Pat Martino Remembered: 1944-2021

On November 1, 2021 the Jazz Guitar Community – and Jazz in general – lost one of its most preeminent players and ardent  spokesman of improvised music as Pat Martino (Patrick Carmen Azzara) – after a lengthy struggle with a “…chronic respiratory disorder that prevented his lungs from bringing in oxygen [requiring] around-the-clock treatment (Downbeat)”  – sadly succumbed to the ravages of his condition.  As one could imagine, the outpouring of grief and tributary tales that followed the news filled social media space as stunned friends and fans poured their heart and soul out to those who understood the personal and emotional impact of Pat’s passing. Even those who had never known the man personally felt a global kinship that day that shows no sign of waning anytime soon.

In that respect, Jazz Guitar Life reached out to more than a few players – with the obvious exception of the George Benson YT clip – who felt a tremendous loss that day and what you will read below are their cherished reflections on Pat as a performer, educator and a man of character.

If you have your own reflections and would like to share them with Jazz Guitar Life readers, please send an email to info@thejazzguitarlife.com and we’ll add them to this tribute page.

New: Charlie Apicella: Pat Martino always treated me as a friend and I love the time I spent with him. He encouraged me to be proud of myself and I was happy whenever I was around him. It truly felt like a privilege having him know me and express interest in my work.

At first I was intimidated to be in his company, which is something we often project on a person we greatly admire. But his personality was so warm, comforting, and curious that I soon felt like a friend. 

A key pillar of his teaching style was the idea that the student studies the lifestyle and behaviors of the master in equal parts to the study of music and the guitar. Pat was very clear in describing lessons from his past and how he assimilated new ideas from those lessons. He placed much emphasis on his early sideman work performing for a Chitlin Circuit crowd and appreciating the culture and community that his music grew up in. 

I will cherish our friendship forever and will always be blessed having known him.

New: Dr. LeRoy Henry: I first heard of Pat Martino as a student at the Navy School of Music in Little Creek Virginia. After studying music at the University of Central Florida I successfully passed an audition for the Navy Music Program as a Fleet Guitarist and was sent to Little Creek after boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. There I met a fantastic guitarist named H. M. Johnson. He played a Guild “Jazz Box” through a 1960s Fender Deluxe Reverb Amplifier that was the most dialed in amplifier I had ever heard. He played in a 10-piece band comprised mostly of instructors from the Navy School of music. I started hanging out with Henry and I wanted to know how he managed to develop the extensive vocabulary he used in a band that did James Brown and Tower of Power tunes. He said he listened to Wes Montgomery and Danny Gatton and shyly admitted to listening to George Benson but the guitar playing more than the singing on albums like Body Talk. He also mentioned a guy named Pat Martino. Later I would find another copy of a Guitar Player Magazine which I had recalled because it featured an article on Johnny Winter. Johnny Winter was the first big live concert I ever went to and as a kid I was only interested in the Johnny Winter article and missed an earlier opportunity to be introduced to Pat’s music.

I was sent to Hawaii to play in that fleet band and while there I would go down to the CD store every payday and buy John Coltrane and Pat Martino recordings. After leaving the Navy I moved to a town called Carlsbad California where the famous author and educator Wolf Marshall lived. I was able to study with him for several years and he made me aware of a period in the jazz literature called 60s Soul Jazz. The typical group was a trio with Guitar, Hammond Organ, and Drum Trap Set. Sometimes these groups would have a horn or two, but these groups were characterized by not having a separate bass player and the Organist would just play bass with their left hand on the lower manual and use the bass pedals like a kick drum. I also noticed that these recordings that featured a very young Pat Martino on guitar had a lot of Jazz Standard tunes on them. This gave me an idea to put a different kind of book of transcriptions focused on Pat Martino’s improvisations on Jazz Standard chord progressions. Wolf Marshall and Dr. Jörg Heuser (another transcriber of Pat’s work from Germany) supported these efforts. I found the hardest thing about these transcriptions was writing out the rhythms. I had a lot of help with that, and the focus of my work was guessing how Pat fingered these guitar grips. As I worked on this, I figured out that if the fingering I was working on was hard it probably was not what he played. His phases just lay so well on the guitar.

Over the years I would go see Pat whenever he hit Southern California. I got a copy of Remember (his second tribute to Wes Montgomery) the day before it’s release because Amazon screwed up and sent it early. He just happened to be playing San Diego that day and I asked him to sign it after the show. This was in a long receiving line and as he signed it he looked at it and said, “it’s finally done.” Those words hit me like a ton of bricks because I thought everything came so easy to him. He would often talk to me an uncomfortably long time in these receiving lines before we knew each other well. Later I would get to be better friends with him with the help of Tony Monaco who got me backstage at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco where I gave Pat an early version of my book. A few months after that they were playing Yoshi’s in San Francisco and Tony left me alone with Pat because he had friends that wanted to go dancing. We went to wine bar, and I proceeded to spill red wine on this really cool tweed jacket he had. He said do not worry about it and I flagged a cab to get him back to his hotel. It was interesting that both he and the band were unaware that the hotel was very close to that Yoshi’s, and it actually made the band late at an engagement a couple of years later. Pat was already there because I had arranged a showing of the film Unstrung and he was fielding questions afterwards. It was the only time I witnessed Pat having a bad night because he was pissed the band was late.

