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Pat Martino, The Beloved Philly Jazz Guitarist Dies At 77: How Did Pat Die?

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Pat Martino

Pat Martino, the renowned and influential Philadelphia jazz guitarist who had to relearn how to play after suffering a brain aneurysm in 1980, died at the age of 77.

Mr. Martino, who was born Patrick Azzara, died Monday after a long illness in the same South Philadelphia rowhouse where he grew up, according to his longtime manager Joseph Donofrio.

Since 2018, Donofrio has been suffering from a severe respiratory condition, according to him. Pat Martino had been breathing on oxygen and unable to play the guitar since the end of a 2018 tour in Italy. The jazz community was saddened by Mr. Martino’s death. On Twitter, guitarist Kevin Eubanks from Philadelphia called him “a fantastic influence” and a “wonderful player.”

Pat Martino

“Thank you for allowing us to share all of the beauty with you.” Mr. Martino, who performed frequently at the club, was characterized on Twitter by Chris’ Jazz Cafe as “a valued part of our jazz family.” He will be missed, as will the incredible music he provided to the club.”


Joey DeFrancesco, a Philadelphia jazz organist who toured with Pat Martino and recorded Live at Yoshi’s with him and drummer Billy Hart in 2001, remarked, “He changed the way you play the guitar.” “He took his influences, including Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, and created his own style of playing.” The most influential guitarists are he and George Benson.”

Pat Martino accomplishments and early life

Pat Martino was a musical prodigy. He studied with Dennis Sandole, a renowned Philadelphia music professor who also taught John Coltrane, with whom Martino was friendly.

He used to play music with South Philly buddies like drummer and pop singer Bobby Rydell as a teen. And, when he was 15, he relocated to Harlem to play with his heroes.

Nobody played like that on Mr. Martino’s records, from El Hombre, which he recorded with organist Trudi Pitts when he was 22 in 1967, to Formidable, which was released 50 years later in 2017, said DeFrancesco, calling from his home in Arizona. “His playing was crisp and clear, and he swung at the same moment. He was experimenting with oil on his hands. He was a unique individual. Pat Martino “is one of the greatest five guitarists of all time,” according to DeFrancesco, alongside Montgomery (who had a big influence on Martino), Burrell, Benson, and Grant Green.

Pat Martino

“He had immaculate pitch,” recalled John Mulhern, Mr. Martino’s former student, and long-time friend. “He was born with a talent.”

George Benson has frequently recounted how he first met Pat Martino in a New York bar called Small’s Paradise in the 1960s.

On a YouTube video, Benson recounted, “I was out on the town. And thinking I had conquered New York.” “And then I noticed this small kid… And then there was this instrument, which appeared out of nowhere. I’d never heard some of the most wonderful lines in my life. It contains everything. Amazing tone, great articulation, and the entire audience erupted in applause – and it was a black audience. And I thought to myself, “If this is a taste of what New York is like, I’m leaving.”


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