Aclaimed Guitar Educator and Director of the UCLA Jazz Guitar Department, Wolf Marshall celebrates the career of his good friend, Pat Martino.
Pat Martino is an individual of whom it truly can be said, “he was destined to make music.” Like his musical brethren in that regard, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, Coltrane
I first met Pat in 1976 when his recent Muse masterpiece Consciousness was still igniting fires on LA’s jazz
Released a couple of years earlier the album held a lot of musicians in awe. “Impressions,” “Along Came Betty” and his original composition “On the Stairs” were ear-catching straight ahead hard-bop performances that showcased the ferocity of his unflagging technique and powerful attack, while “Passata on Guitar” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” revealed a gentler introspective Martino purveying atypical sonorities in the chord-melody vein. The program, rounded out by “Willow,” a rare trio recording and the decidedly out (in the most ingratiating sense of the word) “Consciousness,” was enough to draw LA’s finest guitar players and jazz cognoscenti from their comfortable havens and stand in line at the Lighthouse jazz venue on the Hermosa Beach pier. Pat was then touring as a bandleader in anticipation of his Starbright record and had a stellar group that included bassist Jeff Berlin, pianist Gil Goldstein and drummer Anton Fig, legends all. He and I began a lifelong friendship that week that was enhanced and nurtured by his regular visits to LA in the late ‘70s.
He enjoyed the flood of transcriptions I shared with him, that were my Rosetta Stone of jazz guitar, meticulously done in pen-and-ink calligraphy (I was, among many things, a professional copyist at the Local 47 Musician’s Union), as well as numerous discussions into the wee hours about anything and everything from tone spaces, Elliott Carter’s dissonance and avant-garde music (which I studied at UCLA) to mathematics, espresso coffee, octave displacement and the changes to “Road Song” and “Giant Steps.” He wound up commissioning me to produce his copyrighted lead sheets and a transcription of “Prelude,” covering Starbright and Joyous Lake albums for the Library of Congress. I was rewarded many times over through contact and friendship with Pat.
Moreover, I learned how jazz happened on the guitar fingerboard by scouring the over 250 pages of Pat’s improvisations as leader and sideman I had transcribed by 1978.
It pleased me to no end when I discovered while visiting Pat in 1993 that some of these scribblings were helpful to his musical recovery from amnesia following brain surgery in 1980.
I was further gratified that Pat contributed his testimonial to my Best of Jazz Guitar book and then shared deeper musical insights while I was writing Best of Pat Martino.