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PAT MARTINO: A Tribute by Wolf Marshall



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 and Hendrix, he possesses an extraordinary level of ability and a unique vision that serves to reassemble the outer world internally and express it as high art. Beyond his well-honed technique, evolved musicianship and unmistakable sound, and the legacy of many gig nights played and even more dues paid with masters in the jazz genre, Pat crafts his artistic statements with an ever-inquisitive aesthetic mind that transforms thought into spontaneous music made in the moment.

Wolf, Pat and John Pisano 2001, Los Angeles Catalina Bar

I first met Pat in 1976 when his recent Muse masterpiece Consciousness was still igniting fires on LA’s jazz air waves.

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.

Pat at the At Neurology Center 2006, San Diego

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.

San Diego 2012 Anthology performance

Today, I am certain that my artistic perspectives were in no small part informed by the wisdom, practices, and inspiration of this remarkable musician.  And I am not alone–factor in the long list of great players who similarly claim Pat as an influence.  – Wolf Marshall

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