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Pat Martino: Live at Yoshi’s

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illustration of Pat Martino

Living out an ambitious father’s aspirations and his own boyhood dreams, guitarist Pat Azzara’s burgeoning talent was so pronounced that by the age of 15 he found his slender frame stretched out horizontally in the back of a hearse, lying on organist Charles Earland’s gigantic Leslie cabinets, as he hit the road in the first of a series of chitlin’-circuit gigs that made him a star in the bands of such soul titans as organist Don Patterson and Brother Jack McDuff, saxophonists Willis Jackson and Sonny Stitt, and vocalist/big-band leader Lloyd Price.

Then, having adopted his father’s old stage name, Pat Martino established himself as the most adventurous postmodernist to emerge from the mainstream jazz-guitar pack in a celebrated series of solo recordings for the Prestige and Muse labels, boldly combining rootsy elements of the urban blues and R&B with bebop, 20th-century harmony and Third World mysticism. Here at last was a guitarist with the velocity, endurance and imagination to match the linear melodic flights of such jazz giants as saxophonist John Coltrane and trumpeter Clifford Brown. This initial creative arc reached a peak in the mid-’70s with a major-label contract from Warner Brothers and the formation of his dynamic fusion ensemble, Joyous Lake, but with his new found success came an uncharacteristic degree of moodiness and emotional withdrawal: psychological changes that were symptomatic of then undiagnosed physiological traumas. When headaches progressed to seizures, Martino underwent a CAT scan in 1980, which revealed a massive brain tumor. Pat Martino had two days to live. Returning home to Philadelphia, he underwent a pair of complicated operations-upon awakening, his creative prism had faded to white.

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