Pat Martino (Patrick C. Azzara) (1944 – 2021) passed away November 1, 2021. He was an amazing guitarist and had a life story that is interesting on so many levels. The most unusual aspect is that in 1980 after a brain hemorrhage, Pat lost all his memory and had to literally relearn how to play guitar from the very beginning. He then went on to continue his career as a phenomenal jazz guitarist.
Martino had been performing until a hemorrhaged arteriovenous malformation caused a “near-fatal seizure” in 1980. The resulting surgery which removed part of his brain left him with amnesia and no recollection or knowledge of his career or how to play the very instrument that made him successful. Martino says he came out of surgery with complete forgetfulness, learning to focus on the present instead of the past or what may lie ahead. He was forced to learn how to play the guitar from zero. This circumstance is crucial to understand his career and his particular way of thinking. – Wikipedia
Here on Angel Eyes, Pat Martino has the melody and is featured.
There are a few documentaries that follow Pat Martino’s journey. Martino Unstrung is an excellent look into Pat Martino’s musical and medical life and should be fascinating to anyone in the fields of music, psychology, medicine or brain science. I highly recommend this film.
While I have been an avid jazz fan since listening to my dad’s Duke Ellington and Henry Red Allen records in high school, I had not listened to much Pat Martino. I knew his name but did not own any of his music. This is how it worked before the internet.
In 2010, Pat Martino had some gigs in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was playing Kimball’s East. My high school-aged guitar-playing son had just fallen in love with jazz and was a big Pat Martino fan. He had purchased tickets to hear Pat and his friend for some reason could not go. I was invited to go to the concert. We took the ferry over to Jack London Square and arrived a bit early. Knowing where the back stage entrance was my son seemed determined to shake Pat Martino’s hand. The bouncer at the door called up to see if it was alright if a kid and his dad came up for an autograph. “No problem. Send them up.”
We went to the dressing room and there was Pat and his young piano player hanging out. Pat was eating sushi and what we both remember is that he was drinking a quart carton of whole milk. Sushi and milk. An odd combination. Pat was gracious and we basically just hung out for about fifteen minutes. He had these very clear alert eyes that often seem to be enlarged because of his thick glasses. He probably signed a CD and then I took this photo.
It is 2021 and people born in the 1940s are starting to pass on a regular basis. Many of these folks are my heroes. Pat Martino. A beautiful cat. RIP.
If you watch the documentaries about Pat Martino, one of the common themes is how guitarists had a lot of respect and admiration for Pat. There is the story of George Benson. then a young cocky musician, going of to hear Pat Martino for the first time thinking how could this skinny Italian kid from Philly be any good. Needless to say George was blown away and left the show a humbler man. The photo below is of these two amazing musicians and speaks to the diversity in this genre of music the industry calls “jazz.”
For further reading, Pat wrote an autobiography.
Here and Now!: The Autobiography of Pat Martino
This is an excellent book and I highly recommend!