(606 Club, 22nd May 2013. Review by Rod Fogg)
Back in the early days of downloads I picked up two Pat Martino albums for the price of one. It was a bit of a punt, as I knew his music only by reputation. They were “Hombre” and “Strings” both from 1967 – his first two albums – and something of a bargain. “Hombre” featured the classic soul organ line up of guitar, organ and drums, beefed up by bongos, congas and occasional flute. “Strings” added exalted company – Joe Farrell on tenor and Cedar Walton on piano. Both albums consisted mostly of Martino’s own compositions. There was a soulfulness about the writing; unison riffs, guitar melodies in octaves, free flowing bop-style solos – and great “fat jazz” tone. I have returned to them many times – they’re that good.
Throughout the 70s Martino averaged a couple of albums every year. Then in 1980 a career-ending brain operation called a halt. Except that despite amnesia, he learned to play again and resumed his career in 1987 with the comeback album “The Return”. There’s plenty of live stuff on Youtube if you want to check him out – he’s everywhere on the guitar and there’s nothing about his playing to suggest that he was ever in anything other than perfect health.
At the 606 last night he was few months short of his 69th birthday, on a European tour with Pat Bianchi (Hammond B3) and Carmen Intorre (drums); the classic line-up. I love jazz Hammond players; it’s like watching a cartoon octopus at the controls of a crazy Heath-Robinson machine. Pedal-board walking bass, comped chords, unison heads and inspired soloing – it’s all happening. And Bianchi doesn’t disappoint, nor does Intorre. These guys take fast tempos without breaking a sweat and cool grooves are suitably deep and slick.
The set was mostly standards – Footprints, taken slowly, Oleo, taken fast. Charlie Christian’s Seven Come Eleven, Miles’s Blue in Green and All Blues, a couple of Wes Montgomery tunes, Full House and Twisted Blues, and Martino originals Catch and Mac Tough. Martino blends old-school jazz tone with a modern sense of harmonic adventure – in amongst all this cool post-bop grooving, whether fast or slow, there are some seriously contemporary chord/scale relationship things going on that take his solos to the edge. Yet there’s a strong melodic sense that holds everything together.
The 606 is a great, intimate venue for music like this and there was a heart-warming glow about the room by the end of the gig, with gratitude expressed from both audience and performers. This was the first night of a 40-artist twelve-day festival to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary of re-locating to Lot’s Road. Day one, without doubt, was something special.