In Part I of this article series honoring Pat Martino, jazz guitarist Fareed Haque discusses tone, feel and those lines! And provides some great audio examples.
It’s November 2021. A few days ago we lost one of the greats in Jazz – Pat Martino. Not only a jazz guitar great, which he certainly IS but also a JAZZ great, an important figure in the history of modern jazz for many reasons….some of which I’ll outline here, from my own perspective.
Photo above: Fareed Haque, his son and Pat Martino
Pat and I were acquainted, played with a lot of the same folks, and so I got to know him through the years, both from anecdotes and personal experience. He came out to NIU in 2006, and we hung hard, two bottles of red and a few cocktails before the jam session, serving as proof.
…and of course, Pat has always been MY jazz guitar hero, my ideal, my source of inspiration, and a deep well for the study of both the craft and art of improvised American music on the guitar.
I learned of Pat Martino thru my Mom. Yep. I guess she went to the local record store and asked for some records for her son who was getting into guitar. What did this mystery record store clerk suggest??
BRIGHT SIZE LIFE – Pat Metheny
ELEGANT GYPSY – Al DiMeola
JOYOUS LAKE – Pat Martino
Not a bad start, MOM!
I loved, and ‘got’ BRIGHT SIZE LIFE, and ELEGANT GYPSY right away. They were musically great, but harmonically [The chords and melodies] were comparatively simple. JOYOUS LAKE however didn’t make any sense to me. It took a few years of listening to modern jazz – Trane, McCoy, Wayne, Miles, etc – to understand and fall completely in love with Martino’s tone, feel, lines and compositions.
Chops, Lines, Blues and Modern Pentatonics, Diminished and Chromatic harmonies but most of all – Swing!!! What a feel Pat has!!!
My thesis is that Pat is the only major jazz guitarist to move from the traditional BeBop and Blues approach to a modern pentatonic/modal approach to jazz without abandoning the traditional jazz guitar sound and feel. (Some notable exceptions would be Joe Diorio and Sonny Greenwich.)
The greatest innovators in JAZZ have almost always come FROM and THRU the tradition.
Here’s a shortlist:
Miles Davis – From Charlie Parker to his own great quintets to experimentation with funk and beyond…what jazz innovator could be more connected to the heart and the soul of the jazz tradition?
Wayne Shorter – with Blakey and Miles before forming Weather Report and so many other incredible musical milestones.
Joe Zawinul – from Nancy Wilson to Cannonball, to Miles THEN on to Weather Report, Zawinul Syndicate
Chick Corea – from Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz to MILES and then Return to Forever and so many more amazing projects.
Herbie Hancock – Hancock started his career with trumpeter Donald Byrd’s group. He shortly thereafter joined the Miles Davis Quintet, and later on, experimented and defined in many ways the funk fusion genre of jazz.
John Coltrane – Of course extensive classic recordings in a bop/post-bop style before leaving Miles’ group to do his own thing.
Billy Cobham – classical performances and recordings with Horace Silver before moving into jazz fusion with Miles Davis’s albums Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. In 1971, he and guitarist John McLaughlin left Davis to start the Mahavishnu Orchestra and redefined fusion forever!
Tony Williams – You don’t get more in the tradition than playing with Miles! After that Tony Williams Lifetime and so many other modern projects that in many ways defined both jazz and fusion drumming
McCoy Tyner joined The Jazztet led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer. Six months later, he joined the quartet of John Coltrane that included Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. McCoy could play the most gorgeous bebop on the piano and thru and after his time with ‘Trane re-invented the harmonic language of modern jazz, never leaving the traditional acoustic jazz piano.
Do I need to keep going?? ALL of the great innovators in jazz came from and thru the jazz tradition, did not go around it.
The same cannot be said of most in the JAZZ GUITAR WORLD. OK, I’m going to go into some history and some distinctions, but please don’t beat me up for describing distinctions between players and styles – in NO WAY am I criticizing or lessening the musical brilliance of any of the great musicians discussed below!
