Featured artist: PAT MARTINO
Martino played to a full house for the 2006 version of the Montreal
Jazz Festival. R. J. DeLuke spoke
to Pat about his life and music.
Pat Martino, he of the quicksilver fingers, the intuitive genius,
the beauty of tone, is the type of artist that makes other guitarists
shake their heads. But there are other things at work in the magical
process. We’re not talking about whether the piano is in tune.
Not the sound of the drummer. Not the quality of a sideman’s solo.
guitar is an extension of his life, and appears to have always
been that. He loves the feel, sound, look and touch of the instrument.
“My favorite toy,” the 62-year-old calls it with the honesty of
different for each of us. For me personally, nothing works other
than me. I work and I enjoy doing what I do because I always do
the best I possibly can. No matter what takes place, I know that
things are going to work out. My intention is to amplify self-esteem
in as many ways as I possibly can. Working is doing the best under
him in a club is to know that. And hearing his latest CD, the
wonderful Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery is to realize
the guitarist is special. An homage to one of his greatest influences,
the ten-cut disc is a treat from start to finish. He’s rightfully
proud of it. But it doesn’t define him. In this cluttered world
of intolerance and trouble and George Bush, his music shines through;
an oasis for the soul weary. Pat Martino—having come through life-threatening
illness; having come through a brain aneurysm so devastating that
in its aftermath he didn’t even remember he was one of the great
jazz guitarists; didn’t even remember friends and family— smiles
through both the art of the music, and the smothering dysfunction
of existence in the new millennium.
calm. He sees things differently. He copes. All that he has been
through has been his road to that point of being at peace.
example would be being at the airport, on my way out to one of
the spots on the tour, and being subject to security and standing
in a line that’s ferocious in terms of its demands upon patience
and endurance and tolerance,” he says with a knowing calm. “So
here, in terms of what I find myself in under those moments, when
I’m clear of mind and intention, I find myself amidst one of the
greatest studies of virtue there can be. And that is rewarding.
So I stand there and try to remain as neutral as I possibly can
and feel good about it. It’s a re-shaping of something that is
very fluid and takes the shape of whatever you pour it into. That’s
healthy. I like that.”
with Martino makes the immediate impression that it is a discussion
with a deep thinker; a man who is living in the same reality,
but looking at it from a different angle, and comfortable in his
has always been latent as a blessing of its own accord,” he says.
“It has been second nature to me as an ecstasy of its own nature.
When it comes to craftsmanship, with regard to being a musician—or
an electrician or an attorney, any of these crafts that are in
a social context; functional—I see these as one and the same.
As a responsibility to participate with values, in terms of interacting
socially with other human beings, other individuals.
when it comes down to the intention of the individual that utilizes
that particular instrument, which is their craft, their intentions
determine their reasons for what they do, and in most cases transcend
the nature of the craft itself. It’s very much similar to: If
I were to be totally consumed by the process of musicianship itself,
I then would be subject to what most musicians are subject to:
a responsibility of practicing each and every day for a number
of hours. And I did, when I was younger, due to lack of experiences
in a deeper sense.
many of us see it that way. We see it different than a tool, a
communication tool. And we see it as a career that is subject
to competitive demand. We have to compete. To do so we have to
really constantly replenish our physical abilities. That’s what
practice is all about. On the other hand we have an automobile
that we drive. And we never practice putting the key in the ignition.
Nor do we practice the gas pedal or the brake or anything else
in that particular tool. We don’t even think about it until we
have a destination to use it for. That’s what guitar is to me,
similarly. Primarily because it’s second nature to me, just like
that automobile is. At some point down the line that, too, happened
to music itself… It brings me into the opportunity of interacting
with others, and some precious moments.”
all comes to fruition of its own accord, without prior intentions.
Sometimes it seems like intentions prior to now, prior to the
moment—in other words constructing something for the future, leads
toward disappointment in many cases.”
is a musician of the moment, a key element of jazz. The guitar
is the tool he used to communicate, and he remains fascinated
with it, just as he was as a child when he would sit down and
figure out how it worked. The same wide-eyed wonderment he must
have had when he moved from Philadelphia to Harlem at the age
of 15 to find out more about the music and join in the cooperative
of the people who were making the important sounds of the time—sounds
that are still the cornerstone of what is played today.
conversation was politefully disrupted for a time in order for
the musician to answer his door. An obviously happy Martino returns.
