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Celebrating The Artistry Of Pat Martino



Remembering Pat Martino on his birthday (August 25), JGT contributor Joe Barth shares interviews from the jazz guitar community.

August 25, 1944 – November 1, 2021

Pat Martino (born Patrick Carmen Azzara) was one of the most dominant voices in jazz guitar.  Born on August 25, 1944, in Philadelphia, he died in the same city on November 1, 2021.  In 1980, Pat suffered a hemorrhaged arteriovenous malformation leaving him with amnesia and no recollection or knowledge of his career or how to play the guitar. He had to completely relearn how to play and came back to be as powerful of a player as before.  Known for his virtuosic technique, his lines were delivered with a machine gun-like fire yet were so musically satisfying. I draw upon my many interviews with the giants of jazz guitar as they celebrate how Pat has advanced the art form.

Pure Virtuosity

Jimmy Bruno… This is a classic Pat Martino solo.  (pause) There’s a Charlie Parker lick.  You wouldn’t hear him play the same augmented thing today.  His sound today is not as dark or thick as it used to be.  This recording (El Hombre) set the guitar world on ear.  Why?  His technique and the endless melodic invention with the repeated 1/8 notes without repeating himself.  Another thing would be his attack which is so even.  Before that, guys would play like a saxophone with legato phrasing and his would-be staccato.  As his playing developed over the years, he has gotten more staccato.  

Royce Campbell… Pat’s technique is so awesome and absolutely clean.  On my 6×6 recording sessions, as I was playing next to him, I was worried that it sounded as if I had no technique at all (laughter).  Pat is such a nice guy he put me at ease as soon as we met.  Pat has a confidence about him that wasn’t just about himself but the rest of the band as well.  So, what happens is that the musicians around Pat play better with him than when they are not playing with him.  Miles Davis was another musician that has this same quality.  Other musicians feel immediately that Pat feels that they will do great as well as soon as they are playing with them.   Of all the guitar players I had on my 6×6 album, Pat was the most intimidating.  I have always thought of him as a guitar “god.” But he immediately put me and everyone else at ease.  I love his 1/16 note double time lines.  

Dave Stryker… When I heard Pat Martino’s recordings Live and Consciousness the fire I heard in his playing really drew me into jazz.  Coming from rock and blues I really connected with his playing. His fast lines and hip lines really influenced me.  No one plays 1/8 notes as Pat does.  The way he builds his solos on Live just lifts me off my seat.  I also love his Exit album.

The fluidity of his lines

Bobby Bloom… Pat has that urban rhythmic edge that I was so drawn to.  There is a pointedness and definitiveness to the way that he makes musical statements.  He wasn’t just streaming a lot of notes together.  He was accurately focusing his ideas together.  He is a very different player than George (Benson) but also impacted me just as deeply.  When I was about 15 I was able to take about six lessons from Pat and deeply appreciate what I learned from him.

His Vision for the guitar and music

Bill Frisell… Listening to all this makes me want to go and practice.  From what I do today, you probably would never know that I would listen to Pat Martino for hours and hours.  The album Footprints was so influential.  I was able to see him a number of years ago when I was living in Boston.  Then just a few months ago I went to hear him in Seattle and again, he just blew my mind with what he was doing. With Pat, there is this kind of thing in his architecture and choice of notes and power in the rhythm that is just awesome.  He has this openness to all music.  He is the hardest swinging jazz player but there is so much other information going on in his music. I have never come even close to being able to play a line like that.  It gives me something to think about.  I try to (laughter)!

How He was able to Recover from His Amnesia

Rodney Jones… He has a very expansive philosophical approach to the guitar and has inspired me to look above the current guitar horizon.  He is one of the legends of the art form.  Then think of what he went through physically when he had to rebuild his memory.  It was like he climbed Mount Everest, fell back to the bottom, and then climbed it again.  That speaks a lot about who he is as a person.  I have nothing but love and respect for Pat Martino

How He Conceived Music in His Mind

Sheryl Bailey… In Pittsburgh when I was fifteen, Mark Koch (a teacher at Duquesne University) was my guitar teacher and he is a disciple of Pat Martino. Mark would show me some of his notes from Pat’s lessons.  Pat has his own way of looking at music and identifying his terms.  It is different than maybe how you would learn it at Berklee but it was the way Pat learned it.

His Sense of Time

Randy Johnston… He is one of my all-time favorites.  Like George Benson, he has a great time feel.  It swings and is always in the groove.  I also love how he forms his lines. He is different than the Boston guitar players.  One of the first great jazz guitar albums I wore out was Pat’s Consciousness.   

Steve Khan… Pat was only fifteen years old when he broke on the scene. Pat’s time feel is so metronomic and very aggressive. It exists in its own very exacting place. It is so perfect sounding, because of the religious adherence to alternate picking. If one loves the elasticity of jazz, you almost wouldn’t want to like it, but it just swings so hard that it becomes irresistible.

As a Composer

Sheryl Bailey… I was really into Pat Martino.  He is such a complete package.  We all know that he is a master of the guitar, but he is also a great composer.  I love some of his earlier tunes but also some of his later ones like on the Think Tank album.  I don’t think he gets his due as a composer.  He is very creative.  It is more than just being a great guitarist.  What he presents to the public is so deep. This aspect of Pat has really influenced me.

Born August 25, 1944, Jazz Guitar Today celebrates Pat’s birthday. Check out other PAT MARTINO articles and tributes online HERE.

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