We hooked up at a National Summer Guitar Workshop in Los Angeles early in our friendship. I signed up as a student there and after Pat gave his presentation, I asked the instructors if I could drive them to dinner because I had a van. They kind of blew me off saying well we only have reservations for the teachers and Pat. Pat came up to me and asked me what was going on. I told him about this, and he went to them and asked them to let me and another friend of Pat’s, Johnny Valentino, go to dinner with them. At dinner, these guitarists all wanted to talk guitar with Pat, but he was focused on what was going on around us at the restaurant. There was a Coy Pond and when we sat by the water there were boats and dolphin in the water. It was humorous to watch. Pat thinks it’s kind of weird to talk about guitar without a guitar there. The instructors noticed that Pat and I knew each other well and when we returned to campus that engaged me to drive Pat back to his hotel. It was so funny because here I am in this soccer mom van and a sea gull had decided to poop on the window right where Pat was sitting. I was embarrassed but we both ignored it. Later he put a new group together with Pat Bianchi and Carmen Intorre. I was curious about these musicians, so I followed them on a 3-city tour of Texas. Deborah and I have since traveled to The Iridium in New York City for Pat’s birthday, Boston, Philadelphia, and even Naples Florida.

Denis Chang: In August of 2016 just before Pat’s birthday, I spent a number of days working with him in my studio in Montreal. We were working on a series of instructional videos for my site DC Music School.

Before I share my story, I want to point out that for many years I have been interested in approaching jazz education from a historical and cultural perspective. I have been gradually learning towards and developing a holistic approach to education for many years. 

Being able to work with Pat Martino, who is of a much older generation, was like being able to travel back in time for a little bit.

Outside of work hours, I’d take him out to my favorite restaurants in Montreal, and we’d chat quite a lot about these things.

He told me about his formative years working professionally as a teenager, playing long hours practically every night. How there was always a gig or jam session to check out. This environment, community, and culture is what I had been researching all those years. I’ll never forget what he said though. 

He said that things weren’t the same anymore; the environment that he had no longer exists, and that things have changed. If I recall correctly, he seemed to have said that because things are different, the approach to learning will be different and the result will be different too. However, he stressed that it wasn’t a case of “better or worse”, it was just that things were different today.

For me, this made me think reflect a lot on jazz education in general and it has motivated me to want to develop more this holistic approach to teaching, focusing a lot on community and history.

There is a reason why Pat got so good beyond the talent: he had the opportunity to work with great musicians from an early age, and he was playing high level gigs with them practically every single day. Sometimes, after gigs, he’d have opportunities to hang out with other high level musicians and jam. Not just jam, but also hang out. This hanging out aspect is something that I find very important as well.

Lots of students of jazz ask me how to learn songs, or they tell me they have difficulty memorizing tunes. I think back to my early years where I also was given the opportunity to play two a week at a bistro for a number of years. That’s where I learned most of my tunes. It came naturally not because I was particularly gifted at learning tunes, but when you have regular gigs, you play a lot of the same times over and over, and it just stays with you. 

As many know Pat had a medical issue that caused him to lose his a significant chunk of his memory. In my studio, there were certain popular standards that he had definitely played before but that he had forgotten because of the brain aneurysm. He often relied on charts for such songs. However, I will never forget that he remembered every Wes Montgomery tune that I asked him to play. I think Wes must have had a huge impact on him and he must have spent hours listening and playing the Wes repertoire.

Geno White: Just wanted to share a short bit of my time with Pat. We met in 1977 when he lived on Jane St in NYC. He took to right away for some reason. After his operation he moved back to Philadelphia and there I became very close to his mother and father. It was on her death bed that she asked me if I would help her son get back out to playing and on the road. I answered yes. That became a 12 year part time job along with friendship of 44 years. I have entries and a photo in the book Hear and Now. I was also in Japan with Pat when he met his wife to be Aya. As a matter of fact I knew all his wives. I have tons of great memories and stories.

Lyle Robinson: I first heard of Pat Martino when a friend of mine lent me The Visit (nee Footprints) album back in the early 80’s. I had just gotten into Jazz Guitar and I couldn’t get enough of Pat’s extended lines, fat tone, technique and his seemingly endless harmonic and melodic ideas.  I started listening and buying all that I could from his far-reaching catalog and while I had trouble with the applications of his theoretical approaches there was still something that resonated within me. A spirit if you will of Pat’s end-result intentions: emotion.

Moving ahead 20 years or so I had the occasion to see Pat perform a few times in Montreal and had the opportunity to see him do a workshop as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival. Unfortunately I ended up arriving for the last 5 minutes of the workshop. As he was getting ready to leave, I went up to him and apologized for being so late. We shook hands and as he was about to say something to me, one of the organizers came up to us and told Pat that he had to leave right away to get to sound-check for a show later that evening.  Being the gentleman that he was he apologized and asked if I was going to the show which I replied that “indeed I was”. He smiled and said “maybe we can talk then?” I nodded and he left. Regrettably I was unable to hang around after the show and so never got the chance to further our conversation, but I got the sense that had I been able to see him, it would have been a joyous exchange of thoughts rather than a curt “thanks for coming”.

