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“A Tribute to Wes Montgomery” at the Cape May Festival, Cape May, N.J.

Pat Martino, Yoshi's, Emeryville, CA 2002

The theme for the 27th edition of this biannual clambake in the charming Victorian town by the Jersey shore was “A Tribute To Wes Montgomery.” It was fitting, then, that festival promoters Carol Stone and Woody Woodland booked Pat Martino (pictured), the only guitarist on this bill of several capable Wes-inspired six-stringers who had actually met the great man himself. Between songs of his headlining engagement at Convention Hall on Friday night, an uncharacteristically talkative Martino shared with the audience his childhood memories of first hearing Montgomery on record. He also reminisced about one special night at Count Basie’s in Harlem when he brought Les Paul up to see the innovative guitarist and ended up hanging with Les, Wes, George Benson and Grant Green. “At the end of the night we just stood together outside the club on the corner of 133rd Street and 7th Avenue, then walked over to Wells’ waffle and fried chicken house, had breakfast and talked guitar talk until the sun came up.”

Martino was in classic form during his set, drawing liberally from his last Blue Note release, Remember: A Tribute To Wes Montgomery. With drummer Allyn Scott Robinson and bassist David Ostrem providing the surging momentum on swingers like “Full House,” “Four On Six” and “Groove Yard,” Martino blew through the changes with razor-sharp facility and signature intervallic leaps while layering on plenty of Wes-type octaves along the way. Pianist Rick Germanson, a reliably swinging accompanist, also provided some soloistic sparks throughout the set, particularly on the uptempo burner “Earthlings” (from Martino’s 2003 Blue Note recording, Think Tank). The guitarist’s inherent bluesiness came to the fore on “Mac Tough,” his earthy tribute to B3 maven and former boss Jack McDuff. He also played with great lyricism and sensitivity on the luscious Milt Jackson ballad “Heartstrings” (which he dedicated to Wes’ widow, Serene) and conveyed a remarkable depth of feeling with his burnished tone and nuanced touch on a relaxed rendition of the gorgeous Bill Evans-Miles Davis ballad “Blue In Green.”

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