On the Bus, or: Your ’60s Hangover is our Breezy Summer Special

Originally posted 22 August 2006

Pat Martino
Baiyina (The Clear Evidence)
Prestige : 1968

PM, guitar; Bobby Rose, guitar; Gregory Herbert, alto sax, flute; Richard Davis, bass; Charlie Persip, drums; Reggie Ferguson, tabla; Balakrishna, tamboura.

Regular and attentive readers of this fairly young venture will have noticed our propensity to cite, with notable frequency, a collection optimistically titled Jazz Satellites, Volume One. We hold this collection in high esteem largely because it carries that ineluctable mojo of the super-fine mix tape. Plus it opened up some doors to all that was wise and wonderful about fusion, aka kozmigroov. (There was some contempo stuff lining the cracks, too, but the real magic came out of the ’70s vault.)

We tip our hats to compiler Kevin Martin – who went on to righteous acclaim as a producer/songwriter/musician in his own right. We highly recommend both The Bug’s London Zoo (ragga dancehall meets dubstep) and King Midas Sound’s Waiting for You (think a more Irie and eerie Massive Attack).

It’s a turn on to be turned on to stuff, and almost as much of one to do the turning. The right compilation, like the mix tape of our adolescent dreams, can (re)awaken the pure joy of discovery, and spritz the addictive scent of whatever’s just down the road. A few such sparkling collections that come immediately to mind are Guitar Paradise of East Africa and The Music in My Head, an imaginary soundtrack to the book of the same name by Mark Hudson. These are the new vistas.

So, anyway, as “Volume One” suggests, there were plans – fairly advanced plans, it would seem – for Jazz Satellites, Volume Two. It was even going to be a multi-disc set. Sadly Virgin UK dropped the project and the compilation went unrealized. However, we discovered a projected playlist for Volume Two and it included this track from Pat Martino. Now normally we wouldn’t give Martino even a passing glance, but if K. Martin thought enough to include this on the second Satellites, well, we’re all ears.

And a good thing, too. “Baiyina” is a wonderfully breezy and willowy piece of fusion. It may not be all that free, but it certainly is loose. The vibe is lazy and hazy but also something more. There’s a nice sense of propulsion here, foregrounded by the slightly ominous tamboura drone and a flute that’s alternately stinging and meander-y. The chiming ebb-and-flow of the guitar reminds us a bit of The Butterfield Blues Band’s epic “East/West,” another track ripe for rediscovery. Martino’s casually adventurous tune might be easily overlooked in the midst of an otherwise mediocre album. Which is where the fine art of the mixtape comes in: cherry-picking the best tracks and placing them in a new context, where they can be heard with fresh ears.

So free jazz fans, meet Pat Martino. A man whose life to date would be deemed too unlikely, soapy, and/or operatic for the likes of the Hallmark Channel. This album was subtitled “a psychedelic excursion through the magical mysteries of the Koran.” Ahem. Times are strange; 1968 was stranger. You can almost hear it all here: the possibility and paranoia, and the pleasure of a summer’s afternoon.

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