Down Beat (8/95, p.42) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...an imaginative album of composed music that's very lyrical, and boppish without the burn..."
Personnel includes: Pat Martino (guitar); James Ridl (piano); Marc Johnson (bass); Joe Bonadio (drums).
As a precocious young talent from Philadelphia, guitar innovator Pat Martino cut his teeth on the chittlin' circuit with a number of top R&B acts and organ trios. Influenced by Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery, Martino emerged from the 1960s as a major influence himself, inspiring three generations of guitarists with his fleet, bluesy lines, steely articulation, velvety tone and sophisticated harmonic sensibility.
Following an extended recuperation after a nearly fatal brain tumor, Martino concentrated on his writing and arranging, and THE MAKER celebrates the guitarist's return to the jazz scene with his most ambitious work as a composer since BAIYINA--THE CLEAR EVIDENCE, in 1968. So where his first studio album in almost twenty years (INTERCHANGE, on Muse) was a classic hard bop blowing date, THE MAKER finds Martino in a more pensive mood, crafting thoughtful extended forms full of lush harmonic contrasts.
The free-form rhythmic overture of "Noshufuru" invokes James Ridl's orchestral cycles and Martino's complex melodic counterpoint, before breaking into a swinging release. The tension between these two sections inspires Martino to explore crafty, horn-like phrases, before giving way to Ridl's dynamic orchestral embellishments and open-ended variations from bassist Johnson and drummer Bonadio. On "You're Welcome To A Prayer," Ridl's romantic ruminations bracket Martino's poetic interlude in dark, impressionistic splendor. Likewise, "The Changing Tides" offers a discretely swinging harmonic cycle for Martino to craft his long, elliptical lines, while "Yoshiko" is a tender remembrance, full of yearning melodic details. THE MAKER reveals another aspect of Pat Martino, one that lies in considered contrast to the feverish intensity usually associated with his work: a promise of more ambitious, varied recitals.
A sigh of relief was breathed by many a fan upon the release of The Maker, because it marked the first time Pat Martino had released recordings in successive years since the late '70s. Here he is once again joined by kindred spirits James Ridl on piano and Marc Johnson on bass, along with the relatively unknown but very capable Joe Bonadio on drums. All members get a chance to shine on "Noshufuru," but it is Ridl who makes the biggest impression on his unaccompanied opening to "You're Welcome to a Prayer." Martino is in a reflective mood on this standout track -- as he also is on "The Changing Tides" and "Yoshiko" -- with strong similarities to his classic We'll Be Together Again recording with Gil Goldstein. The closing track, "This Autumn's Ours," is the session's only weak spot, as neither Martino or Ridl can quite match the excitement being generated by the rhythm section. Still, this is a highly recommended session featuring all original Martino compositions and more proof that the master was indeed back. ~ Robert Taylor
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