Pat Martino – The Joy of Playing

SKF NOTE: My earliest memory of guitarist Pat Martino’s music is the release of his 1972 album The Visit! I was an album sales guy at Sam Goody’s in the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, Huntington, NY.

Martino’s music never clicked with me. Guitar player friends like him. But to my ears Pat Martino was a mega chops guitarist in need of empty space in his playing. Just because guitarists don’t have to take a breath to play guitar, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

Anyway, after he died November 1, I took time to review his recordings, and to read more about him. Sometimes when a musician doesn’t click with me, I find that learning more about the musician as a person helps me appreciate their music, their playing.

Sure enough, I came across and bought a wonderful album, Live at Yoshi’s, with Joey DeFrancesco (organ), and Billy Hart (drums). (I’ve been in a guitar/organ trio phase for awhile.)

And in the video Pat Martino – Here & Now, Pat Martino’s story of his reaction to guitar teachers who, he felt, wanted to take away his joy in playing guitar is profound. It’s a great lesson for drum teachers/students too. I’m happy to pass it along.


Pat Martino: When I first began playing the easiest way to describe the experience was common to any child with his or her favorite toy. That’s how I learned to play. With my toy. My toy happened to be a guitar and I played with it with enjoyment to the maximum.

And there was an alienation due to that that overlapped into upcoming relationships with guitar teachers. Primarily because their intentions were closer to a curriculum than to a playful experience with a toy. To them it wasn’t a toy. It was commitment to a serious instrument.

In my opinion there’s nothing more serious than enjoyment itself. So I had a need to adhere to my original commitment…to enjoyment at all times. And that’s what jazz did for me. It demanded improvisation.

And that was a ticket into personal choice, to do things the way I wanted to do them. Not based upon rules and regulations. For so many years I saw teachers as the guidance and the controllers of rule and regulations as opposed to freedom and imagination and ingenuity.

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