Pat Martino, the player, the educator and the man, will surely be missed for many years to come. My condolences and love to all his family, friends and fans. RIP Mr. Martino.

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Larry Tamanini: On November first, the Jazz guitar community suffered a huge loss when guitar luminary Pat Martino transitioned to a higher plane. Pat leaves an incredible legacy of music and teachings that will be cherished for as long as people listen to music and study jazz guitar. My good friend Lyle Robinson (Jazz Guitar Life) asked me to share some thoughts and perspectives about my time with Pat.

My relationship with Pat began in 1996 when I was 16 years old and really getting interested in jazz guitar. Much like Pat, I was encouraged to play guitar by my father who had a passion for jazz guitar music. There were always some jazz guitar sounds in the house and it was impossible for me to resist. My folks would hear me playing along to the albums and picking little things out here and there, unbeknownst to me my father had reached out to Pat with the hope of getting me a lesson or two. Pat initially thought I was too young but finally acquiesced under the stipulation that my father help to procure him a handicapped parking spot in front of his house in South Philly. Big Lar didn’t mess around and the sign was up in 2 days, and down to South Philly we went to meet the man.

What happened next was a life-altering experience for me and a true blessing to be able to sit with the master at his house and talk about the nature of guitar as Pat would say. I thought it was going to be a one-time thing but we were all surprised when Pat told my father that he thought I had some great ability and wanted to keep working with me. This is something that still blows my mind and I wouldn’t be playing guitar if it wasn’t for Pat’s love, patience, and expert tutelage. He gave me many opportunities to see him live, be a roadie, and play with some of his groups. As a spoiled young kid, I just thought every aspiring young guitar player was assigned a legendary mentor to pass information to them and it wasn’t till much later that I realized just how fortunate I was to be in his presence and be a part of his musical world. 

Some of the things that I’ll remember Pat are for was his love for Nick’s Roast pork sandwiches and Marra’s Pizza, dressing really hip and shopping at Boyd’s, his love of Sci-Fi movies and beautiful penmanship. My most poignant and enduring memory of Pat Martino is in regards to his unbreakable will and quiet tenacity. When Pat came into our lives in 1996 he wasn’t quite the star that he deserved to be and I think many people had written him off after his aneurysm. It was so incredibly inspiring to witness Pat climb to the top of the mountain again in the late 90’s early 2000’s after getting signed to Blue Note, getting a Gibson endorsement, recording on The Philadelphia Experiment, and the many recording accolades he received on just about all of his albums. It was really an honor to be in his presence and the love I feel for Pat and his music is something that keeps me inspired and grounded. As Pat would say You’re Welcome To A Prayer. 

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Dom Minasi: Good friends don’t have to see or talk to each other every day, week or month because you know that you are there for each other. That’s how it was with Pat and me.

In 1976 a student (Tim Reyes was studying with Pat and me at the same time. Tim mentioned it to Pat. A few weeks later I performed at the Village Gate WRVR Radio Concert. Pat listened to me and told Tim he wanted to meet me. I was thrilled. I did go up to his apartment on Jane St. in Manhattan. I brought my guitar, thinking we would play, but he just wanted to talk and get to know me. He and his wife at the time were very gracious. We had a great time and promised to stay in touch.

A few weeks later Pat called and told he had to teach a Master Class upstate New York and couldn’t do it and asked if I could, of I said yes. I again was thrilled that Pat asked me to sub for him. That meant he regarded me as a peer, not just a fan or admirer. The college that hired him cancelled the class. If they couldn’t have Pat, they didn’t want anyone. I was a little angry at the time, but I knew it wasn’t Pat’s fault.

I always kept in touch every 3 or 4 months I gave him a call. Then one day I called and his wife answered and said they had broken up and he moved to LA to teach. I felt horrible.

Then the next I heard he had been operated on in LA for a brain tumor. It seems all those years he was having seizures and the doctors thought he was psychotic. In the early years they didn’t have PET, CAT or MRI scans, but in 1976 they had them. After the scan they found a tumor and took it out which caused a great deal of memory loss including how to play the guitar.

I found out that he had moved in with his parents in Philly. I called and talked to him. It took a while but he started to remember me. I drove out to see him and spent 3-4 hours with him. He was practicing standing up with his custom Rivera guitar with thick strings and high action. He relearned how to play by listening to his old records. I was just glad that he survived. His guitar playing was second to me, but a few months later he performed his first gig at Fat Tuesdays with Harvey No S on bass and Joey Baron on drums. I was there and it was amazing. His energy and power were back and he just knocked everyone out. After the gig at Fat Tuesdays, he went on the road with the trio. Through the years I would call or send an email or visit him at one of his NY gigs. He was playing better and  and better looked healthier all the time.

Then 2 years ago I saw the go-fund-me page and I was horrified. I called his , Joe Donofrio, and ask what happened and he explained that Pat picked up something while in Italy that affected hi lungs and he was bed-ridden and couldn’t play.

For the last 2 years instead talking to Pat (knowing it was probably hard to talk) I would text Joe and ask about him and Joe would always say “the same”. The doctors wanted to do a transplant, but Pat was too weak for the operation. The week before he died, I texted Joe and asked the same question and the answer was always the same. I asked Joe to send him my love as I always did and Joe said he would see him on the following Friday. Somehow, I knew, I can’t tell you why, but I knew Pat would die very soon and he did.

