One Track Mind: Pat Martino, “Colossus” from Young Guns (2014)

A previously unreleased trio recording from Pat Martino provides new insight both into his obvious debt to Wes Montgomery and Grant Green — but also how his burning, blinding speed outstripped anything those old masters ever attempted, even as the guitarist opened a door for fusion’s looming ferocity.

“Colossus,” from the just-released HighNote project Young Guns, finds Martino collaborating with organist Gene Ludwig and drummer Randy Gelispie during a mid-1960s session that was very much in keeping with much of the guitarist’s output — then, and now. Where the track sets itself apart is in the tough-minded give-and-take between the prodigiously talented Martino and his collaborators.

Typically, Martino would simply lay waste to his hapless cohorts, leaving them to rely on simple formulaic blues progressions … just to keep up. Not here, as Ludwig and Gelispie give at least as good as they get. That said, Martino is already at the top of his game, unleashing improvisations that boast sustained fire but without becoming inelegant. That’s the magic of Martino.

Of course, by the 1970s, guitar fireworks were all the rage, and Martino’s quick witted fluency fell out of favor — just as he arrived on the precipice of some withering health problems. Still, the aptly titled “Colossus” — and really all of Young Guns, a minor classic to pair with his later OJC triumphs — is a reminder of how Martino helped bridge the gap between the old school straight-ahead style and the attacking, almost violent style that followed.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.