Saturday, February 07, 2009
This week, we've got three music videos featuring guitarist Pat Martino, who will be in St. Louis from Wednesday, February 18 through Saturday, February 21 to perform at Jazz at the Bistro. A native of Philadelphia, Martino came up in the 1960s playing in the classic organ-trio style and established himself as one of the top young guitarists in jazz. At the turn of the 1970s, he branched out into fusion, making memorable recordings such as Starbright and Joyous Lake that impressed both fusion fans and traditionalists.
Then in 1980, Martino suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm. Surgery saved his life, but wiped all his memories of how to play the guitar. Martino had to relearn to play music again from scratch, and his illness and subsequent return to excellence in a relatively short time were the subject of a 2007 documentary, Martino Unstrung, that was screened last fall at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Martino's present-day playing has hints of both the old school and the new school, as he uses tonal, harmonic and formal ideas from the fusion years as part of what is essentially a fairly traditional, straight-ahead concept of a guitar-focused jazz group.
In the first video, recorded in 2008, Martino is playing a swinging blues, name unknown to me, with the able assistance of organist Tony Monaco and drummer Harvey Mason. The other two clips are both from a performance in 2001 at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, and feature Martino, Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Byron Landham on drums. The one just below shows them playing a Martino composition called "The Great Stream," and in the embed window at the bottom, they're doing a Cal Massey song, "These Are Soulful Days."