All I can say is he is always in my heart and thoughts and his legacy will go on forever. Rest In Peace Pat.

Wherever you are, you are probably dazzling them with your spirit and virtuosity.

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John Austin Mulhern: I don’t know were to begin. The first time I saw Pat was at Grendals Lair in Philly. He was playing Sunny and each solo he was more intense and amazing. I never heard anything like his guitar playing that night. After his performance I went up to him and I said “it was almost like you were outside of your body did I get that right?” And then he said “yeah!” I was on the other side of the light booth watching myself play and then I said “Dude you have to teach me how to do that! I want to learn how to do that.”

Pat was a great teacher look at his signature it is a work of art he always did music and art at the highest level. Pat was family. I recorded him in my basement studio in Bristol PA.at Jam Studio One. I introduced him to his Manager and producer Joe Donofrio in a dinner in Brigantine NJ. I recorded him played with him I’m in two films Open Road and Unstrung and his autobiography Here and Now.

I went with him in LA in 1980 when he taught at GIT in LA. I was living on the couch at his apartment when he had his Aneurism and held him down and Louis and I drove him to the Hospital. When he got operated in Philadelphia I was there when he forgot how to play his guitar and I helped him to get back to playing again. Mickey – his father – asked me to come over and said why don’t you come over and play some of the music you used to do in your studio He walks by his guitars but he will not play. So I was working at the Golden Nugget Orchestra as the House Guitarist at the time playing 6 nights a week and on my night off Monday I went over to Pat’s house and I’ll never forget I had a book that I used to practice in LA after we came home from school and I used to practice it on the veranda with these endless cassette tapes. He would walk by and say why don’t you play the way I taught you how to play it. I answered “because I don’t hear it that way I hear major you hear minor I hear happy you hear sad” and he looked at me like you will never amount to anything and was annoyed and went to his room.

When I went to see Pat I brought my book that he was annoyed with me in LA. Pat was behind me in his study and I started to play through these studies and said don’t you remember there are only 144 key centers 12 times twelve you did it in minor ninths and I did it in major sevenths now he’s looking over my shoulder he picks up the guitar and starts playing like he never stopped. I played the chords and he played the lines and as we were playing I was transcribing and I was to slow in transcribing so I just played the chords and he transcribed. The Master was back and for the next day he was a mad man and then he got into the computer and everything was coming back to him. So I had the key to unlock the door for the apprentice to get the Master to play his guitar again.

I have a friend Beryl Walk who always used to tell me “Coincidence is Gods way of staying anonymous.” There are no coincidences, it was meant to be, it is Gods plan. God picked me to help my friend Pat Martino when he needed help. I’m grateful that God picked me. Even though I miss him and my heart is broken I have to thank Aya his wife when she says at least he did not suffer and he is at Peace as he died in his sleep.

Play on big Brother play on. Pat’s music and compositions will last forever. Love and respect to you Pat Martino. I got to sit at the foot of the Master of the Jazz Guitar Pat Martino. Love and Respect my teacher and friend Pat Martino.

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Chris Standring: I didn’t know Pat extremely well but considered him a friend as I took a lesson with him in Philly a few years ago and he and his wife came to my show that evening at Penns Landing. That was so generous of him. And one of the most inspirational signposts in my career. I can’t think of a bigger influence anyone had on my musical journey.

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Paul Kogut: I studied with Pat briefly in 1987. I was attending a college with no jazz program, and built a day-long lesson at his Philly house into a semester’s independent study. The part of the lesson that stuck with me above all else was when he said the goal of practice and study was to ‘neutralize the machine’, the idea that if you had an inspiration for what to play, you instantly knew the techniques and positions to play it.

For me, it turned things around from feeling like I was ‘supposed’ to learn all these scales, modes, voicings, etc to being responsible for deciding what was necessary for me to communicate artistically. Pat, Wes, Jim Hall, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Chet Atkins, Keith Richards and even Johnny Ramone all neutralized their own machine for their own personal sound.

As an eager young player, I of course asked him about fast playing, building chops. It felt like he was about to launch into a deep explanation, but he paused and said. “I’ve been playing like this since I was was 12 years old. I never thought about it because I never needed to. I think you’re asking the wrong person…”

We went through his ‘parental groups’ concept, I think before it was in any book or video . Organizing the neck through the naturally inverting diminished 7ths and augmented triads was immediately illuminating.

Lastly, I recall his advice as I was wondering if I should pursue the life of a jazz artist, While material success could not be guaranteed, he smiled and said “It’s a beautiful way to spend a life, man…” He was certainly right about that.

David O’Rourke: “Be Yourself” they told me, “Because everyone else has been taken…” and of course, the adult in me fully agrees with these sentiments and would never argue against them, but the version of me in my late teens, when I first heard Pat Martino…THAT is who I wanted to be. I would buy every album I could find, get a cassette copy of the ones I couldn’t, and try to play his solos, learning them off by using my Dad’s old reel to reel recorder. Slow them to half speed except, it wasn’t calibrated accurately and it would come out a half step higher, but an octave lower. I would have the mixture of frustration that I couldn’t execute them at full speed right away but also found myself marveling at his note choices, even slowed down.

