Live At Yoshi’s (Blue Note Records)

Pat Martino

Released June 19, 2001

Grammy Nominee Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2002




Born Pat Azzara in Philadelphia in 1944, he was first exposed to jazz through his father, Carmen “Mickey” Azzara, who sang in local clubs and briefly studied guitar with Eddie Lang. He took Pat to all the city’s hot-spots to hear and meet Wes Montgomery and other musical giants. “I have always admired my father and have wanted to impress him. As a result, it forced me to get serious with my creative powers.” 
He began playing guitar when he was twelve years old. and left school in tenth grade to devote himself to music. During Visits to his music teacher Dennis Sandole, Pat often ran into another gifted student, John Coltrane, who would treat the youngster to hot chocolate as they talked about music. 
Besides first-hand encounters with `Trane and Montgomery, whose album Grooveyard had “an enormous influence” on Martino, he also cites Johnny Smith, a Stan Getz associate, as an early inspiration.  “He seemed to me, as a child. to understand everything about music,” Pat recalls. 
Martino became actively involved with the , early rock scene in Philadelphia, alongside stars like Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and Bobby Darin. His first road gig was with jazz organist Charles Earland, a high school friend. His reputation soon spread among other jazz players, and he was recruited by bandleader Lloyd Price to play hits such as Stagger Lee on-stage with musicians like Slide Hampton and Red Holloway. 
Martino moved to Harlem to immerse himself in the “soul jazz” played by Earland and others. Previously, he had “heard all of the white man’s jazz. I never heard that other part of the culture,” he remembers. The organ trio concept had a profound influence on Martino’s rhythmic and harmonic approach. and he remained in the idiom as a sideman, gigging with Jack McDuff and Don Patterson. An icon before his eighteenth birthday, Pat was signed as a leader for Prestige Records when he was twenty. His seminal albums from this period include classics like Strings!, Desperado, El Hombre and Baiyina (The Clear Evidence), one of jazz’s first successful ventures into psychedelia. 
In 1976, Martino began experiencing the excruciating headaches which were eventually diagnosed as symptoms of his aneurysms. When the anesthesia wore off, Pat Martino looked up hazily at his parents and his doctors. and tried to piece together any memory of his life. 
One of the greatest guitarists in jazz. Martino had suffered a severe brain aneurysm and underwent surgery after being told that his condition could be terminal. After his operations he could remember almost nothing. He barely recognized his parents. and had no memory of his guitar or his career. He remembers feeling as if he had been “dropped cold, empty, neutral, cleansed…naked.” 
In the following months. Martino made a remarkable recovery. Through intensive study of his own historic recordings, and with the help of computer technology, Pat managed to reverse his memory loss and return to form on his instrument. His past recordings eventually became “an old friend, a spiritual experience which remained beautiful and honest.” This recovery fits in perfectly with Pat’s illustrious personal history. Since playing his first notes while still in his pre-teenage years, Martino has been recognized as one of the most exciting and virtuosic guitarists in jazz. With a distinctive, fat sound and gut-wrenching performances, he represents the best not just in jazz, but in music. He embodies thoughtful energy and soul. After his surgery and recovery, he resumed his career when he appeared in1987 in New York, a gig that was released on a CD with an appropriate name, The Return.  He then took another hiatus when both of his parents became ill, and he didn’t record again until 1994, when he recorded Interchange and then The Maker. 
Today, Martino lives in Philadelphia again and continues to grow as a musician. As the New York Times recently noted, “Mr. Martino, at fifty, is back and he is plotting new musical directions, adding more layers to his myth.” His experiments with guitar synthesizers, begun during his rehabilitation, are taking him in the direction of orchestral arrangements and they promise groundbreaking possibilities. Musicians flock to his door for lessons, and he offers not only the benefits of his musical knowledge, but also the philosophical insights of a man who has faced and overcome enormous obstacles.  “The guitar is of no great importance to me,” he muses. “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.”

