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Pat Martino: Formidable (HighNote)

Review of album by noted guitarist and his organ trio, plus horns

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Cover of Pat Martino album Formidable
Cover of Pat Martino album Formidable

When dealing with music, nothing manages to get in guitarist Pat Martino’s way—not the near-fatal brain aneurysm that forced him to have to relearn his instrument from scratch in the 1980s; not the passing fads in sound, style and syntax that have come and gone in jazz over the course of his lengthy career; and certainly not the weight of his 73 years. Martino’s legendary technique and taste remain intact, and this is but one more show of substance from a master musician.

Formidable finds Martino fronting an augmented organ trio: his regular group with organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre Jr., plus trumpeter Alex Norris and tenor saxophonist Adam Niewood on most of the tracks. It’s a band at once earthy and sophisticated, ably delivering a beautifully ecumenical program that acknowledges standards, Martino’s back catalog and composers deserving of greater recognition, like pianist Joey Calderazzo and the late saxophonist Gerry Niewood.

Highlights are many and varied. Hank Mobley’s shuffling “Hipsippy Blues,” Martino’s vibrant “El Hombre” and charged “On the Stairs,” and two ballads owing to Ellingtonian origins—Duke’s own “In a Sentimental Mood” and Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”—are among the peaks. The trio is tight throughout, the horns hit all of their marks and add some welcome grit, and Martino’s guitar work is on point. If you’re looking for one word to sum up the man and this music, “formidable” most certainly does the trick.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Formidable by Pat Martino on iTunes.


Originally Published