It's been nearly twenty years since Pat Martino's comeback from a near-fatal brain aneurysm. In that time he's re-established himself as one of the jazz world's premier guitarists, a technically advanced post bop player who combines forward-thinking musical ideas with native Philly grit; think Pat Metheny with more soul. Think Tank, as the name suggests, finds Martino at his most cerebral, which has its pros and cons. The title track, for example, is a blues of sorts built on an equation based on the letters of John Coltrane's name, which may sound like an exercise for a composition class, but manages to hold together pretty well organically. Coltrane, a Philadelphia mentor of Martino's, is a recurring reference on the album, both indirectly in Martino's intensely spiritual and intellectual approach to the music, and directly on the funk-based original "Phineas Trane as well as on an extended romp through Coltrane's "Africa.
The name Young Guns seems ironically amiss until one learns that this recording dates from 1968-69 when organist Gene Ludwig was thirty years old, guitarist Pat Martino twenty-three and drummer Randy Gelispie somewhere in that neighborhood, long before he became fondly known as "Uncle G." The organ trio was in its heyday then, and this one was caught on tape during an exciting live date at Club 118 in Louisville, KY. How many other such performances have been lost forever owing to the absence of a tape recorder or the failure to turn it on is anyone's guess. But this one, thank goodness, has been preserved for present-day ears to appreciate.
Pat Martino excited the jazz community with his exciting reentry into the scene in 1987 with his live recording, The Return. He surprised more than a few by demonstrating such impressive taste and technique, almost as if he had never lost the ability to play the guitar due to a severe brain aneurysm. Perhaps almost as surprising was his disappearance once again from the public eye (due to his parents' illnesses), until he reemerged with this recording in 1994. Here, Martino is teamed with pianist James Ridl, whom he happened upon in a Philadelphia club. Martino was so impressed and inspired that he invited the pianist to form a musical partnership.
Pat Martino's fourth of five Prestige albums contains plenty of intriguing music. The innovative guitarist is joined by Bobby Rose on second guitar, Gregory Herbert on alto and flute (making his recording debut), bassist Richard Davis, drummer Charlie Persip, Reggie Ferguson on tabla, and Balakrishna on tamboura. Together they perform Martino's four-part suite, whose sections are named after aspects of the Koran. The use of Indian instruments, drones, and unusual time signatures (including 7/4, 9/4, and 10/8) gives the performances the flavor of early fusion, and some of the effects sound a bit dated. However, the results were not overtly commercial, and the leader gets in several noteworthy improvisations.
Veteran Pat Martino is teamed up with a variety of different fellow guitarists on this interesting if not quite essential release. Martino matches wits with guitarist Charlie Hunter (who on Stevie Wonder's "Too High" often sounds like an organist), Tuck Andress, Kevin Eubanks, Les Paul ("I'm Confessin'"), Mike Stern and Michael Hedges. In addition, Cassandra Wilson sings Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" accompanied by Martino, and rock guitarist Joe Satriani tries to sit in on two numbers (with indifferent results). A decent effort, but not up to Pat Martino's most significant releases.
This LP gave listeners a good sampling of mid-1970s Pat Martino. The distinctive yet flexible guitarist teams up with Gil Goldstein (who sticks here to acoustic piano), the great bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Billy Hart. Martino plays more standards than usual (four out of six songs, including "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Blue Bossa"), and, of his two originals, "Three Base Hit" has the spirit and fire of bop. An excellent outing.