[Rudy Van Gelder Remasters]
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by John Metzger
Thu October 25, 2007, 06:30 AM CDT
When guitarist Pat Martino ventured into Rudy Van Gelder’s recording studio on May 1, 1967 in order to lay down the tracks for El Hombre, his solo debut, the jazz world was just beginning to go through a period of serious upheaval. Forty years later, the outing’s arrangements that surround Martino’s agile guitar playing with a blend of Hammond B-3 organ washes and conga-driven rhythms sound seriously dated. Nevertheless, for all its deficiencies, El Hombre still serves as a prime example of a lynchpin endeavor that is too important to be lost to the passage of time.
Martino was only 22-years-old when he stepped out on his own, yet, he already had earned high praise for his work with soul-jazz stars such as Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, and Don Patterson. In making El Hombre, Martino not surprisingly stayed with the style for which he was known. Sporting an outfit that included organist Trudy Pitts, conga player Abdu Johnson, flautist Danny Turner, drummer Mitch Fine, and bongo player Vance Anderson, Martino conjured a warm and inviting mystique, and the gently flowing grooves that serviceably were supplied by his band provided the perfect playground for him to explore.
Much as one would expect, Martino is the star of El Hombre, and throughout the set, the sounds he coaxed from his guitar dance and twirl around the soft and supple rhythmic patter. There’s a maturity to his playing that is rather striking, a gracefulness that is both sweetly stirring and lyrical. Despite his wealth of ideas and the speed of his solos, it never sounds for a minute as if he’s showing off or rushing to fit too much into a space that is too small. His performances may be wily and dexterous, but they are not pretentious or cluttered.
Whether covering Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Once I Loved or delving into the heady swing of Waltz for Gere, Martino cleverly connects his influences with his contemporaries, while also pointing toward the future. There are hints of everyone from Les Paul to the Allman Brothers Band, from Wes Montgomery to Carlos Santana, from Kenny Burrell to Lee Ritenour, and from Grant Green to Derek Trucks drifting through his work. For good measure, he even adds a dab or two of Booker T and the MG’s to his musical stew. In spite of its now-antiquated ambience, El Hombre remains intoxicating and seductive, but most important of all, it makes it perfectly clear why anyone who has ever heard Martino play has been converted immediately into a diehard fan. ½
Other Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Releases
El Hombre is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box