Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pat Martino: The Hard Bop Years -- Happy Birthday!

Anyone who knows me knows how central to my musical universe Pat Martino has been for almost 40 years.  Today, however, on the occasion of his 66th birthday, I will celebrate a period of his evolution that preceded this personal influence by a decade.  Pat Azzara (his birth name) is the Pat Martino I wish my parents had taken me to see when I thought George Harrison's opening riff on "Ticket to Ride" was the apex of guitar improvization. 

Pat Azzara at a Boston club, 1963, with Jack McDuff (organ),
Red Holloway (reeds), Joe Dukes (drums), Al Hibbler (vocals). 
[Pat made made this pic available on his All About Jazz bulletin board.]

This Pat is virtually "another guitarist" than the one who, in a few precious lessons in the '70s and in countless live performances over the past four decades, altered how I contemplated the guitar's possibilities. 

With Pat, Folk City, 1/1/73, 3:20 A.M. 
A few weeks later, on the day the Paris Peace
Accords (ending the Vietnam War) were signed,
I traveled from New York to Philly for my first lesson.

Pat Azzara, the Wunderkind, was socially as well as professionally surrounded by almost every cat to whose collective legacy this site is dedicated, most notably John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery.  They guided him, taught him, shaped him.  In the early '60s, they constituted his musical milieu, even if it changed and he with it to become a major guide, teacher, and life-shaper himself.
The solos you must hear are on the sides he cut with with Willis Jackson, 1963-1964, when Pat was in his late teens. (Pat's time with Jackson goes back to '61, but I know of no recording before '63). Those stellar solos are on the following eight albums (given chronologically by date of recording, not of release):

I. Willis Jackson, Grease 'n' Gravy (Prestige 7285, recorded May 23-24, 1963) and Willis Jackson, The Good Life (Prestige 7296, recorded May 23-24, 1963). Remastered in 2001 and re-issued together on CD as Willis Jackson with Pat Martino, Gravy (PRCD 24254-2). 
II. Willis Jackson, More Gravy (Prestige 7317, recorded October 24, 1963) and Willis Jackson, Boss Shoutin' (Prestige 7320, recorded January 9, 1964).  Remastered in 2002 and re-issued together on CD as Willis Jackson, Nuther'n Like Thuther'n (PRCD 24265-2).
III. Willis Jackson, Jackson's Action (Prestige 7348, recorded live at the Allegro, New York City, March 21, 1964) and Willis Jackson, Live! Action (Prestige 7380, same place, same date). Remastered in 1995 and re-issued together on CD as Willis Jackson with Pat Martino (PRCD 24161-2).
IV. Willis Jackson, Soul Night/Live (Prestige 7396, recorded live at the Allegro, New York City, March 21, 1964) and Willis Jackson, Tell It (Prestige 7412, same place, same date).  Remastered in 2002 and re-issued together on CD as Willis Jackson, Soul Night Live! with Pat Martino (PRCD 24272-2).
Now, to the solos themselves.  Following the CD compilation's track number is the title of the track on which Pat solos (he doesn't on every track); the location of his solos on the track; song type; and number of choruses Pat takes.

I. Willis Jackson with Pat Martino, Gravy (PRCD 24254-2):

1: "Brother Elijah," 3:36-4:32 (blues, 4)
2: "Doot Dat," 2:04-3:52 (blues, 7)
3: "Stompin' at the Savoy," 1:14-1:49 (rhythm changes, 1)
4: "Gra-a-a-vy," 8:17-10:28 (slow blues, 3)
5: "Grease," 2:31-4:37 (blues, 8)
9: "Fly Me to the Moon," 1:15-1:56 (ballad, up-tempo, 1)
10: "Angel Eyes," 0:01-0:10 (intro), 0:10-4:11 (ballad, mod. slow/bluesy, 1, except for trumpet on B section)
11: "Troubled Times," 0:59-2:02 (blues, 4)