Wes, Grant Green, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, ALL GREAT, and ALL more or less stayed in the 50s and early 60s harmonic and rhythmic language, stylistically and musically, throughout their respective careers. Even the great George Benson [as a guitarist, not a singer/pop star] has also stayed well entrenched in the bebop and chittlin’ circuit OGD music of his early days; the jazz language he uses is a Blues/bebop language and rarely if at all does he leave that language.
Check out GB with Miles Paraphernalia ♫ Miles Davis Ft. George Benson. GB is clearly not comfortable with the genre and the harmonic language.
Miles cuts George off, and it’s a weak moment in the track. Even numerous YouTube comments pick up GB’s discomfort with ‘modern more chromatic jazz’.
Wes has a classic version of Impressions, which is a wonderful take on the tune. Comparing Pat and Wes’ versions, one can hear clearly the exclusively diatonic approach Wes takes as opposed to Pat’s much more harmonically adventuresome approach
Here is Pat’s version of Impressions from his album Consciousness. The use of chords in 4ths [ala McCoy Tyner], chromatics, pentatonics, and altered harmonies are all present in his solo…Both Trane and Tyner often foreshadow keys and chord changes in their solos, leading into a new key with lines from the new key, something Pat also does a few times in this solo.
Of the few bebop guitarists around in the 60s and 70s to move to a modern jazz approach, almost all of them, with very few exceptions, abandoned the traditional jazz sound for a rock/blues ‘fusion tone’ and approach.
Coryell, McLaughlin, both thoroughly modern players, rarely used a traditional jazz sound in the 60s and 70s [Though both have occasionally returned to a more traditional sound and approach later in their careers]. And while both play incredibly well, well…PAT is SO SWINGIN’!!
Check out John’s lovely but certainly rocking, not swinging, tune based on Trane’s Giant Steps, GREAT PLAYING, but certainly, we have left the traditional tone and feel of jazz guitar. Not a criticism at ALL, I LOVE this track, but an accurate observation IMO.
Coryell, 1969 – Very cool record, but drawing more on rock n roll and Jimi Hendrix than jazz guitar.
Here’s both Coryell and McLaughlin on the Spaces album, 1970. Out There! and Great, but not really Swingin’ jazz guitar anymore is it?
Even the great, gentle spirit John Abercrombie embraced a Les Paul and Distortion in the 70s and beyond, here with my boss Bill Cobham. Check out Johns Solo 14:55. Killin’!!!! But not really bebop or jazz anymore.
At the same time, This is what PAT is playing: Special Door from ‘Live’
An even clearer example of Pat’s flow from Bebop to Blues to Modern Jazzis his album Desperado, using a 12 string guitar given to him by a friend, this dates from 1970, the same year when Coryell and McLaughlin are playing and recording Spaces.
An incredible modern composition using pentatonics, augmented and diminished ideas, chromatic substitutions, and all that funky bluesy sh@#$%t!! and then, the same album!!!!
Incredibly difficult, and swinging, BeBop and Modern lines from Pat just after he was taking it ‘all the way out’…
Not long after, we hear Pat on Warner Bros Records, recording the legendary, classic Joyous Lake – a fusion album, but one of the few [maybe ONLY!] fusion guitar albums with a more or less traditional jazz guitar tone throughout. A little distortion and t-wah used to good effect, but Flat wound strings, Blues, BeBop, Pentatonic, Augmented Diminished, and Chromatic Lines all seamlessly blending into a melodic, grooving whole.
So we can see that Pat follows the trend of piano/vibe players like McCoy, Herbie, Chick, Keith, and Joe Zawinul as well as Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton – All rhythm section players who could comp, solo, and swing in traditional and modern styles, and who remained connected to the jazz tradition[s] of their respective instruments. This is completely different from most modern jazz guitarists from Pat’s generation, who embraced rock and blues axes – Strats, 335s, Les Pauls and Distortion, Sustain, and other effects.
In Part II we will discuss Pat’s unique voice. Unlike so many other important guitarists of Pat’s generation who played in either a straight-ahead or modern style, Pat played in BOTH. In this Pat is unique and important to guitarists particularly, but also to jazz musicians in general.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Fareed Haque’s tribute to Pat Martino – A Historical and Musical Perspective
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