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Tuesday February 21, 2017
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Pat Martino

 

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way we listen to music, and many of the early virtuosos did things on recordings that they not did repeat in actual performance, where they would not be heard above the horns.

All of this changed when the Gibson Company of Kalamazoo began to produce the famed ES-150 amplified guitar in May 1936. Amplification enabled Charlie Christian and his followers to create a new melodic way of playing jazz on the guitar. But a uniformity of sound often limits the voice of the electric instrument, creating a challenge for players — who often concentrate on technical playing that impresses other guitarists — but not for the average listener. And yet, as is the case in any art, a small number of instrumentalists have overcome all of this to form their own styles and their own sounds.

Pat Martino certainly belongs to this group. By the time he took up the guitar in 1956, the instrument was well established in modern jazz. He had the benefit of studying with Dennis Sandole, who also taught John Coltrane, and he quickly developed not only a fabulous technique, but also a subtle theoretical sophistication. His career blossomed early, and soon he was on the road with organ trios and recording for Prestige records, first as a sideman to soul jazz greats such as Willis Jackson and Jack McDuff and then, in 1967, leading his own groups. The funky early records established his reputation, but his own releases demonstrated a much broader musical palette and a musical curiosity that led him in various experimental directions.

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