246

Pat Martino: Think Tank

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Pat Martino: Think Tank It is difficult to make mainstream jazz (hard bop, etc.) relevant in light of the subversion or destruction of its form that occurred over thirty years ago. But, as many improvisers proved, it was possible to make consistently engaging and advanced music in the hard bop idiom well after the innovations of Ornette and Cecil took hold, and though the case for it is a little tougher today, there are a number of musicians who have found something new to say with this language. It is not entirely clear from this recording whether guitarist Pat Martino has made such a case or not, but in any event, the band he has assembled for Think Tank, his fourth album for Blue Note, does have something to say.

Martino is joined here by tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash (in other words, an all-star cast of neo-boppers). The guitarist is the "old man" of the group, having recorded with Jack McDuff among others in the '60s and '70s, though a 1980 brain aneurysm curtailed his playing activity for several years until he could re-learn his instrument. Martino is a modal improviser, similar to John Abercrombie or Attila Zoller, but despite a wide harmonic vocabulary, his playing is quite pedestrian, and offers little in the way of inventiveness.

Rubalcaba is the greatest revelation here; his piano style has elements of a young Mal Waldron or Herbie Hancock (ca. Grachan Moncur III's Some Other Stuff ) in its use of minimalist repetition and an insistent left hand. There is also a subversiveness and eclecticism reminiscent of Jaki Byard. After Lovano's fairly storming solo on "Phineas Trane, Rubalcaba comes in at the slowest possible tempo, repeating sketches of a solo element, and the rhythm section appears completely oblivious to what has happened. Even ballads aren't safe territory; "Sun on My Hands, a duo for guitar and piano, finds Rubalcaba placing dense bottom-end tone clusters behind Martino's improvisations at one point, darkening the mood quite effectively.

Though not as immediately attention-getting as Rubalcaba, Lovano's tenor style is solid and effective, reminiscent of mid-'60s firebrands like Joe Henderson or Sam Rivers with a gutbucket low end and regular use of harmonics that keep his solos lively, if not groundbreaking. Unfortunately, McBride and Nash are not particularly spry, basically serving to keep time behind the explorations of Rubalcaba, Lovano and Martino. Compositionally, the up-tempo numbers are lifted straight from the Coltrane and Lee Morgan books ("Quatessence and "Earthlings are basically "Giant Steps ), though "Phineas Trane revisits Andrew Hill's "Pumpkin nicely (a rare homage indeed).

Think Tank is a pretty standard affair in the annals of modern mainstream jazz, though the group has a savior in Gonzalo Rubalcaba, whose inventiveness shows a willingness to subvert and challenge his mates. It is when the group is challenged within an idiom that that idiom can be said to be living, and for that we have players like Rubalcaba and, to a degree, Lovano. Hopefully, the rest of the group was inspired enough that their next date together will be an advance.


Track Listing: 1. The Phineas Trane; 2. Think Tank; 3. Dozen Down; 4. Sun On My Hands; 5. Africa; 6. Quatessence; 7. Before You Ask; 8. Earthlings.

Personnel: Pat Martino (guitar) Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone) Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano) Christian McBride (bass) Lewis Nash (drums)

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Second Impression" CD/LP/Track Review Second Impression
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Bactrian" CD/LP/Track Review Bactrian
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 7, 2016
Read "Leap Of Faith" CD/LP/Track Review Leap Of Faith
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 26, 2016
Read "The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A." CD/LP/Track Review The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A.
by Paul Naser
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "Storming Through the South" CD/LP/Track Review Storming Through the South
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 1, 2016
Read "Cactus" CD/LP/Track Review Cactus
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 26, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!