The opening notes of Days Of Wine and Roses into the break to the solo. All the ballads on “We’ll Be Together Again” album, and the timelessness of Joyous Lake! Phew, and I wondered would I ever hear him live or meet him. “Never Meet Your Heroes” – how many times was I told that and How many times were they proven wrong! I remember, in winter 1983, in Vic Juris’s apartment telling him that I envied him having studied with Pat Martino “You want to study with Pat? I’ll give you his number and tell him I told you to call!” I was floored, what a generous thing of Vic to do and when I did call Pat, my life was changed, forever! Back to that ‘Be Yourself’ idea, some people had the Beatle haircuts in the 60s, bell bottoms etc but for me, it was that cover of Guitar Player magazine – Pat in a denim shirt. I tried getting one and they had gone out of vogue in Ireland but I eventually did, couldn’t get an L5 solid though and all because I wanted to be that guy on the cover of Guitar Player who’s playing mesmerized me.

Soon after that phone call, my cousin Paul McEvoy, drove me to Philly to get my lesson with Pat – a 5 hour lesson, for an insanely low charge! – he had a booklet ready for me and I sat there in awe for about 5-10 minutes. He snapped me out of it to a point where I mostly saw him as a generous, humble, easy going man but…a genius!!! I would slip briefly into an ‘OMG, that’s Pat Martino’ mode and would immediately fall back in to the warmth of his sharing. That began a friendship that I know I was blessed to have.

His comeback from clean slate memory loss to relearning what many thought was gone forever (John Mulhern, you’re support and friendship of Pat here, gave us all so much more of his extraordinary gift to cherish). When I took my lesson with him he was on his way back from the seizures and memory loss and had regained a lot of his trademark sound but his confidence or desire to perform had not yet returned – but I’ll never forget looking in wonder as he produced amazing sounds with his twin neck Adamus nylon string only feet away from me. Even with the inevitable loss that comes with an aneurism and the seizures he had, I got a full understanding of what that throwaway line “brains to burn” meant – students of neurology often point out how other parts of the brain try to compensate for ones that are compromised, for some reason or another, and a kind of remapping takes place. His profound command of such a wide variety of subjects was staggering, as was his constant quest for more knowledge.

Years later, while Seth Abramson and I are having a chat with Pat, just off from the stage at Jazz Standard and both of us telling Pat how much we loved his ballad playing Pat said how sometimes, that was all he wanted to do – play only ballads. I can’t remember how we got there but Seth was asking him about an orchestral album and Pat’s face lit up as he said he wanted to do one and looked at me and said “I want to do it with him” and laughed. I remember saying to him that if he was serious about that then so was I, and asked what was the next move? He told me when to call him, allowing for some recoup time after being away from home for more than a week. I called, we set a date for me to go to Philly, to the house where I had taken the lesson almost 30 years earlier. I didn’t know how to approach this, I’d never collaborated with an icon like that before. Do I wait to be told what he wanted to do? Do I suggest to him? or will he feel like I’m pushing him in a direction. If I wait and arrive with nothing then what has he to go on with me? If I arrive with complete arrangements then it seems like I am being controlling.

I arrive at his house in Philly and in what would be become the routine when we met once a month, he would play for me whatever he was working on currently…a composition, some stuff that sound like his octave dispersal ideas, you name it. Then he turned to me and said “What did you have in mind?” and I froze inwardly and then decided to say exactly what I was thinking. I had recently seen Paul McCartney play at CitiField where he did nearly three hours where he did everything from earliest Beatles, through Wings through later up to solo projects. I thought it was interesting the way he had gone from only doing 2 or 3 Beatles songs to now viewing his entire body of work as something he and his audience would enjoy. I told Pat that I felt if we only did standards, only originals etc. it wouldn’t tell the whole story but what about drawing from his career up to the present, that we would include songs he wanted to play currently. “What do you have for me?’ – I had an intro and the first chorus of the head of “You Don’t What Love Is” scored along with “The Great Stream” – I figured that would represent two sides of him for starters. He played the ballad first and looked up at me while the orchestral part was being played by Sibelius software and said “Yeah man!” – then The Great Stream where he corrected a harmony I had gotten wrong, in a most gentle manner.

I had the absolute honor and excitement of been given carte blanche as we teased repertoire. “Hey Pat, John Mulhern called me the other night and said ‘Dude, you have to get him to do What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?’” and Pat laughed and said, that sounds just like him (John, who had been there with Pat through some very tough times and probably helped save his life, love to say Dude!… when he gets excited. The project never got to performance stage but I got to spend one day a month with the man I considered a master, one of my all time heroes – I would bring what I had written, the only slight changes he would make were minor playback tempo adjustments. We would work solidly for 2-3 hours then me, Pat and Aya would go to dinner in one of the many places Philly has to offer. I knew I was privileged to share that time – the car ride to the restaurant with Pat driving “There used to be a barbershop there right next to a small music store where the owner taught me the C chord (I imagined little Pat learning the same C chord we had all learned) – and yes, the barber shop, where his Dad would have him play Moonlight In Vermont, the Johnny Smith version for the clientele – WOW!

