Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jazz Grace

It was pure wonderment. On May 31 and June 1, at The Jazz Showcase in Chicago, I heard the Pat Martino trio perform two shows each night. My friend has claimed front row seats (although the legendary club--in Chicago since 1946) did not officially allow it. We came at about 7:00 for the 8:00 show and heard the band doing a sound check. We instantly recognized Pat's pure, clean, rapid lines. While we waited to go in, we spoke with long-time jazz promoter, and jazz snob/curmudgeon, Joe Seagal, who provided to be charming in his own acerbic way. The outer waiting area was filled with posters and tickets from groups that Mr. Seagal had promoted over many years, including Dizzy Gillespie ("He's my man," said Joe), Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and more luminaries.

When we were let in, I greeted Pat, who was standing on stage. I mentioned that we can come from Denver and that I had written him a card containing my booklet Are All Religions One. After jogging his memory, he caught on and thanked me. I also mentioned reading his autobiography, In the Moment. He seemed warm and unassuming.

The first show was superb, with the band playing standards and originals by Pat. Sitting on a bar stool, Pat flew up and down the fret-board, playing long, mellifluous lines of post-bob jazz brilliance along with Pat Bianci on Hammond B-3 organ, and young drummer whose name I forget (he was hot, though).  Past never ran out of ideas, and freely mixed his solos with legato runs and chords. He uses very heavy gauge strings and picks hard, but with the sense that he is hold the pick as one would hold a demitasse cup. The venue was, sadly, not filled. It seated about 100, and we estimated about 60 souls there. There was a warm response, but no encore.

During the break, I asked Pat if his group played "Sonny," a pop tune that he has played off and on for years. He said, "No. This groups hasn't played it, but who knows?" I took hope in that proviso. It is jazz, after all. (We just got a puppy named Sunny, so it has some significance in that sense).

After another swinging, mind-boggling, heart-warming set, the group played the last number. After a standing ovation (from only about 30 people), Pat turned to both accompanists and asked, "Sonny?" After both nodded, he launched into a phenomenal version of that warm and happy tune. It warmed my heart and feed my aesthetic yearnings more richly than anything in recent  memory.

On June 1, Pat was greeted by a larger crowd, but we still had front row seats--due to the kindness of our waitress, the lovely Camilla (who also gave me four olives in my dirty gin martinis that night). Pat played standards and originals, and smoked through every piece. The man never lets up and never errs. He does things that no other jazz guitar player can do. At the end of the second set, while greeted with a standing ovation, Pat pointed to me and called out "Sonny" to the band. I was stunned and ebullient. That night we exchanged business cards. I thanked him for the beautiful music and told him that he never ran out of ideas. He said we should stay in touch "for years to come," and assured me that I should look him him if I am ever in his home town of Philadelphia. I said the same about Denver, although Pat has not played in this area for fifteen years.

I was also delighted to initiate two friends into the higher and sublime mysteries of live jazz performed by a modern master, who has been playing since the early 1960s. (Pat is 67.)  Craig, my sugar daddy, who sponsored the whole trip as a gift (since I never have holidays) was swinging and buzzing for days afterward. Another friend, Drew, knew nothing of Pat, but was overwhelmed by his virtuosity.

There is aesthetic goodness in the world; and musical geniuses can be humble and friendly. For this, I give thanks to God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. The Jazz Philosopher experienced a jazz holiday that he will take to his grave with thanksgiving.

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