At this point, the amazing return of Pat Martino from total memory loss due to a brain aneurysm in 1980 has become a secondary story – by now he has three discs on Blue Note under his belt. That Martino now plays so boldly, with a great sense of dynamics and rootsy footing, keeps the attention focused on the music and less on the musician’s condition; as modern takes on 1960s soul-jazz go, Martino is at the head of the class with organist Joey DeFrancesco at his side.
Poised with his hollow-body sunburst guitar held high, Martino strikes a secure if less than assertive pose. His music is nearly the polar opposite, an aggressively stated stream of notes, often delivered from the central section of the guitar neck where the tone is earthy and rich and Martino maximizes a melodic flow.
Paired with the Hammond B-3 playing of DeFrancesco, Martin’s music is the sort that influenced adventurous blues rock bands of the 1970s; for anyone who ever wondered where the jazz licks came from in Allman Brothers recordings, here’s the guy to start with. His live show is far more upbeat than his latest CD, “Live at Yoshi’s” (Blue Note), and he exhibits a love for the music of Miles Davis that has seemingly been of paramount interest to him since he got his start in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s.
When he relearned the guitar – from scratch – he didn’t stray from his basic sound, which at the time of his recovery was low on the list of jazz popular styles. The organ trio has seen considerable revitalization in the 1990s and Martino is making the most of that on musicianship alone; he’s the rare musician who can keep that sound bursting with excitement number after number through nuance-crammed solos that never fall into redundant moves or riffs. The steady drumming of Byron Landham keeps the unit moving at a nice clip, making the 75-minute session seem like it was over in a flash.