We went to the pizzeria he had been going top since he was a child. It was there Pat and Aya took delight when this Irishman got to have his first Spumoni – an Italian three layer ice cream, with candied fruits and nuts. Where he went to school and met Charles Earland, told me about going for hot chocolate with John Coltrane after a lesson with Dennis Sandole. So, we didn’t get to the finish line with such a huge project with so many moving parts but…I did get to know what it feels like when a master like Pat sets you free to create and you are on the same page. Pat and Aya playing duets in their living room for me and me playing Irish music for them.

Generous… I cherish this memory when I went to see him with my daughter Chloe, and met Christine Tobin and Phil Robson there. Chloe to Pat “Hey…You’re really good on that guitar” – we smiled at the innocence of what she had said as Pat pointed at yours truly and said “so is he” and then points at Phil and again “So is he” – Chloe then made me so proud as she continues the conversation with him by saying “Yes, but my Dad says you’re the greatest!” We have photos from that night and I will cherish the memory forever. Pat hugged her and Chloe remembers that night too (like me she is blessed and sometimes plagued by our recall). She knows she was with someone VERY special to this world and was very saddened when I told her earlier that Pat had left us.

So many memories, like dinner with Pat and Stephen Keogh, with Dave Whyte when he was over doing River-Dance and Pat wanted to talk about THAT music, the janitor in a senior center where I played a Christmas Party with James Lafferty from Jazz Lobsters who was a huge a fan of Pat. I called Pat, and explained the scenario to him and the lovely man is chatting away with Pat who is ever so gracious with his time and brought sunshine to a man working a job that probably had him close to invisible, yet he was so cheerful and personable (I’ve always been moved by people who embrace mundanity for some greater good) – Pat made his night and way beyond, I would say. Going to see Pat with Hugh Buckley at the old Iridium and suddenly finding ourselves in the very front table!

The loyal love and support of his manager Joe Donofrio and his student and then friend John Mulhern cannot be overlooked. Then there’s Aya who stopped surgery from happening, surgery that would most likely have ended with him lucky to make it past the surgeons table. She is as gentle as he is in disposition. I must mention Seth again as it was he who told me I had to get into the club to hear Pat play this ballad he had never heard him play before, the Mingus song “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love”. He arranged to meet me there to make sure I didn’t miss this beautiful tune and Pat playing it! Thank You Seth!

About that “Never Meet Your Heroes” advice, that has been proven wrong for me so many times with, obviously Pat, Louis Stewart & George Benson who all provided mentorship and friendship, second to none. Jazz used to consist of primarily a mentor based environment and thankfully, in my case I came in on the tail end of much of it – add to the mix the late Bucky Pizzarelli, his manager Dick Ables, Larry Willis and too numerous for me to list here, so NO!!! I say DO meet your heroes! I hope the above shared memories will show you what an amazingly generous spirit this genius was to all of us!

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John Amato: Time: 1976 – 1978

Place: NYC, Greenwich Village, Jane and 14th. St

When we look back at our lives we notice those mental glances that remain like landmarks (like non-melting icebergs in the ocean of experience) or highlights of people, events, happenings, failures, successes, likes, dislikes, etc., etc. Of the few really impressive highlights in my own life, one has to be my time and experience spent with my teacher and friend Pat Martino.

I started playing at the age of 19 in 1968, learning the obligatory Simon and Garfunkle, Credence Clearwater, Beatles, etc., etc. By ‘69 I had a rock band (I went to Woodstock and came back with the driving desire to have a band). During the early 70s I had a number of rock bands playing locally around northern NJ and NY.

It was a joy then to study with Pat Martino, and it’s a joy now to retell that experience. I was about 2 or 3 years out of college with a degree in Education and a minor in Music. I had just completed an Associate Arts degree in Jazz Arranging from Berklee in Boston. I was teaching public school and giving private guitar lessons and playing in local jazz bands, weddings, clubs, concerts, plays, NJ Jazz Guitar Ensemble etc., etc. It was when I began to lose interest in Rock & Roll that I began to hear the jazz voices on guitar that Rock just didn’t employ. It was after I began studying Jazz (my first teacher was Rob Yelin who I will tell about later because he made a huge impact on my rock playing his books on Chord Melody are a MUST HAVE for any aspiring young jazz guitarist more on Rob in another post). After Berklee I studied with Pat in the early 70s immediately before he had his brain aneurism. He was living in am upscale high-rise apartment building on 14th. St. in Greenwich Village. I lived in Jersey right across the river.

I heard that Pat was giving private lessons from another guitarist who knew another guitarist who was taking lessons from him. At that time I believe Pat was charging $35 or $50 a lesson (been so long I don’t recall exactly). But Pat’s lessons were not timed; it was not like you were coming over for an hour lesson or so. No, I could remember times when I had arrived at say 1 p.m. and stayed till 6 or 7 p.m., or at least left when it was well dark. It all depended on Pat’s schedule. This is only one of many instances where Pat’s super-human warmth shone through. If he had nothing pressing on his calendar, he spent the time with you because you were there for his immediate attention of your needs–which were many times more than Guitar Instruction. However, once you started the preliminary lesson where Pat explains his Matrix (he would meticulously draw out his geometric system of chord and scale structures with a fine ruler and mechanical pencil and make sure it was clean and without erasure marks before he gave it to you – much like a draftsman) — a true perfectionist not only in his playing but also in his penmanship. All that was required was for the student was to bring two music notebooks (binder type) to the lesson.

