All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

1

Pat Martino Trio at Mount Vernon Country Club

Douglas Groothuis By

Sign in to view read count
Pat Martino Trio
Mount Vernon Country Club
Golden, Colorado
February 18, 2016

Musical greatness and human fragility mixed uneasily on February 18, 2016, when Pat Martino and his trio worked their magic at the Mount Vernon Country Club high in Golden, Colorado. The performance was grand, but the conditions were unwelcoming. A strange drama unfolded.

Martino, a jazz guitar virtuoso, has been a driving force in jazz since the middle of the 1960s when he established himself as a leading hard bop player even while only a teenager. After suffering a nearly-fatal brain aneurism in 1980, his ability to play guitar vanished, as did much of his previous life. But nurtured by his parents and gifted therapists, Martino relearned his craft, partially by listening to and copying his own guitar playing from his records. His comeback is documented in the 1987 recording, The Return, which is also available on DVD as Live at Ethel's Place. Martino had performed under his birth name, Pat Assura, several times to warm up. But this time it was Pat Martino. I hear from knowledgeable friends that the venue was filled to overflowing, mostly with musicians, since he is a guitarist's guitarist. It was a return to undiminished greatness. The band had not rehearsed, but grooved together stunningly. Pat was back as if he had never left.

That was almost thirty years ago, and Martino has not slowed down. He has instead increased his momentum by recording and performing prodigiously, often in organ trios. For the last four or five years, Martino has performed with two much younger bandmates, Pat Bianchi on B3 organ and Carmen Intorre on drums. Chicago's Jazz Showcase featured them in the summer of 2012. I flew there from Denver and joyfully beheld their four shows over two nights. Never had we been so elated through music. I asked Pat when he last did a concert in Denver. He could not remember. But it was at Mount Vernon Country Club, as he mentioned during this show. His present organist, Pat Bianchi, was in that audience in 2005.

I eagerly anticipated another rendezvous with greatness. I attended with three friends, two of whom knew little about jazz. Older men with beards were common in the audience of about one hundred and fifty people. I guess the average age was about fifty, thus highlighting the need to bring the gift of jazz to the ill-served youth of America. Many there came early for a fine dinner buffet before the performance. The venue was a warm, wooden room that overlooked Denver. In fact, it overlooked mile-high Denver by quite a bit. I felt the altitude after walking up the steps. Pat Martino felt the altitude as well. When Pat and his band walked on the slightly-elevated stage, he looked fragile—and a bit out of character wearing a baseball cap. He looked at the audience, hesitated a bit, and said slowly, "I don't know what to say, but I am dealing with the altitude." His younger charges were not, apparently. Bianchi looked at him with a hint of concern. Pat took some deep breaths—and I was terrified. Someone yelled, "Take your time, Pat." A few elongated seconds passed before Pat counted out the first tune, after which the band quickly ascended into the stratosphere.

When I saw Pat in Chicago, he played with little expression, focusing on his nimble hands and fret board. Yet his face recorded the throb that his music offered him and he sometimes smiled at us. But for this set, Pat looked a touch pensive, often catching his breath while playing and between tunes. After he finished soloing on the first tune, he laid out for Bianchi's organ solo. This worried me, since I did not remember him doing this in Chicago. Even without Pat's (unparalleled) comping, Bianchi and Carmen kept swinging madly. The joyful musical drama was overlaid by an unwanted drama of oxygen deprivation. I found myself praying the whole concert.

The journeyman rejoined the tune to finish the first number. Pat played the rest of the one-hour concert with the flawless fire and fluid grace that only Pat Martino can muster. The trios repertoire featured Martino trademarks and jazz standards, all backed brilliantly by Bianchi and Intorre. Pat surprised me when he played a hard swinging rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" just after he played a slow and soulful rendition. Someone in the audience laughed at this, expressing what I was feeling. Who would have expected that? Jazz is always "the sound of surprise," as Whitney Baillet put it. My two young jazz novice friends were more than impressed with Pat Martino. They were awestruck with delight, which was fitting. They were witnessing the enchantment of jazz at its zenith.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Interviews
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
New York Beat
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
  • Nexus by Victor L. Schermer
Read more articles
Formidable

Formidable

HighNote Records
2017

buy
Nexus

Nexus

HighNote Records
2016

buy
Alone Together

Alone Together

HighNote Records
2012

buy
 

Undeniable: Live at...

HighNote Records
2012

buy
Undeniable

Undeniable

HighNote Records
2012

buy
Pat Martino Quartet: Undeniable

Pat Martino Quartet:...

HighNote Records
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center Live Reviews
Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 18, 2018
Read Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre Live Reviews
Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Hitch On 2017 Live Reviews
Hitch On 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: February 17, 2018
Read WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018 Live Reviews
WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 16, 2018
Read Chick Corea/Steve Gadd Band At Blues Alley Live Reviews
Chick Corea/Steve Gadd Band At Blues Alley
by David Hadley Ray
Published: February 14, 2018
Read Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Sculler's Jazz Club Live Reviews
Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Sculler's Jazz...
by Nat Seelen
Published: February 13, 2018
Read "Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat Metheny Commission Highlights Uppsala International Guitar Festival" Live Reviews Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat...
by John Ephland
Published: November 1, 2017
Read "Daniel Bennett Group at Tomi Jazz" Live Reviews Daniel Bennett Group at Tomi Jazz
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Berlin Jazzfest 2017" Live Reviews Berlin Jazzfest 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 13, 2017