“I was waiting for this guitar to come in from Gibson. That’s
what it was. FedEx. It’s very exciting. It’s like a little boy
with a new toy,” he says with a chuckle.
type of élan is refreshing. It just happens to be the spirit of
the music that can be heard on his Wes Montgomery tribute, a cooking
album of songs from the Wes songbook.
met the guitar legend when he was fourteen, introduced in a club
by his father, who sang in Philly nightclubs. “At that particular
age, I had not as of yet experienced participating as a professional
in the craft. I still remained within a dreamlike state of perception
when it came to the definitive meaning of people in general. Wes
Montgomery was the warmest person I had met until that time. So
I wasn’t really moved as a professional musician, in terms of
his artistic presence — although I was completely overwhelmed
by his dexterity. I was moved more than anything by the warmth
in this particular individual. And that opened up a completely
different motif in upcoming definitions of what was important
the tribute “a very honest one” and music “a pool of respect for
a great artist. It was literally like a lake, where those particular
topics reside within. If you go swim in that lake, it’s gonna
really swing. Those tunes were hard core Wes Montgomery prior
to his marketing success.”
feel that Montgomery left the realm of mainstream jazz for more
commercial music. Martino doesn’t see that as a bad thing in that
case. He feels Montgomery pulled off things like Beatles covers,
“wonderfully, I really do. I have preferences with regard to my
own tastes. I think to run the gamut is respectful in itself with
regard to how many ways his creative ingenuity provided success
at all times.”
here, however. The band—David Kikoski, piano; John Patitucci,
bass; Scott Allan Robinson, drums; Danny Sadownick, percussion—cooks
from beginning to end. The groove is happening at all times, whether
swinging like mad or on the two ballads.
We were very excited about it. I think it had something to do
with respect, due to the fact that the motif was based upon authenticity.
That had a great deal to do with the effect it had on each of
us — to try to remain as concrete as possible with regard to reanimating
that particular segment of our culture.”
disc kicks in right from the start with “Four On Six” which highlights
the deep swing of the album. Not only is Martino nimble and hip,
but Kikoski is locked in, tearing it up. The pianist is one of
the heroes of the album, his playing superb throughout, light
and nimble, yet ballsy and groovin’. Like Martino. And the rhythm
sections digs and lays it out for the both the soloists and the
whole musical concept. “Twisted Blues” cooks. “West Coast Blues”
is like a ride along the Pacific highway. “If I Should Lose You”
gets a ballad treatment that is dirge like in tempo, but never
maudlin. Martino squeezes out notes that hang in the air and deliver
the heartfelt sentiment of the song without anything mawkish.
The whole thing is a gas.
says there will be some touring done in support of the disc this
the recording experience was profound, part of “ongoing re-ordering
of my lack of retainment-type of memory after the operations”
which, in turn, “demanded that I go back and evaluate and analyze
as much as possible what I do remember. One of the things that
has remained profound is the wishes and dreams of a child and
whether or not these have been brought to fruition.
of the first things that I remember when it came to Wes Montgomery
was the addiction that took place as a child being exposed to
such art; such an individual and artist. I sat in front of my
father’s record player on the floor, overwhelmed with interest
in trying to reproduce what I heard coming from the speaker on
my favorite toy, which was the guitar. It still is my favorite
toy. So I sat there with my favorite toy and played with it, intensely
addicted to the process. That’s what this album brought me back
to. Something I wanted to do as a child was to be able to do what
I heard coming from the speakers.”
was able to travel back, as it were, to that childhood place.
“Which is something most individuals, I believe, rarely achieve.
To set out to go back to your childish dreams and to make them
come true of their own accord is a form of success that transcends
age. That’s what this album is all about. It’s achieving what
I set out to do when I was a little boy. And doing so with respect,
not only to its presence at that time, but its presence today
with no judgmental critique that in any way is comparative or
been a remarkable journey to that childhood place, and to this
place in 2006 with one of the sparkling recordings of the year.
