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Pat Martino celebrating Frank Stean's 60th birthday



Pat Martino's playing defines elegance. His hands dance on the strings to produce a sublime vocalization infusing your whole body, not merely resonating in your ears. "It's his humanity," comments Robert Montgomery, Wes Montgomery's son, whom Martino recognized in the audience at the first set on Friday. Martino credits a list of ancestral jazz legends, yet for us in Indianapolis the Wes Montgomery connection runs deepest.

Robert relates the story of the young Pat being taken to a Montgomery Brothers concert by Pat's jazz-loving father, after which Pat declared he intended to dedicate himself to perfecting his relationship with the guitar. Wes Montgomery's approach to bringing soul jazz into the warp and woof of relationships remains profound within the fabric of Martino's sensibility. He weaves textures and patterns through his escalating chord conversions emanating from within his body and fusing with his guitar. Half a century later, Martino's virtuosity breathes continued life into Wes Montgomery's original charts, sharing with us their connectivity of respect, intellect and emotional range. Martino pulls us into the story of a journey to connect, communicate, consider on the highest levels.

Partnering with jazz organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre Jr., there's no rushing, yet there's no interrupting with patter, no fillers, just the main ingredients of an idea, a commentary, a call to action shared through music. You feel the bond between the trio, playing off each other, taking time to build or underscore, to reflect, rephrase, define. They smile, and the warmth washes over us. One is mesmerized by how easy Martino makes it look, thumb plucking on his "famously heavy-gauge strings" fit into luthier Bob Benedetto's "Pat Martino Signature Model."

Yet as much as Martino seems bonded to his instrument, he has remarked, "The guitar is of no great importance to me. The people it brings to me are what matter. They are what I'm extremely grateful for, because they are alive. The guitar is just an apparatus." Those who mask their lack of musicality with earsplitting loudness should sit at the feet of this master.

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