, not so much in a specific set of beliefs or practices?

PM: Yes, in life. It's similar to 'A Course in Miracles.' And that is one of the sources that I find extremely applicable whenever I'm blinded.

AAJ: So you use 'A Course in Miracles?'

PM: I use 'A Course in Miracles.' I use the Bible. I use the Koran. I use the I Ching. I use the Kabbalah. I use Annie Besant's 'The Ancient Wisdom.' I use all these things that remind me of the truthfulness of creative mobility.


AAJ: To lighten things up a bit, I've always wondered whether an accomplished jazz musician such as yourself continues to use a daily warmup and practice.

PM: To some degree, but it's extremely important to maintain ones relationship to ones favorite toy. And my favorite toy is the guitar. (Chuckles.) And the joy of it comes from holding it in my hands, and playing with it and fiddling with it. And I need to do that daily. I do that unconsciously. I awaken in the morning and have a cup of tea or coffee, and I pick up the guitar, put it on my lap, and I just activate it with my hand, just like a boxer who punches a bag to keep his muscles up. I do that, sipping on my coffee, while hearing a word or two on radio. And it all happens spontaneously.


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