Pat Martino is, flat out, my favorite jazz guitarist, no question about it. Though he's seen as extremely talented and rather revolutionary, almost all the jazz geeks with whom I'm aquainted have never even heard his name(s). So here I am, explaining to you just why I'm correct when I say he rocks.
This soon-to-be luminary was born Pat Azzara in 1944 Philadelphia. Under his father's influence and the tutelage of Dennis Sandole, the teacher of John Coltrane, Pat progressed from his pre-teen meanderings on guitar to a full-blown commitment to music when he dropped out of high school in 10th grade. Before long, Azzara became involved in the Philadelphia rock scene, and, after a little experience, his reputation spread among those in the jazz scene. Azzara had first-hand experience with legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, whose album Grooveyard influenced Pat beyond words. As he gathered fame, Azzara moved to Harlem to pursue a more soulful jazz to which he'd never been exposed. Before his eighteenth birthday, he landed a record contract with Prestige Records.
Over the years with this contract, Azzara, having changed his surname to Martino, produced several of his most seminal and influential albums. These include the psychedelic Baiyina (the Clear Evidence), a sitar-sprinkled trip into Quran mysticism, the ambitious El Hombre and Strings!, Martino's first two released albums, and the plaintive and reflective The Visit, a tribute to the late, legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery featuring a cover of a song they worked on together, Road Song. Moving on to a new reocrd label with Muse, Martino realeased his virtuosic Live!/Consciousness dual album that, like those before, made waves in the jazz community. His style had developed into a fast-paced 16th and 32nd note spasm of elegant scale melodies as well as the occasionasional infusion of Lydian, Dorian and blues scales to add an unpredictability to his phrasing.
In 1976, he began experiencing excruciating pains in his head and was diagnosed with aneurysms. His severe cerebral hemorrage left him barely remembering his parents when he awoke, and with no memory of his guitar, music, or fame. After years spent recovering and regaining memories by listening to old recordings of himself, Martino returned to the music scene with his album titled, quite unsurprisingly, The Return, 4 inspiringly intense songs, in virtually the same style of play that he used before the aneurysm. Having been forced to reevaluate his playing style through a more direct feed, his new phrasings contain something of a slightly different tone, something truly indefinable, really. Despite the death of his parents in 1994, Martino continues to compose and record, taking his style in new directions and pushing his instrument and craft to its limitations.