It started in Philly where Pat was born in 1944. He was exposed
to jazz early through his father. He didn’t start playing the
guitar until the age of twelve, but it was clear that the instrument
was a natural fit to his hands and connected to something else
wired into Martino. “It was second nature,” he says. He left school
in the tenth grade to study music. His father wasn’t a direct
influence on the instrument. But in playing it, it was a way for
Pat to connect.
say that my intention was to move as close as I possibly could
to the individual position in our relationship that demanded respect
from him, based upon his own interests. The guitar was his greatest
interest when it came to the instruments. As a child, I was looking
for participation in respect with elders. That’s what I noticed
when I met Wes Montgomery and when I went to Harlem at the age
of fifteen and was, in a sense, guided and protected by my elders,
with respect to an innate talent. It has transcended music from
the very beginning.
main concern since conscious childhood was to participate with
elders and to be adequate in terms of that participation—for them
to understand my opinion. In some ways it seems egotistic, and
I guess it is, to some degree. But it was essential for me to
was largely self-taught, but did go for some training with a local
musician, Dennis Sandole. However, the guitarist doesn’t see it
as “training” as such. Again, in his unique view, it was something
different. A gaining of knowledge, but not in the traditional
the opportunity of being in the presence of older individuals,
generation-wise, and studying them, not what they were teaching,”
he says. “I studied their apparel. I studied their surroundings,
Sandole, “that’s where I met John Coltrane and Benny Golson and
Paul Chambers; quite a number of artists. I was supposedly to
be there to study what Dennis Sandole gave me as a weekly lesson.
And I found that absolutely impossible … I would study what he
wore and why there was a copy of a Van Gogh on the wall. And why
the guitar over in the corner had dust on it, and the piano was
clean. … I studied these things in depth, with regard to their
meaning and how that produced so much respect for this individual.
That’s what I studied.”
age of 15, he was playing lounge gigs in Philly, sitting in where
he could, usually accompanied by his father. His first road gig
was with jazz organist Charles Earland, a high school friend.
time Charlie was a tenor player. We went to Atlantic City together
to a place called the Jockey Club,” Martino recalls. “Down the
stairway in the basement was a little club. In there was an organist,
Jimmy Smith. When we heard that, Charlie gave up the tenor saxophone
forevermore. He wanted to be an organist and that’s what he did.
We started getting together in the garage across the street from
his parents’ house. We practiced and put a little trio together.
Charlie could only play in C minor, god bless his soul. He would
have the left hand together, and he’d comp with the right hand
in C minor. I would have all the melodies to play across the C
this association with his old friend that was a step to bigger
things, especially when the trio booked a gig in Buffalo, NY.
“Recently I described this to someone and got a flashback and
remembered the name of it. The place was the Pine Grill. We went
there and played. One evening, in came an entourage of people
from one of the shows in town. That was Lloyd Price and his manager
and a lot of people from the big band. They sat at the bar and
listened. Lloyd Price called me over. I was 15 years old. And
he said, ‘Listen. If you ever want to play with a great big band,
here’s my number. Call me. I’m in New York City. You’ve got the
job if you would like to do it.’
followed up on the offer, with blessing from his father, who spoke
with Price. He wound up in Harlem with Willis Jackson and played
with both on and off for a number of years.
just so happened that at that time in Lloyd Price’s 18-piece big
band, the arrangements were being done by Slide Hampton. And in
the band was Jimmy Health, the Turrentine brothers, Stanley and
Tommy, Red Holloway was in the band. Charlie Persip was the drummer.
Julian Priester was in the band. It was a band of all-star jazz
players. We would play for an hour or an hour and a half sometimes
— just the band with some really modern jazz arrangements, original
stuff. Then Lloyd would come out for one half-hour or 40 minutes
and do a show.
the band wasn’t working, everyone went in their own direction.
That’s where I would perform with Willis, or Jack McDuff, or Sonny
Stitt and Gene Ammons. It was a great time in our culture. Very
the young Martino, his age didn’t matter, nor did the rigors of
everyday life a teenager would have to encounter in the big city.