II. Willis Jackson, Nuther'n Like Thuther'n (PRCD 24265-2).
3. "Stuffin," 3:24-4:46 (blues, 5)
4. "Nuther'n Like Thuther'n," 1:16-2:28 (Vamp tune, 1)
6. "Fiddlin'," 1:51-2:29 (blues, 3)
8. "Que Sera, Sweetie," 2:48-4:37 (minor blues, 5)
9. "Shoutin'," 3:18-5:00 (fast blues, 9)
10. "Nice 'n' Easy," 3:16-5:19 (pop tune, 2)

III. Willis Jackson with Pat Martino (PRCD 24161-2)
2. "A Lot of Living to Do," 3:33-4:26 (show tune, 1)
3. "I Wish You Love," 0:11-2:09 (ballad, 2; Jackson takes it out from B section of second chorus)
7. "Hello, Dolly," 1:11-1:44 (show tune, 1)
11. "I'm a Fool to Want You," 1:06-1:44 (ballad, lines behind Jackson)
12. "Gator Tail," 4:39-7:23 (fast blues, 12)*
13. "Satin Doll," 5:32-7:41 (jazz standard, 2)

IV. Willis Jackson, Soul Night Live! with Pat Martino (PRCD 24272-2).
1. "The Man I Love," 3:10-3:54 (ballad, "manic" uptempo, 1)
2. "Perdido," 4:02-5:33 (pop tune, 2)
3. "Thunderbird," 2:40-4:25 (rock blues, 5)
4. "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," 0:19-5:50 (ballad, 2; cadenza from 5:04 to 5:50.  Note: The more one concentrates on Pat's playing, the more painful are the charming atmospherics provided by the live audience, e.g., "What the hell are you doing over there?" at 0:43.)
6. "Flamingo," 0:17-5:36 (ballad, 2; cadenza from 4:48-5:36)
8. "One Mint Julip," 1:11-3:20 (rock blues with a bridge, 2)
9. "Up a Lazy River," 0:35-1:22 (pop tune, 2)
11. "Tangerine," 0:33-1:08 (ballad, uptempo, break + 1)
14. "Secret Love," 1:28-2:30 (ballad, uptempo, 1)

* This takes the crown.  No lover of soul-jazz-blues guitar should go to his grave before hearing Pat's twelve break-neck blues choruses on "Gator Tail."  Every listener has been left speechless (at least in my presence; at least initially speechless).  As more words will sound like hype, I implore you, listen to them as soon as you can, and then ask: "Who else, of whatever age, of no matter how many years of experience, was doing that in those years?" And then remember that Pat was all of 19 when he laid down that solo before the Allegro's live audience on March 21, 1964.

Twelve of the above-listed 29 tracks are blues.  Remarkable, apart from their groove and clean articulation, is their linear and rhythmic variety.  There is, of course, a discernible common vocabulary, but at no time is one driven to say, "Oh, that again!"  Not only from one track to another, but from one chorus to another, inventiveness reigns.  The seven choruses of "Doot Dat" and the eight of "Grease" are excellent examples of this.  And, again, "Gator Tail"'s dozen are in a class of their own.

On several ballads, "Angel Eyes," "I Wish You Love," "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," and "Flamingo," Jackson lets his young guitarist show off his hard bop chops virtually from start to finish.  Pat's sound here invites comparison, and contrast, to the one he would achieve a few years later on El Hombre, his first released album as a leaderFor a taste of the latter period, dig this rare, live, 1969 recording of "Who Can I Turn To" with Gene Ludwig (who passed away last month) on organ, recently posted on YouTube and graced by an equally rare still shot:

I dedicate this bit of discographical mining to Pat on the occasion of his birthday, hoping it will send others to all of his recorded work (and to his gigs).  Our paths have crossed many times since September 9, 1972 at New York's Folk City; may they do so again and again.

With Pat and my wife at the Blue Note, New York, 9/9/95
(22 years after I first approached him after a set at Folk City across the street)

No comments:

Post a Comment