Remembering Pat Martino
August 25, 1944 – November 1, 2021
A tribute to the innovative guitarist
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Guitarist Pat Martino passed away on Nov. 1, 2021 at the age of 77.
He was born as Patrick Carmen Azzara on Aug. 25, 1944 in Philadelphia, learning about jazz from his father who had studied guitar with Eddie Lang and sang locally.
Inspired originally by Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery, he began playing guitar at 12 and developed so quickly that he dropped out of high school in tenth grade in 1961 when he was 16 so as to pursue a musical career.
Martino started out playing with soul jazz organ groups including ones led by Charles Earland, Willis Jackson, Jack McDuff, and Don Patterson, also working early on with Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Bobby Hutcherson, Eric Kloss, Jimmy Smith, Richard “Groove” Holmes, and Jimmy McGriff among others.
Considered one of the top guitarists to emerge during the mid-1960s, he first recorded as a leader in 1964 and during the next few years he opened up his style to utilize the influences of avant-garde jazz, rock, and World Music while developing his own fresh musical personality.
After working with John Handy in 1966, Martino was mostly heard as the leader of his own groups including the mid-1970s fusion group Joyous Lake.
Martino suffered from headaches and seizures for a few years and had brain surgery in 1980 to correct a potentially terminal aneurysm; although that problem was solved, he emerged from the surgery with amnesia and no memory of having played guitar.
It took him four years to relearn the guitar, emerging in 1984 to resume his career.
Martino began recording again in 1987, took time off to take care of his ill parents, and in 1994 was back to playing and recording fulltime.
Pat Martino reclaimed his place as one of the top modern jazz guitarists, recorded 27 albums in his career, and was active until ill health forced his retirement in Nov. 2018.
In one of his final performances, from the Padova Jazz Festival on Nov. 22, 2018, Martino is featured along with organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre playing Sonny Rollins’ “Full House.”