Blue Note Records
In the sense that a think tank is a collection of bright thinkers, guitarist Pat Martino's characterization for his new CD really does hold up for this one-off session. Martino shares the front line with tenorman Joe Lovano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash to form a very strong mainstream band. Unfortunately, bright minds don't always turn out sterling product. This Think Tank doesn't come up with enough brilliant ideas in relation to the musicians' collective reps.
Martino's tunes are, for the most part, blowing vehicles with a heavy tendency toward sax and guitar unison melodies. Martino adds a few ballads for variety, but they really don't keep the session from sounding homogenous. The rhythm section more or less follows the changes on autopilot, and Rubalcaba especially sounds bored and disengaged. Disappointingly, the pianist's role on the CD amounts to not much more than curt, blunt exposition of the chords, and Martino seems to be playing right past him. The guitarist doesn't always find something to chew on, either-even recycling some licks from earlier in the session.
Still, Think Tank does have its moments. It sounds best when the band breaks down into component parts, as when the guitarist pits his aggressive single-note lines against just bass and drums, or even when Martino sits out and lets his band build some steam for a few bars.