In 1980 Pat Martino underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm; although the operation saved his life, it robbed him of his memories and motor skills. But he managed to relearn his instrument through painstaking study of his own recordings from the 70s, and he may be a better musician for it. His last two releases for Blue Note, 2001's Live at Yoshi's and last year's Think Tank (with an all-star quintet featuring saxist Joe Lovano and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba), each got a pair of Grammy nominations and set off a buzz among not just guitarists but musicians in general. His first time around, Martino offered the most dynamic technique of his generation and an aesthetic rooted in tradition--he'd come up playing in organ combos in his native Philadelphia--but with enough fire to challenge his contemporaries and inspire the new guys on the scene. Martino II, though, demonstrates a surprising new versatility. His playing on Think Tank's high-energy opener, "Phineas Trane," emulates the slight staccato that Wes Montgomery employed to highlight each note of his most lyrical passages; his Grammy-nominated solo on "Africa" has a more legato sound, barreling along atop angular, Coltrane-inspired rhythms. In either mode Martino can still pound out the quicksilver lines bursting with notes that were his trademark in the 70s, but in rebuilding his chops, he has learned to parse and prune judiciously. Throw in 25 years' worth of maturity and you have a guitarist for the ages. With the exception of saxist Michael Pedicin Jr., the quintet he's bringing to town consists of younger, less well-known players. Tuesday through Thursday, March 30 through April 1, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, April 2 and 3, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, April 4, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.