With two notebooks, Pat would give you one with his lesson for the day in which he had done in advance, and while you were home studying that lesson, Pat would prepare the second notebook with the next successive lesson. He would give you that book on your return, and you would give him the first book back — in which he would prepare the next lesson. When Pat had figured his system was completely taught you would have two notebooks full of his matrix and system.

Now get this: it was not important for you to bring a guitar. If it was important for you to play something for Pat, he had a room full of guitars (I remember an Ovation nylon string he was using then to record his “Passata” and “Both Sides Now” at the time. I loved the sound of that guitar so much that I went out and bought one back then.) Back then Pat was arranging “Both Sides Now” for a recording date, and he asked me what I thought about his chord voicing for the Intro, Outro, and middle section – they were major/add 9 chords. The voicing fingerings were a bit difficult for me at the time because you had to extend your pinky in a grand barre position out three frets on the string and G string when taken up a fourth (which I practiced my heart out until these chords became comfortable – listen to “Both Sides Now” and you’ll hear these chords.)

Pat was really not interested in what level of player you were; he was not interested in hearing you play (not at all in a condescending attitude, but with a more important purpose of making sure his system was totally comprehended). In Pat’s right logic, he reasoned that if a student was coming to him, it wasn’t to learn guitar (he pre-interviewed you to know what level you were at as he did this over the phone.) Pat made it clear that he wasn’t giving basic guitar rudiments, but that he was going to present his own system. Once all his intentions and purposes were clear and out of the way, what Pat was foremost and primarily concerned with was your understanding and application of his fret board system, of his chordal structure, or family of chords: major, minor, dom., dim., half-dim., alt. dom., aug. dom, etc., his chord voicings, fingerings, and his philosophy.

When he gave you the notebook he had prepared, Pat would go over the material and tell you to study it and apply it to your regular playing and practicing schedule. Pat never asked you to do anything out of your regular and normal playing style. His purpose was always to have you understand his method and system and to apply it to your current style. When you returned for the next lesson he would ask if you had any problems with the last lesson and to give an example of how you applied it. You would, of course, play your best at that time for the master. At that point Pat would ask you to play his last lesson. This continued to a point where his system was complete. I remember one lesson where the guitar and his system was never even mentioned — it was a lesson all about philosophy — it was Pat’s philosophy of music, musicianship, life, etc. You would, of course, leave his apartment with a total whole new vision of music, life, et. al.

Pat was (and still is) a consummate reader and learner. He was (is) so well versed in the classics (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Voltaire, Eastern and Western philosophers and religions, etc., etc.). Pat once related to me how he was self-taught in many subjects that would normally be taught in high school and college because he went on the road early in his teens (I believe he said at 14 he went on the road with Lloyd Price and later with famous organ groups like Jack McDuff, Patterson, Lonnie Liston Smith, etc., etc.); he realized early on that he was missing out on a whole world of knowledge that he instinctfully knew would benefit his life and music (which is one to Pat). So, what he did to compensate for his lack of formal education was to visit the libraries in the towns where he toured and gigged. He would spent his free time in library reading rooms doing research and exploring the classics. This went on for years.

Talk about generosity. Pat Martino is one of the most generous human beings I have ever been privileged to know. One time I asked him during a lesson if he had any of his solos written out, and if so, would it at all be possible if I could get a photocopy (back then they where called Xerox photocopies). His response: “You know there’s a musician in L.A. (Victor Milikoff) who transcribed all of my sols on my recordings. — I said, “Far out, Pat”, thinking to myself, what a treasure of guitar knowledge must be locked in those transcriptions. Well, what Pat said next totally blew my mind, and totally caught me off guard. He said, “You want them?” – [(pregnant)Pause, I now know where the term, “Duh” came from] “Oh, ah, hmmm.” I didn’t know how to respond because I figured something as valuable as Pat’s solos written down would have to be quite costly and I only had a few bucks left over from the lesson. I knew I would walk to L.A. for Pat’s “Sunny” solo. So, the first words out of my mouth were, “Sure Pat, but how much would it cost for each solo?” His next response is what I base my impressions of Pat’s generosity: “Nothing, just pay for the photocopies.” – In fact, he said, “Come on let’s go across the street and get them copied.” Pat proceeded to take out copies all of his solo transcriptions at that point in time (about 1973 to 1975). We then went across the street to the Xerox place and left the copies there to be made and Pat then invited me to a coffee shop down the block. While we waited for the copies we discussed music, his system, his philosophy, and life in general over coffee. Here I was in guitar heaven: a 23-24 year old green jazz guitarist having coffee and chatting about philosophy, life, and music with my idol, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) living jazz guitarist in the world; I was definitely in guitar heaven in NYC. This is Pat Martino, he took his time, energy and spirit to help a young unknown guitarist he had only just met a few weeks prior — but a relationship grew out of my interest in his interest — which was his approach.

I really don’t remember if we spent more time with his system or just as many hours (or more) talking about philosophy, et. al.

I have to mention that while at Pat’s house I met many musicians who were recording with Pat in those years: Billy Hart, Will Lee, Gil Goldstein, and others — all wonderful human beings, willing readily to help a young musician.

