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Pat Martino: Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery

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Wes Montgomery’s music fundamentally influenced Pat Martino not once but twice. Martino built on Montgomery’s style as a young guitarist and returned to Montgomery’s records to relearn the guitar after suffering a brain aneuryism in 1980. With a nod to symmetry, Martino decided to record a second tribute to Montgomery, the first being The Visit (Cobblestone), later rereleased as Footprints (Muse). On tribute No. 2, Martino’s quintet performs specifically the music from Montgomery’s Riverside years, which was Martino’s favorite period.

It’s apparent straightaway that this wasn’t an archeology project for Martino. He and his band recast these themes in thoroughly modern idiom with mixed results. The themes are recognizable, but the sound of those recordings just isn’t here. In contrast with Montgomery’s easygoing twang, Martino plays with a murkier, more diffuse tone and an almost relentless attack. Where Montgomery left space, Martino hitches together heady eighth-note run after run. Bassist John Patitucci, pianist Dave Kikoski, percussionist Danny Sadownick and drummer Scott Allan Robinson give the music a sleek, compact sound. Some tempos have been jacked up and the harmonies opened wide. But in the end Martino’s band sounds hypercompetent if airless. On “Four on Six” and Milt Jackson’s “S.K.J.” the band loosens up a bit, but the hard, shiny surface of the music may most likely send listeners running back to their old Montgomery recordings.