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Jazz guitar heavyweight Pat Martino dies aged 77

Pat Martino
(Image credit: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Jazz guitar great Pat Martino has died at the age of 77. 

Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Martino's manager Joseph Donofrio says the guitarist died on Monday (November 1) at the South Philadelphia house in which he grew up, after battling a chronic respiratory disorder since 2018.

He adds that Martino had been breathing with the assistance of oxygen and was unable to play guitar since finishing a 2018 tour in Italy.

Pat Martino – born Patrick Carmen Azzara – released over 20 solo albums during his decades-long career, and appeared on many more as a sideman. He was highly regarded in the jazz community for his adeptness and accuracy at high-speed phrasing, as heard in Sunny and his take on Wes Montgomery standard Four On Six.

Born with an arteriovenous malformation – a medical condition in which a group of blood vessels in the body forms incorrectly – Martino experienced seizures throughout his life, and suffered a life-threatening aneurysm in 1980 which resulted in the loss of much of his memory, and robbed him of his ability to play guitar.

He spent many subsequent years relearning to play by listening to his old recordings, and said that the process brought him out of a state of depression.

In conversation with Lehigh Valley Live in 2019, Martino said: “[The guitar] became a utensil unlike the way it used to be. It used to be a profession and became a career. It became another utensil that provided what was provocatively fulfilling.”

He continued: “[The medication that] was being prescribed for recovery was going to subdue something that was so incredibly destructive at the time and that didn't work and that produced a great deal of amplification in the frustration.

“It was either I do something that absorbed my attention or consider suicide. I reached that level and I chose the former and began to play with toys like a child does. My favorite toy, as it always was, proved to be the one that was beneficial to begin with and that was the guitar.”

But despite the aneurysm's effect on his mental health, he still called the incident “the greatest thing that ever happened” to him.

In a 2011 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said, “What's on my mind is a greater focus with more intimate accuracy on each and every moment so that I can truly focus on what life is really all about. The mind has a way of thinking about things that have nothing to do with the moment, but if I can love my life in that moment, I'm in the right place at the right time.”

Sam Roche

Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.