The Jazz.com Blog
January 28, 2009 · 0 comments
Roanna Forman covers the Boston jazz scene for jazz.com. Her recent articles here have included reviews of James Carter, Dominique Eade, Laszlo Gardony, and Roy Hargrove. Below she reports on Pat Martino’s performance last Saturday at Sculler’s. T.G.
Pat Martino’s wife, Aya, must be the luckiest guitar student in the world. Every morning the couple enjoy a daily ritual of tea, meditation, and a jam. They shared the latter with the audience to open Martino’s late set at Scullers Jazz Club on Saturday, January 24.
Maybe it was best left at home. Either Aya Martino has a very advanced sense of time, or she has problems with it. In the blues, ballad, and jaunty little tune they played together, Pat’s rock solid time and facile runs held the numbers together and breathed with the idiosyncratic rhythm guitar of his wife. She used, however, some beautiful voicings—complementing the musicality of her instructor.
Then he brought out the other members of his organ trio, Tony Monaco on B3 and Louis Tsamous on drums, and got down to business. Although Martino’s set of standards, ballads, and special old chestnuts overall lacked the fire of Live at Yoshi’s, which is arguably his most popping live recorded date, it was a genuine demonstration of “effortless mastery,” or, as Martino humbly said, “my most precious gift, which is fluency on this instrument.”
Before the music started, Pat, whose composure puts a blanket of calm around him until he channels it into his playing, talked a bit about the brain illness that once brought him to the abyss of total memory loss. When a tumor from Arterial Venous Malformation – congenital tangled masses in his brain arteries—caught up with him in 1979, his surgery left him with the tabula rasa of amnesia—including the ability to play the guitar. After some years he eventually decided to re-learn the instrument from computers, friends and his own recordings—revisiting his own mind—and, phoenix-like, resumed his career.
Martino is extraordinary to watch in performance—his sheer speed doesn’t seem realizable, but there it is. And I had never heard his buttery tone in person. On “Four on Six,” his lines sometimes sounded like keyboard note choices. His fills in between the changes on a shuffle feel of “Alone Together” reflected the very smooth sailing that is one of Martino’s trademarks. When he raced a line up and down the neck, anchoring it with a single note an octave below, as in “MacTough” on Live at Yoshi’s, or slalomed around the guitar with descending patterns, all the Berklee students there were craning their necks to see.
Martino’s emotional reach is deep, as in “Blue in Green,” whose essence he interpreted well, finishing the tune with a contrapuntal, classical-sounding cadenza. With the quirky, soulful “Goin’ to a Meeting,” Pat saluted mentors of his early youth, organist Don Patterson and drummer Billy James. He seemed to be visibly enjoying himself on this one—he’s a poker-faced player whose occasional facial expressions register strong feelings. It must have brought back great memories of the men who “taught me to treat this instrument like a fork or a spoon” when he was a teenager.
Tony Monaco is as demonstrative as Martino is deadpan. His facial expression changed with every riff, to the audience’s delight. Behind Pat’s active comping, he played with bite, chops and a solid bass. His blues sense is on the mark, and he knows all the tricks—repeated riffs; long, high held notes to climax a solo; fat, funky grooves. But he played it safe. Only on the fast-moving “Oleo” was he more adventurous He also was reading the changes to “Blue in Green,” which surprised me, because I don’t believe there were any unusual chords used. One would think that particular Miles tune would be standard repertoire for players on this level. With a musical and responsive drummer in Louis Tsamous, Martino has added cohesion to the trio. Kicks, rehearsed and felt in the moment, worked well, and Tsamous’s musical phrasing complemented the tunes.
Before the crowd went back out into the 13-degree walk-in freezer that is mid-winter Boston, they brought Martino back for “Side Effect.” Starting off the bouncy head in lock-step octaves, he flew over the chomp and bite of Monaco’s organ. Then they stopped on a dime, and raised everyone’s body temperature enough to brave that nasty cold once more.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman