The last thing jazz needs is more tribute projects that merely perpetuate the ever increasing stagnation of an industry trying to make a fast buck off the legacy of a fallen giant. At first glance it would appear that this is exactly what Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery is all about. I am willing, however, to give Blue Note a free pass on this one because fortunately, the artist paying tribute here is Philadelphian Pat Martino, a bona fide giant of jazz guitar who maintains the same rapid fire intensity that put him on the jazz map in the 1960s.
Martino gets right down to business on the opening cut "Four on Six." He tears through the Montgomery classic with the power of a fire breathing dragon. "Twisted Blues" is another Montgomery burner that keeps the momentum flowing. It is a wonderful showcase for Martino’s trademark single note lines that weave a tight web of harmonic complexity coated with deep fried grease.
While the bulk of the tunes are Montgomery compositions, there are also a few standards associated with the late guitarist's recorded legacy. One such gem is the Robin/Rainger ballad "If I Should Lose You" that Martino renders in a very controlled yet emotive way, similar to the way he approached ballads on his landmark recording We’ll Be together Again from the mid 1970s.
"S.K.J." is the only track featuring first-rate bassist John Patitucci. He lays down a great solo on the Milt Jackson classic that leaves you wanting more. His accompaniment throughout the whole session is superb, with driving energy and impeccable intonation. Pianist David Kikoski is equally brilliant. His solo on "Full House" is a highlight of the entire CD. He mixes a delicate combination of block chords and single note runs that are rhythmically intricate in the style of Herbie Hancock.
One very disappointing part of this CD is the overall mix. Martino’s guitar seems to be buried throughout, especially on "Road Song," and "Full House." One has to scratch his head and wonder how this kind of blunder was able to sneak by before being released. Sonic inferiorities aside, this is a decent outing and worthy tribute from one master to another.