After the rise of Charlie Christian in 1939, most guitarists during the next three decades were heavily influenced by his sound and ideas. Pat Martino (b. 1944) was one of the first to break away and come up with a new approach to jazz guitar.
Martino began playing professionally when he was 15, touring with Willis "Gator” Jackson. During the next few years he also worked with Red Holloway, Sonny Stitt, and such organists as Don Patterson, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Richard "Groove” Holmes, and Jimmy McGriff, getting a real grounding in soul-jazz and hard bop. Martino worked with John Handy for a bit in 1966 and then went out on his own.
During 1967-1970, Martino recorded his first five albums as a leader, all for Prestige. El Hombre is a continuation of his soul-jazz years, featuring organist Trudy Pitts on grooving material although Martino’s guitar sound was already becoming original. Strings! is advanced bop with a quintet that includes Joe Farrell on tenor and flute and pianist Cedar Walton, highlighted by a rapid version of "Minority.” East! from 1968 has Martino’s quartet digging into jazz standards and two originals while looking ahead.
Baiyina (The Clear Evidence) is a major step forward. Martino, joined by Gregory Herbert on alto and flute, and a five-piece rhythm section that includes tabla and tamboura, performs a four-part suite in which each section is named after an aspect of the Koran. The unusual time signatures (including 7/4, 9/4, and 10/8) and drones point the way toward fusion. Desperado has Martino playing the 12-string guitar with a funky electronic rhythm section but also swinging on "Oleo” and some of the originals.
Pat Martino’s work in the 1970s continued to straddle the boundaries between jazz, rock, and world music. A brain aneurysm in 1980 forced the guitarist to undergo surgery and then relearn how to play music from scratch. Remarkably he has since made a full comeback and is today recognized as one of jazz’s top guitarists.