|THE RIGHT CHORD AT BLUE NOTE
New York Post; New York; Sep 17, 1999; Chip Deffaa;
Copyright New York Post Corporation Sep 17, 1999
BILLED as "Guitar Heaven," the Blue Note's double-bill of John Scofield and Pat Martino was slow in getting off the ground Tuesday. But Martino justified the night.
Former Miles Davis-bandmate Scofield, who's opening the double- bill, is, along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, one of the most popular contemporary jazz guitarists. And I've praised his expressiveness in the past. But his music Tuesday felt glib.
He played a couple of originals, so new he hadn't bothered selecting names for them yet, plus numbers from the recent CD he recorded with Medeski, Martin and Wood for Verve, "A Go Go."
And, though Medeski, Martin and Wood weren't present Tuesday, their laid-back spirit seemed to be.
Scofield settled into pleasant-enough, mindless grooves. I didn't find enough to keep my interest engaged, any more than I might in a typical "let's just simmer along" Medeski, Martin and Wood set.
Martino, by contrast, came out burning. A meticulous player, even at the briskest of tempos, his deftly articulated up-tempo opener, "Uptown Downtown," signaled he was in prime form.
He created the most magic reprising his late '70s specialty, "Joyous Lake." It had an irresistible forward momentum.
Playful keyboardist Delmar Brown (from Martino's original "Joyous Lake" band of the '70s), propulsive drummer Kenwood Dennard, buoyant sax player Eric Alexander and electric bassist Emanuel Gatewood shared in the triumph.
Martino's hard-won comeback is among the most gratifying of stories in jazz.Diagnosed in 1980 with a brain tumor so threatening he was told he had just days to live, he was saved via an operation that wound up costing him much of his memory.He spent years re-learning the guitar, trying to copy his old records. When he finally resumed public appearances, in 1986 and '87, it was saddening to see him so far below his past level.
In the '90s, he reached his earlier degree of mastery once again. Scofield referred to Martino Tuesday as "my idol. It's an honor to share the bill with him. I won't watch him play tonight, or I wouldn't be able to play myself."
Blue Note, 131 W. Third St., (212) 475-8592; $30 cover/$5 minimum; 9 and 11:30 p.m., through Sunday.