Track Listing:

1. Oleo (Sonny Rollins) 6:59

2. All Blues (Miles Davis) 12:02

(Pat Martino, Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo 2002)

3. Mac Tough (Pat Martino) 10:02

4. Welcome to a Prayer (Pat Martino) 10:30

5. El Hombre (Pat Martino) 10:29

6. Recollection (Pat Martino) 7:57

7. Blue in Green (Miles Davis / Bill Evans) 7:18

8. Catch (Pat Martino) 11:05


Pat Martino: guitar

Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond B3

Billy Hart: drums

Recorded December 15 – 17, 2000 at Yoshi’s Jazz House, Oakland, CA

Produced by Pat Martino and Joseph A. Donofrio

Co-Produced, engineered and mixed by Kirk Yano

Engineer: Phil Edwards

Assistant engineers: Ramon Zuniga, Daniel Pettit, Keith Yansurak, “Big” John Somers and Barbra Porter

Photography: David Perry

Art direction: Martin Venezky


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.
Over the next two decades, Martino had to rebuild both his sense of self and his guitar technique-literally from scratch. Gradually he got back into the swing of things with a series of combo recordings for a variety of indie labels. Then after All Sides Now, a so-so set of all-star encounters as his maiden voyage for the Blue Note label, Martino hit the mother lode by reteaming with keyboardist Delmar Brown and drummer Kenwood Dennard to revive Joyous Lake (along with the formidable bassist James Genus and young tenor titan Eric Alexander) for an excellent set of originals on Stone Blue. Here, for the first time in recent memory, Martino’s gifts as a soloist and arranger functioned to equal advantage as he mined a vein of gold in that nether world between jazz-funk and postbop modernism.
Stone Blue stands as perhaps the finest album Martino ever crafted, and live performances by Joyous Lake proved just as incandescent. However, in a backwards glance toward a bygone era, Martino’s subsequent Blue Note project is something of a strategic retreat into the retro realms of the guitarist’s youth, and while the organ trio he chairs on Live at Yoshi’s doesn’t ascend to the dizzying ensemble heights of Joyous Lake, this is a raw, engaging live performance that shines the spotlight on Martino the guitar player and showcases his renewed authority as a soloist in the company of two masters of the form-organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart.
Martino’s trio displays a genuine rapport all through this recital on a nice selection of originals and jazz standards from the Miles Davis/Sonny Rollins/Bill Evans orbit (“Oleo,” “All Blues” and “Blue in Green”), and the guitarist sounds so fluid, relaxed and commanding it’s a joy. Part of the credit must go to virtuoso organist DeFrancesco, who too often in the past came across like a touch typist on bennies, but here sounds as though he’s beginning to find a real aesthetic comfort zone-allowing the action to come to him rather than forcing the issue with glib fusillades of notes. On the opening “Oleo,” DeFrancesco’s earthy, robust bass lines and spare, calculated big-band flourishes provide an ideal launching pad for Martino’s locomotive, elliptical lines, as drummer Hart coyly juggles groove authority and textural abstraction. Then on “All Blues,” the organist and guitarist engage in a smoky, film-noir dialog at a coy, irresistible tempo, as Martino’s trumpetlike melodic figures build to a cascading flurry only to find the organist and drummer down-shifting back to a spectral pianissimo, as DeFrancesco patiently rebuilds tension before calling in the warm jets. All in all, a mature, measured, masterful performance.
The trio retains its taut, deliberate approach throughout, never giving in to generic bluster, and Hart’s pedigree as both a modern-jazz innovator and as a veteran of the funky-butt idiom is money in the bank: His effortless shifts between vamp and release help supercharge “Mac Tough,” as he shadows Martino’s driving lines with fulminating cymbal textures, ceding the bottom to DeFrancesco, whose own solo is dead on in the grits and gravy tradition. And while Martino maintains a tight grip on the rhythm by playing right up on the edge of the beat with a straight eighth feel against a swing groove, his phrasing has evolved to the point where it is more circuitous and breathlike, less relentlessly percussive than in the classic romps of his youth, which is part of what gives ruminative performances like “Welcome to a Prayer” and “Blue in Green” such a welcome air of wisdom and restraint. Likewise, given the heavy strings and high action he has always favored in his setup, the timbre of his attack has sweetened considerably, while he now employs a more nuanced array of left-handed bends, trills and glisses to flesh out his lines.
Still, for those toe-tappers who yearn to get up on the Harley and listen to the engine roar, the joy and jet propulsion with which Martino navigates chorus after chorus on “Recollection,” “El Hombre” and “Catch”-routinely doubling and tripling up into tense, flowing melodic passages of epic duration-should assuage the nostalgic amongst you, and allow Martino a brief interval of reflection until he’s ready for another thrust into the unknown.

Chip Stern (JazzTimes)