With minimal bluster from MC and owner Steve Rubie, the treasured London jazz institution kicked off its 25th anniversary week with a real coup – a relatively rare UK visit from influential American guitarist, educator and players’ player Pat Martino.
A contemporary of George Benson, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell and a big influence on John Scofield and Pat Metheny, Martino was famously lucky to survive a brain aneurysm in 1980 after which he virtually had to relearn the guitar.
Here he revisited the organ trio format in the company of chops master Pat Bianchi on Hammond and Elvin Jones-ish drummer Carmen Intorre Jr. Sitting bolt upright in red tie and dark suit, Martino exuded a fair amount of kinetic energy from such a static base with darting post-bop lines, an almost flamenco-like picking technique and jagged chord clusters. His rhythmic concepts – often playing seven over four and frequently crossing bar lines – brought Scofield to mind, but the bold, intervallic leaps, sometimes scaling two octaves, were all his own.
The influence of Wes Montgomery always loomed large, emphasised by the inclusion of ‘Twisted Blues’ and ‘Full House’, but there was also a nod to electric guitar pioneer Charlie Christian on the frenetic ‘Seven Come Eleven’. There was also something of McLaughlin in the chromatic, ascending chord structures during the elegant outro of ‘Blue In Green’.
Intorre Jr. gave ‘All Blues’ a novel Bernard Purdie-like R’n’B feel before Martino stunned the 606 with a fluent and beautifully structured solo. One was reminded of the note that Jim Hall apparently kept in his guitar case which said, simply, ‘Make musical sense!’
So a toast to the 606 – good artists, great acoustics and always a convivial, cosy atmosphere. Here’s to another 25 years.