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Exclusive JGT Review: Benedetto Pat Martino Guitar

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Brad Jeter reviews a very unique guitar that was developed with the input of a very unique player, Pat Martino. JGT’s Benedetto Pat Martino guitar review.

I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room. This is decidedly not a Les Paul-style guitar—far from it. If a comparison is to be made, upon closer examination, it has lines closer to an L5S and that is superfluous at best. Pat Martino played Gibson L5S in the late 70s and was featured on the cover of Guitar Player in 1977 with one. Gibson later developed a Pat Martino model that took many queues from the L5S but was far more refined and playable. Although, arguably, an aesthetic beauty, the L5S just wasn’t a great guitar (my option). It was heavy (maple body, maple neck, and ebony board) and it was not very well balanced on a strap. Even though it was a flagship solid body, it was indicative of the Norlin-era Gibsons as far as quality (or lack thereof). Later, Gibson developed a Pat Martino model that took many queues from the L5S but was far more refined and playable. 

Pat Martino worked closely with Benedetto on the design of the guitar being reviewed.

The Benedetto Pat Martino Model – all photos by Brad Jeter

That brings us to the unboxing of the Benedetto Pat Martino. Straight out of the box, I couldn’t play it. Let me explain. Benedetto will set this guitar up as Pat Martino preferred and played it. I am but a mere mortal. Honestly, the string gauge and selection is a bit on the stiff side (understatement). Flatwound and extremely heavy. Again, Pat was quite a unique player and, like his take on theory, the string choice he made was unconventional. With Benedetto’s blessing, I changed the strings to .11-.48 and transformed the instrument for me. Not subtly but transformative. It instantly made me fall for this guitar in a big way.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me give you some details. This is a chambered guitar. I don’t know the specifics of how this is manifested but provides a very resonant, lighter-than-expected body that balances nicely on a strap and will not test your stamina.

As expected with an instrument of this pedigree and quality, the material choices are top-tier.

The maple top is gorgeous and the fretboard is straight-grained and naturally dark without any indication of dye. This, combined with flawless construction by skilled luthiers, makes for a heritage-quality instrument that will last for generations of players. Not only world-class but world-class defining.

The top carve is deceptively deep and is apparent when viewed from the side. I wouldn’t describe it as a “deep dish” carve, rather, it is a more subtle gradation. Also of note and, speculation on my part, but I believe the top carve places the “meat” of the body squarely under the bridge/tailpiece area for maximum timbre integrity and sustain. Subtle considerations such as this reveal the depth of the luthier’s understanding of how all the parts of the puzzle fit together toward the goal of perfection.

This leads me to the fretwork. Again, in the pursuit of perfection, fretwork is something that seems so simple but is so deceptively difficult. I have done my fair share of fretwork (including refretting vintage 50s Les Pauls, Strats, and Telecasters) and I can attest to how something as seemingly simple as placing a linear piece of metal in slots up and down the fretboard is where you can get into trouble quickly. The fret choice, installation, and finish on the Benedetto Pat Martino and some of the finest I have seen. It is flawless. For the critical eye, many times, the fret ends on the bass side of instruments above the 14th fret on single-cut instruments is not consistent. It is understandable for several reasons (i.e., your thumb is never coming in contact with them). That is simply not the case here: good enough is, well, not good enough. They (the bass side fret ends) are consistent all the way to the 22nd fret. Necessary? Not to some but to the luthiers at Benedetto, an absolute necessity because it is the right way to do it. Believe me, that is no easy feat.


As expected, the level of fit and finish (crown and polishing) leads to an action that is precise (intonation) and buttery under the fingers.

Even with heavier gauge strings, bending notes, wether vibrato or pitch is effortless. As an aside, when I changed the string gauge (and it was a radical change) the intonation stayed spot on.

The neck carve should feel comfortable to just about anyone. It immediately feels “right” with good depth and a gradual increase (almost imperceptible) up the neck. This is satisfying, in my opinion, from Freddy Green compers to Benson-style speedsters and all points in-between. In other words, if you want to blaze, have at it! The Benedetto Pat Martino is up to the challenge.

