Double virtuoso jazz guitarist Pat Martino dies at 77
Pat Martino posing with his guitar in 1994. The famous jazz guitarist died on November 1 at the age of 77. Image: Michel Delsol / Michel Delsol / Getty Images
Pat Martino, a jazz guitarist revered for the fluid precision and blazing speed of his playing – before and after being forced to relearn the instrument following a mid-career brain aneurysm – died on Monday. He was 77 years old.
His death was announced on Facebook by his longtime manager, Joseph Donofrio. Martino, born Patrick Azzara, died of a long illness in the South Philadelphia townhouse previously owned by his parents, where he moved in 1980 after undergoing life-saving neurosurgery – au almost total price of his memory. The guitarist had suffered from a chronic respiratory disorder since 2018, breathing with oxygen support and unable to perform since touring Italy in November. He is survived by his wife Ayako.
Martino’s career spanned six decades and a variety of styles, from his years of training in organ groups to the Wes Montgomery-influenced hard bop of his early recordings, to spiritual explorations in the late 60s giving way to fusion. flamboyant and virtuoso of 1970s classics like Joyous Lac.
Regardless of the setting, Martino played the guitar with an intensity of focus and impeccable clarity, even at the most dizzying beat. Still retaining the soul and dynamic groove he perfected alongside master jazz organists like Charles Earland, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff, Martino merged that deep feeling with a rock-fueled ferocity born out of a spirit of quest rather than aggression.
This development was suddenly interrupted in 1980 when Martino suffered an almost fatal crisis that allowed him to rebuild his memory and career from scratch. He was born with an arteriovenous malformation, a disease that had caused him to suffer from hallucinations and seizures since childhood, but which remained misdiagnosed.
Martino emerged from the experience with a new Zen perspective. In an interview for the Philadelphia Investigator in 2011 he called the experience “the greatest thing that has ever happened to me”. While his philosophical bent was heralded by titles like “Consciousness” and “Where Love’s a Grown-Up God”, the guitarist later viewed the start of his career as motivated more by ambition than art.
“My career literally ended at that point,” he said of the operation. âFrom that point on, my interest was no longer in my profession; my interest was in survival as a human being. It erased the picture and I found myself in the same position as when I was. was a child. “
Martino had spent his childhood in South Philadelphia, his father a singer and sometimes guitarist who performed in local nightclubs. Inspired by Montgomery and Les Paul, Martino began playing guitar at the age of 12, eventually studying with revered professor Dennis Sandole, whose students included future jazz giants like John Coltrane. In his early teens he performed with friends such as saxophonist turned organist Charles Earland and then drummer, later pop idol, Bobby Rydell.
Determined to meet his jazz idols, Martino moved to Harlem at the age of 15 and quickly settled into a busy schedule playing with the Hammond B-3 organ masters. We can still hear traces of these soul-jazz origins on the guitarist’s debut in 1967 for Prestige, El Hombre, featuring Philly organist Trudy Pitts. The album’s unique lineup however finds Martino already advancing on new ground, with a guitar / flute up front and a percussion-heavy rhythm section providing powerful propulsion to the leader’s quicksilver lines.
The following year it extended further into new inspirations, as evidenced by exploratory research Baiyina (The Clear Evidence). The album incorporated instruments and sounds from classical Indian music as Martino forged a sort of passionate transcendentalism, merging his fervent solo and muscular swing with meditative drones.
By the mid-1970s rock and jazz had collided with the birth of fusion – Miles Davis was breaking new ground with his intoxicating electric bands, and bands like Return To Forever and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra were enjoying success well over the years. – beyond the jazz audience. Martino immersed himself in the scene with âStarbrightâ and the âJoyous Lakeâ landmark, bolstering his trademark sound with jagged distortion and cosmic synths, placing his meticulous fury in a fitting electrifying frame.
After his surgery in 1980, Martino spent several years relearning the instrument, re-listening to his own recordings, and struggling with depression and the grueling process of regaining his skills. He resurfaced in 1987 with The return, who displayed a seemingly undiminished miraculous virtuosity by his approach to death and amnesia.
Martino continued to tour and record for the next three decades, often performing in hard bop or organ combo settings reminiscent of his early career, while displaying a tasteful mastery reflecting his happy and current outlook. After picking up a number of memories in the intervening years, in 2011 he published his autobiography, Here and now! His last outing was the straight line Formidable in 2017.
Martino often spoke in aphorisms, answering direct questions with a wandering curiosity that made its way roundabout to something resembling an answer. While he rejected any particular spiritual philosophy or practice, he viewed his music and his life from a holistic perspective that refused to separate art from existence.
âI never work,â he insisted in 2008. âFor me, work is a game. Creative productivity is the most playful and childish state of mind in which I live all the time. I can’t relate to the holidays, because I have nothing to leave. I’m alive and happy. And thank goodness I’m less busy thinking about the future, which doesn’t exist, or memories that carry weight.
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