His elders looked after him. And he was where he wanted to be.
in a dream and jazz was heaven. Jazz was Disneyland to me. I wanted
to meet these people. I wanted to meet Jimmy Heath. I wanted to
meet Jimmy Smith. I wanted to meet Wes Montgomery. I wanted to
meet Les Paul. A lot of people. All the people who, as a little
boy, I looked up to. The stars. The successful ones; the dreams
reputation among jazz giants grew and he could count among friends
the likes of Les Paul and George Benson. The youngster was in
the middle of a burning jazz scene and he had many influences
first was Les Paul. The second was Johnny Smith. The third was
Wes Montgomery. In between Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery were
influences that were not as profound as the three that I mentioned,
but just as powerful in their own way,” he says. “One of those
was Hank Garland. Another was Howard Roberts. Another was Joe
Pass. These six players on the guitar were major influences to
me. … Aside from the guitar, my main influences were Donald Byrd
and Gigi Gryce. Gerald Wilson with the big band. More than any
of the influences mentioned, the greatest influence to me was
John Coltrane. There were many things.”
gigs were steady, the Big Apple generally welcoming and Martino
was among the finest of his craft. He played with the likes of
Sonny Stitt. A gig with John Handy took him to California, where
he also started doing some teaching. He was signed by Prestige
and recorded a string of albums including El Hombre (Prestige,
1967) and East! (Prestige, 1968). But in 1976, at the age
of 32, the headaches started. Severely. And there were blackouts.
things to a halt by 1977. At least in terms of performance. Then
I moved to California, to Los Angeles, and took a position as
part of a faculty,” says Martino. But troubles continued. He was
misdiagnosed as manic depression, even schizophrenic. Wrong medications.
Electric shock treatments. Confinement in a psychiatric ward and
close to suicide. There were periods when he could function, but
continued problems landed him in the hospital. The brain aneurysm
in a Philadelphia hospital left the artist in a coma. The brilliance
of his creative energy, it appeared, was at an end. His very life
hung in the balance. But Martino did not succumb. He awoke. He
lived. He was discharged.
he did not recognize a soul. Not his parents. Not his friends.
He didn’t know he was a guitarist, much less one of stature. Martino
went to his parents home to recover, but amnesia made the process
painful. His father showed him copies of his albums. Showed him
the instruments. Friends like Les Paul called. While memory slowly
came back, Martino’s desire to play did not. In fact, if anything,
he was repelled, feeling that he was being pushed into something
in which he had no interest. Dark times continued.
was very painful. It produced a very painful situation for me,
because I was recovering at Mom and Dad’s house. Because of this,
I was subject to and had to endure listening to my old records
come through the floor when I was upstairs in my own little bedroom
in isolation. I heard my father playing my records. I didn’t want
to hear that. I didn’t like it. I saw the albums and I saw the
guitars and I saw a responsibility of something everybody wanted
me to do. And I didn’t feel that I had to do that, to please them.
I had a lot pain going on and I didn’t want to please anyone.
I wanted to overcome the pain and hopefully at some point enjoy
being alive. So that’s what it meant, my albums and my career
and all of that. I didn’t really want to get into it.”
anyone’s prodding that brought Martino back to music. He went
back on his own. Maybe music met him half way.
it got so painful,” he says simply, “that I went into the guitar
itself. It was the only thing that started to become enjoyable.
It turned into an ecstasy once again.”
its profundity,” Martino explains matter-of-factly, “it produced
the very thing that caused me to play to begin with. That was
to get away from all the things that I was supposedly responsible
to do. That’s what children are interrupted with.
have a child who is totally in ecstasy; playful, creatively objective
at all times; even subject to creativity. Along comes the parent,
with loveable responsibility, and says to the child, ‘Stop playing
and do your homework.’ That to me was an interruption in the ecstasy
itself, and I think it is for each and every individual in the
growing process. Those who adjust to the oncoming responsibilities
to participate in a social architectural framework, and be utilized
for purpose that is separate from the individual. These take their
place within that household, in that factory, in that industry,
in that society, within that culture.
took place when I forgot everything was the beginning, once again.
