Thursday, February 5, 2015

A guitar master's take on jazz - It's about much so more than the music

Pat Martino
Guitarist Pat Martino quickly set the tone with a blistering revisit of the boppish "Lean Years" at his concert Wednesday, February 4 with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. "Lean Years," which first appeared on Martino's 1967 Prestige album Strings!, remains one of his signature tunes. 

The program also included two other Martino originals ("Inside Out" and 1974's "On The Stairs"), and a half-dozen covers of jazz standards that the Philadelphia native has recorded over the years. Those included Dave Brubeck's beautiful ballad "In Your Own Sweet Way," John Coltrane's "Impressions" and the Charlie Christian-Benny Goodman burner "Seven Come Eleven."

Pat Martino, Kevin Mauldin
The 75-minute concert blended Martino's talent with the resident jazz sextet. The excellent band includes tenor saxophonist (and "Saturday Night Live" band veteran) Lew Del Gatto, trumpeter Dan Miller, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin Mauldin, drummer Mike Harvey and violinist Glenn Basham. Martino's special guest appearance drew a full house at 283-seat Daniels Pavilion at Artis-Naples. The evening's late concert was also sold out.

There were two favorite moments:
  • Martino and the rhythm section's beautiful exploration of Bill Evans' ballad "Blue in Green." 
  • A co-feature in which Martino and Basham, whose "day job" is concertmaster of the Naples Philharmonic, turned Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" into a melodic conversation.
The evening showcased Martino's blazing technique, his swinging pulse and the deep, dark sound he gets from his guitar - ingredients that have been part of his music since he burst on the scene in the early 1960s. 

Every audience that hears Martino ought to be thankful they've had the opportunity. In 1980, he underwent emergency neurosurgery to repair a congenital brain aneurysm. He then had to relearn the guitar and his style by studying his vintage recordings. After a 15-year near-absence from recording and performing, he was back on the scene in the mid-1990s.

Martino, now 70, has a keen outlook about how the experience changed him. "The guitar is of no great importance to me," he says. "The people it brings to me are what matter. They are what I'm extremely grateful for, because they are alive. The guitar is just an apparatus." 

In a Facebook posting today, trumpeter Dan Miller called Martino "an inspiration both musically and personally. Not only is he a great artist who lifts the bandstand with his genius, but spiritually he emboldens you to live in the moment and embrace the now. An unforgettable day of music and discussion." 

Each month during the concert season, the band brings in a special guest. Next up are  tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath on March 4 and trumpeter Jon Faddis on April 1. 
Lew Del Gatto, Mike Harvey, Pat Martino, Dan Miller

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