I saw the Pat Martino Trio for the first time on Friday, January 25, at the Iridium in New York. It’s obvious that the power of the human spirit has left Martino humbled, and left me inspired by a man who has overcome great challenges to realize a vision.
A strong sense of immediacy pervades the trio. Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B3 organ, and Byron Landham on drums work together with Martino to create an effervescent sound that draws on the here and now. Simultaneous melodies and several-measure rests penetrate the atmosphere, and force the audience to grasp the moment.
Martino’s extraordinary fingers move quickly but carefully along the neck of his shiny black signature Gibson. The guitarist’s calm, gentle demeanor is balanced by the energy of his playing. Standing poised and subtly elegant in a brown suit, he hammers out innovative solos with confidence and charisma.
DeFrancesco catches a riff, takes it crescendoing up the scale and spills it over into a cascade of icy notes. With mouth open, lip quivering, brow furrowed, he plays long, impassioned solos that focus on one part of the scale before flying up and down the keyboard in a rapid whirlwind of sound.
Relaxed and comfortably at ease, Landham keeps steady time on the drums. He plays controlled simplicity, often tapping a single cymbal or beating rapidly on a snare drum. Occasionally he bursts into short rhythmic solos that become a call and response game with Martino.
The set varied from hard swinging blues numbers, to soft sensitive ballads. The trio delighted the crowd with Miles Davis’ "All Blues," which Martino recorded on the Grammy nominated Live At Yoshi’s (Blue Note, 2001), before bringing the set to a close with "The Great Stream," off 1972’s Live (Muse, 1972).
The audience looks fulfilled as they gaze stageward at the three musicians now utterly consumed with the music they are creating. The song comes to an end. The drums stop, the organ holds on to a note. Martino won’t let go. A meditative concentration binds his fingers to the strings and his body swings back and forth as he transcends the physical, and loses himself in the rhythm.
"It’s a real pleasure to interact with folks as sensitive as yourselves," Martino says in his deep soothing voice. No Mr. Martino, the pleasure was ours.