One other thing. This is a very capable hybrid. I think it also will be of great interest to rockers. It can hang with any solid body and with aplomb. We’ll get to how it sounds plugged in shortly.

As I mentioned earlier, it is a very comfortable guitar in hand and hanging from a strap. Part of this overall vibe is the nicely contoured belly cut. Again (I sound like a broken record) the design is incredibly functional. The magic is always in the details, even the subtle ones.

The tuners are locking style and adjustable (which I highly recommend tweaking—not just this instrument but any that incorporate them). You can certainly set them too tight or too loose but it’s a very easy adjustment to make with a screwdriver.

I noticed no string “gripping” at the nut. I have seen so many guitars over the decades that just needed a bit of TLC with the nut slots. It isn’t difficult but it does take finesse and experience to cut and finish a nut slot properly. Nothing worse than that “ping!” of a string catching and then releasing while tuning. There is no excuse for that other than laziness. 


One last observation about the aesthetics. The finish is relatively thin and very consistent. I could not find even a micro-flaw anywhere. This includes the difficult areas especially where the neck and top meet. This has nothing to do with how the instrument plays or sounds but does have everything to do with the level of quality the builder wants the world to see with their work.

And now the really fun part: plugging in. If it wasn’t already exemplary, I wasn’t quite expecting what bloomed when I put it through a series of amps and pedals. Amps were a 1966 Deluxe Reverb, 1978 Princeton Reverb and a 1987 Bedrock BR1200 combo. Spoiler: This guitar will be right at home with rockers, fusion, and more traditional jazz players. It does it all with aplomb. Maybe ultra-snob big jazz box players will acknowledge but ultimately dismiss its tone but that is 1% of the 1%. My first impression was how even the pickups were. There was no harshness to be found, rather, both the bridge and neck pickup were full-bodied, articulate and never displaying any spikiness or dissonant harmonic content. Overtones, especially when overdriven, were natural and augmentative. Are big chords clean? Lush and balanced. Clean lead tones (including double stops and the like) rang true and still maintain dynamic range that tracks picking variations wonderfully.

I grew up with rock gods as my heroes. All the usual suspects initially then I discovered the likes of Wishbone Ash (Argus with Andy and Ted), Buck Dharma with BOC and one of my biggest influences, Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe. Revisiting some of those songs with the Benedetto left me smiling. Unfortunately, I then discovered Al DiMeola and that pretty much ruined my life. Being left-handed but playing righty, I could never get his picking technique no matter how hard I tried. I was fine until he pulled out the Mutola technique and then I floundered—miserably. I guess the only consolation was that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t.

I am willing to speculate that just about any player of almost any genre that is in search of the perfect humbucker guitar for studio or live work will be impressed.

I would surmise by now you realize how much I have enjoyed my time with the guitar. It was inspirational and satisfying every time I picked it up.

If you get a chance to get one in your hands, don’t judge it if it came set-up with Pat’s preferred string gauge!

I understand the tribute aspect to letting the world know how Pat preferred things but, he was Pat and was a wholly unique person and player.

In conclusion, this is one of the finest instruments out there that covers a lot of sonic territory. Impeccably built, supremely versatile, and just a joy to play.

Epilogue:

I had two personal encounters with Pat Martino. The first was a seminar and he provided everyone in attendance with a binder of his unique approach to theory. I have an easier time wrapping my head around Quantum Field Theory. He was generous with his time and patience explaining the finer points of how he arrived at his unique vision. I watched Apollo 11 blast off to the moon at Cape Kennedy when I was 13. I didn’t understand the physics and engineering but nevertheless was gobsmacked by what I witnessed. I feel the same way about Pat and every other highly advanced player: I don’t need to understand the how and why to appreciate the experience.

The second encounter was years later when he had a gig at an intimate jazz club that held maybe 100 people. He had to have a Marshall 4X12 cab! He was insistent and the club owner contacted me in a bit of a panic. I brought one to the club and Pat was happy, the owner was happy, and, that evening, those in attendance were happy.


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