Anyone interested in Pat’s method can go this his website and all of his “Matrixes” are available free: http://www.patmartino.com

There is so much more I can tell about my experience with Pat Martino. Much of it is engrained in my heart, mind and soul. I would be glad to tell more later if anyone wishes.

You can reach me directly at jamato316@verizon.net.

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Jonathan Hicks : I met Pat around 1983, he was beginning to play with some local guys from Philly in Cape May.  I was introduced to Pat musically at a very early age when I was around 16, blown away as everyone was.  I had heard nothing about Pat and did not realize he had even had a stroke or was teaching at GTI to me after EXIT fell off the scene.

I knew his parents lived in Philly. I looked up his parents phone number . Now this is just out of the blue, I talked with his dad and asked him what Pat was up to and would like to see him, he was very friendly, he said “you have never seen Pat?” I told him no, he told me at this point that Pat had been sick but he was playing the next week in Cape May.
Myself and my girlfriend took off with tent in hand, headed to Cape May, found a place to camp and long story short ended up going to the club during the day, Pat was there. We became very close and ended up hanging out with him for a full week. He would hang out at our table after every set, the guys in the band were really positive in getting Pat back on the stage, very good guys and very caring towards Pat, they were really good guys. I have seen a video of this group on You tube. 

We would go to the club at night and I was able to ask every question I always had about what he was thinking on certain tunes and he would in turn ask me how certain tunes affected me and what I saw in them. 

Besides these talks we just hung out not talking much about music, just life. He would ask after a set what I hear in his playing. Now let me tell you I knew every lick Pat had ever done, I can hear them in my head now as then. He was interested in how I was interrupting his new style because he really was just starting out, I recorded all the sets at night with the recorder on my table.

I will say Pat Martino was the most gentle, caring, thoughtful, intelligent person I have ever met.  After a week my girlfriend had written some poetry and gave it to Pat. He called about 2 weeks later and asked permission to use the poems on his next album. He wanted to know about copyrights like dude they are a gift free to all.

I did visit Pat a few years later at his parents house, met his mom and dad, great humans, and went up to Pats little room where he was studying and practicing. He played me some music he had recorded with the London Symphony, he told me it cost him 10,000 dollars out of his pocket and I have never heard mention of these recordings in any articles or books, but I listened, this was all pre-AV or stroke. They were very good.

There were so many other things we discussed, it was amazing like I said I knew every lick he had ever done, and it was so good to ask him what were you thinking when you did this tune and how did it all come together, especially on getting the Joyous Lake 1977 album together, he told me he had interviewed some really heavies in the business such as Jaco, Lyle Mays and a few others, but he came up with these guy wanting to work right out of school who were hungry, which was the right decision, that line up was an amazing group.

The first time I heard it I was not really into it thinking he has gone to far me thinking I was a straight ahead jazz fan, but I will say as far as guitar fusion albums go there is none better. We discussed that album in detail and “Well Be Together”, he said the photo of him with his hands on his face was real and all about the break up of his wife.

Again, the best ballad/guitar album ever made. Gil Goldstein and him I can’t imagine anything better ever made. 
So much more a week together with your guitar hero, it was something never forgotten. 

I appreciated the fact he would ask me what I was hearing at that time, since he knew I had all his licks in my head. The nicest guy on the planet.

Addendum: Pat was writing specific words with positive meanings such as “happy” “love” “beautiful” etc… anything with an uplifting meaning. He would then take these words and transpose notes to the alphabet and he was using these word for the basis of him writing new tunes. He took the word “beautiful”, wrote it on a piece of paper and then he would use these notes as melody to write songs. Each letter corresponded to a code he had come up with.

He did show me exactly how he did it and he explained this was an ancient technique for staying positive and the melodies would thus follow positive energy in the melody. Then during one of the sets he played one of the tunes from these positive and uplifting words and it wasn’t I think he was trying to get back to some way of creating again, it was much more interesting then me telling it but it worked for him and I was glad for him.

I miss this guy very much and I became busy with life and never went back after the second time. Pat actually became popular and I felt he knew so many people he may not remember me, but it was a very interesting event in my life.

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Jeff De Mond: This photo was taken at a small masterclass session Pat did at the National Guitar Workshop in CT a number of years ago. He was very warm, gentle and gracious, and spent time sharing his well-documented approach to his guitar playing, among other things. 

He’s been one of my favorite players forever, and I’ve seen him play live a number of times. But these couple of days in CT were different and more personal. What a great hang!

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4 Comments

    • Hi Jim and thank you for your comment and for dropping by. I will contact you directly and my best to you and yours as well 🙂

      Take care.

      Lyle – Jazz Guitar Life

  1. thank you all for contributing to thi article – can’t really speak much for the loss is too bad; the only thing I recall is how Pat struck me when I saw and heard him playing “Do You Have A Name?” in Legends of Jazz Guitar Vol.3 DVD – I was wondering How come I never ran across before!!! Such a slender guy playing way too heavy solid carved Benedetto with rope-thick gauge strings! what impressive captivating lines! soon after I bought out every single record of music of him which I enjoy till now))) peace to all

    • Hi Robert and thanks for dropping by and sharing a great comment. Pat did have that effect on many players and Like George Benson said “I wanted to leave New York after seeing Pat Martino play!”.

      Take care and all the best.

      Lyle – Jazz Guitar Life

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