Sunday, 6 December 2009

Pat Martino ''El Hombre''

Pat Martino

''El Hombre''
( LP Prestige Records, 1967 )
Catalog # PR 7513
**Also on Fantasy OJC 195, OJCCD 195-2

El Hombre
One For Rose
Just Friends
Waltz For Geri
Once I Loved

Personnel & Notes:
Danny Turner (fl)
Trudy Pitts (org)
Pat Martino (g)
Mitch Fine (d)
Vance Anderson, Abdu Johnson (per)
Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 1, 1967

Widely recognized today as one of jazz’s greatest and most original guitarists, Pat Martino was just 22 when he entered Van Gelder’s studio for his debut disc, El Hombre, recorded in 1967.
As a sideman, he had played with Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson and Groove Holmes, among other B-3 organists, so it wasn’t a stretch to hear his first disc be in the soul-jazz groove in the company of B3er and fellow Philadelphian Trudy Pitts. There are galloping tunes as well as tender ballads. In the words of new liner note writer Dave McElfresh, Martino demonstrated “the unique mid- to low-range tone of his guitar, the more-intelligent-than-romantic signature that still defines his style. Such somber, fleet-fingered rants, with each phrase’s high notes punctuated like a punch in the mouth, had already—by his first album—come to embody the best of hard bop guitar playing.” A stunning debut, El Hombre features originals and a Jobim cover, “Once I Loved.” Bonus track is the previously unreleased “Song for My Mother.”
“I was the engineer on the recording sessions and I also made the masters for the original LP issues of these albums. Since the advent of the record, other people have been making the masters. Mastering is the final step in the process of creating the sound of the finished product. Now, thanks to the folks at the Concord Music Group who have given me the opportunity to remaster these albums, I can present my versions of the music on this record using modern technology. I remember the sessions well, I remember how the musicians wanted to sound, and I remember their reactions to the playbacks. Today, I feel strongly that I am their messenger.”
—Rudy Van Gelder

Given the fact that Pat Martino had played with some of the biggest B3 players in the business (including Jack McDuff and the great Jimmy Smith), it probably surprised no one that Martino's first solo release carried on in that blues and groove-based organ trio vein. What surprises me about this, nearly 40 years later, is the level of maturity of Martino's playing. At the time, Pat Martino was only twenty-two years old.
Another in the current wave of Prestige/Rudy Van Gelder reissues, El Hombre features Martino leading his group through a program of originals (only two covers: Jobim's "Once I Loved" and the classic "Just Friends") that showcases the surprising depth of his early tastes and influences.
While the presence of Trudy Pitts on the Hammond B3 organ does give the music that groove thing, it's the additional instrumentation that brings subtle coloration. The bongos and congas on "Cisco" serve to enhance the tune's Latin flair, as do the lines shared between Martino and flute player Danny Turner.
Flute?!! Yes, those guitar/flute unison lines do locate this music smack at the end of the 1960s. That doesn't make it any less exciting. After the sly B3 opening of the title track, Martino and Turner swing their way through the head for a pair of choruses before Pat takes an extended solo.
Oh yes, the guitar. Martino is one of those players who tend to favor horn-oriented lines. This gives his solos a compactness that serves the tune well. Even when skipping through a rapid fire bop line ("One For Rose," for example), Martino never crosses into excess. That old cliché about playing "just the right notes" really does apply here.
Aside from improved sound (I don't own an original recording, but I do trust in Rudy Van Gelder), El Hombre serves up one bonus selection, the previously unreleased (and clearly Naima-influenced) "Song For My Mother." Reminiscent of the Wes Montgomery trio, including some B3 pedal tones and a guitar octave here and there, the song allows Martino to stretch out and declare some beautiful and supple guitar lines.
You know, after listening to El Hombre several times, I can only imagine the excitement caused by its initial release — all of that raw promise on display.
Lucky for us, Pat Martino went on to deliver on that promise.

By Pier

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