Pat Martino

Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL

Pat Martino
Pat Martino

Story by Brad Walseth, Photos by John Broughton, Copyright 2010

One of the finest jazz guitarists in the world, Pat Martino, appeared at the Jazz Showcase last week. Leading a trio consisting of hyper-kinetic B-3 organist Tony Monaco and drummer Jason Brown, Martino thrilled the crowd with a plethora of his signature riffs - played with masterful precision and lightning speed on his custom black Benedetto guitar. That Martino had to relearn the guitar completely after brain surgery in 1980 that left him with amnesia is a testament to the astounding talent and dedication of this 66-year-old virtuoso.

There is an interview on You Tube where George Benson discusses how when he first moved to NYC, he heard the young Martino play at a gig, and he was blown away, especially by the young man's articulation. That attention to the notes is still apparent in Martino's brilliant playing in which he demonstrates an utter command of his entire fretboard - playing ferocious licks with grace and a sense of the melodic. Although the Philly-born artist has been influenced by players like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, he has developed a tasty style of his own which is a mixture of classic technique and modern intervals.

The set list at the Sunday afternoon matinee concert included "Lean Years," "Island," Wes Montgomery's "Twisted Blues," "Side Effects," "'Round Midnight," "On the Midnight Special" and "Mac Tough." Martino and Monaco displayed a nice rapport with the exuberant organist nearly exploding from his seat during his energetic solos, while the guitarist smiled and cooly responded with fluid cascades of well-chosen notes and chord voicings. At times the sound reminded one of "Old School" Jimmy Smith-style organ trio - which should come as no surprise since Martino played with Smith. Drummer Brown meanwhile, added a nice, brief solo near the end as well.

Martino does not appear in Chicago often enough, but when he does, he is greeted warmly by the knowledgeable audiences, which often include some of Chicago's finest musicians - who make sure to catch him while he is in town. Despite his stature as one of the jazz world's greats, the artist kindly spoke with many before and after his set, even signing his own name - something that he had to relearn after his operation. Thanks to the Jazz Showcase for bringing Martino back to town again and let's hope he returns again soon.

Pat Martino, Tony Monaco & Harvey Mason at the Java Jazz Festival 2008

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