It was the black border erased. It brought me to where I was in
the very beginning. The only difference was, due to the compassion
and the concern of so many others around me during that recovery
period, it became clear I was in bad shape. I didn’t realize whether
I was or I wasn’t. But everybody seemed to think that I was. This
produced pain. That’s why I had to recover and that’s what I had
to recover from. Procrastination on my behalf caused the pain
to amplify beyond belief. That caused me to run toward the one
thing that I ran to before when I was a child: my favorite toy.
I lost myself in that. I procrastinated on a decision to be career
oriented with that toy again, for the second time. Until I saw
there was no difference in playfulness, whether it be publicly,
or privately, isolated. It made no difference the second time
through. Primarily because I was not participating. I was not
entering back into it with a competitive intention. My intentions
were totally self-rewarding.”
easy. There were still medications and therapy and problems with
pent up anger, he says. Martino did not have to study the guitar,
did nothing academically. Part of his therapy was using a computer
graphics program. And the music returned. The dexterity returned.
The creativity returned. In the late 80s, he was back performing,
including the aptly named album The Return (Muse, 1987).
But there were some setbacks, including the death of his parents
months apart in 1989 and 1990. Still, music prevailed. Martino
prevailed. With pianist Jim Ridl he recorded again, producing
works like The Maker (Evidence, 1994). He was back, musically.
health of another kind appeared. He got severe pneumonia, chronic
bronchitis and emphysema and lost a tremendous amount of weight.
Doctors felt a lung transplant was in order, but his wife, Ayako,
who he met in Tokyo in the late '90s, refused and took him under
her wing. Alternative methods of care that included an organic,
all-vegetable diet, and yoga. He says he went from about 86 pounds
back up to 165 in about five weeks.
he was touring again, and recording for Blue Note records, who
had signed him a few years earlier. “Yeah. Back to recording,
back to social interaction and the enjoyment of old friends, artists
in many different fields who were inspirational and stimulating.
That’s where it sits today.”
rest has been a succession of good records, outstanding performances,
and carrying on life as a creative artist. His latest recording
is a testament not only to Wes Montgomery, but also to how far
Martino has come, and to the strength of his artistry.
doesn’t really concentrate on future projects, preferring to take
life as it comes.
always found it difficult to describe something that does not
exist, primarily because in doing so, there is a lack of a concrete
result,” he says. “There are things I would love to do. I would
love to do something with strings. Whether or not this can come
about budget-wise is another story.
I have no idea what’s coming next. It comes of its own accord.
It comes as part of the growing process. So I let it rest and
be what it wants to be when it wants to appear.”
Pat Martino, Remember:
A Tribute to Wes Montgomery (Blue Note, 2006)
Pat Martino, Think
Tank (Blue Note, 2003)
Pat Martino, First
Light (Starbright, 1976 and Joyous Lake,
1977 on one CD) (Savoy Jazz, 2003)
Joey DeFranceso, Ballads and Blues (Concord, 2002)
Pat Martino, Live
at Yoshi's (Blue Note, 2001)
Philadelphia Experiment, Philadelphia
Experiment (Atlantic, 2001)
Pat Martino, The Maker (Muse, 1994)
Royce Campbell, Six
by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration (Moon Cycle, 1994)
Pat Martino, The Return (Muse, 1987)
Pat Martino, We'll Be Together Again (Savoy Jazz, 1976)
Pat Martino, Exit (Muse, 1976)
Pat Martino, Consciousness (Muse, 1974)
Pat Martino, Live! (Muse, 1972)
Pat Martino, Footprints
Pat Martino, Desperado (Prestige, 1970)
Eric Kloss, In the Land of Giants (Prestige, 1969)
Pat Martino, Bayina (The Clear Evidence) (Prestige, 1968)
Pat Martino, East! (Prestige, 1968)
Charles McPherson, From This Moment On (Prestige, 1968)
Pat Martino, El Hombre (Prestige, 1967)
Pat Martino, Strings! (Prestige, 1967)
John Handy, New View (Prestige, 1967)
Richard “Groove” Holmes, Blues Groove (Prestige, 1966)
Willis “Gator” Jackson, Soul Nite Live! (Prestige, 1964)
R. J. DeLuke is a regular contributor