Pat Martino's solo on:
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas
and Felíz Navidad to everyone!!!
As far as I know,
this particular track from 1965, which appears on the
"HOLIDAY SOUL"(Prestige) LP by organist Don Patterson, has never been
released in CD format. and, If memory serves, I believe that I bought this
album during the late '60s for $2 when I was still living in Los Angeles
and attending U.C.L.A.!
From the opening vamp, complete with sleighbells,
and Pat Martino's guitar doubling the organ's chords: Bb7(13)
up a 1/2-step to B7(13), you just know that you're in for a 'bluesy'
treatment of the wonderful Christmas standard, "Santa Claus is Coming
to Town." On this recording, they are joined by the very swingin'
drums of Billy James. The tune itself is a typical A-A-B-A, 32-bar
form, and though we are not presenting the statement of the melody here,
you should know that during the melody, the chords in bars 1-4 are treated
as major chords, but when Pat Martino launches into his tremendous 2-chorus
solo, the blues take over and the chords become dominant 7ths.
Even with a most bluesy feeling permeating the entire
performance Pat's phrasing remains steeped in the language of jazz.
His usage of 8th-note triplets as little 'rockets' ascending or descending
are heard throughout the solo in chorus  in bars: 1, 2, 6,
8, 13, 15, 18, 23-24, 29, 31-32; and in chorus  in bars: 5,
6, 8, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, and 24. You should also look at some other
traditional jazz phrasing mannerisms Pat employs in chorus  at [A2] bar 4; [B] bar 4; [A3] bar 7; and in chorus  in [A1] bar 4; [A2] bar 5 and finally, at letter [B] bar 4. These little 'mannerisms' really capture a part of the
essence of what the 'language' of jazz is all about. They seem to pass
by the ear without calling any special attention to themselves because
that should always be what 'speaking' any language is about. They should
sound off-handed and effortless.
From a historical perspective, one must never forget
that the guitar began as an instrument, at least within the context
of a big band, with no linear melodic, nor soloing functions. It was
strictly another time-keeping, rhythm instrument. So, when the guitar
became 'liberated' to pursue such things, the language had already been
formed by instruments like the trumpet, saxophones, trombones, and piano.
It then became the task of the guitarist to learn those same mannerisms,
and then adapt them to the guitar. What is so interesting about just
how they are adapted to the guitar, when played by a guitarist like
Pat Martino, who picks just about every single note, is that these mannerisms
require more subtlety and are executed as you can hear by slurs, pull-offs,
and hammer-ons. Remember that when you are trying to assimilate these
phrases into your own vocabulary.
Throughout the solo, blues elements and phrases can
heard during chorus  in bars: 1-3; 8-11; 15-16; 24-33; and
in chorus  bars: 9-12; and finally in bars 31-32 after treating [A3] with octaves. For blues/jazz guitar nuts, or just plain Martino
nuts out there, please pay special attention to the little line he plays
in the last bar of [B] in chorus  into [A3]!
It's a real classic!!!
On the jazzier side of things, where his lines are
concerned, Pat uses a traditional device when making the changes from
Dm7(iiim7)-G7(alt.)(VI7alt.)-Cm7(iim7) in bars 5-6 and 7-8 of any [A] section, by employing it in bars 5 and 7; and also during chorus  in bar 7, the C harmonic minor scale(C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B)
presents us with the interval from the 3rd(B) to the b9(Ab) which gives
it a special 'pull' to bring us to a cadence. Also pay attention to
how often Pat uses the #9-b9 notes in succession when going from almost
any V-I or V-i. You can see examples of this in chorus  in
bars: 6, 14, 31; and in chorus  in bars: 5, 8, and 15(b9-#9).
For the true jazz guitar lovers amongst you, you
might want to pay special attention to Pat's treatment of both the appearances
of letter [B]. During the first 4 bars of each of these sections,
we have a simple ii-V to Ebmaj. Then there is the little modulation
with a ii-V now to Fmaj7. And finally to turn the tune around to our
real 'key' of Bb, we now have a II7, a C7 which is preceded by its ii
of Gm7, and then we go to the 'real' ii(Cm7)-V7(alt.)(F7alt.) to turn
home to Bb. And, as he always does, Pat negotiates these changes with
grace and swing.
I would guess that when this was recorded, during
1965, Pat was still using his Gibson L-5 which produced this
beautiful tone. I would also venture to guess that he was using pretty
heavy gauge strings which would account for his full-bodied tone across
the range of the instrument. However it was done, he does it as beautifully
as anyone ever has, and always with swing, bounce and drive. So, keeping
these little things in mind, enjoy this wonderful solo as a Christmas
gift with our best wishes.
As we now come to the end of 2002, and look ahead
with hopes and dreams for the New Year of 2003. Blaine and I
want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their countless
visits to our Website, for all the e-mails of support and encouragement,
and for the entries to our Guestbook. We appreciate and value each one
of you, and will continue to hope that we have done some small part
to enrich your enjoyment of music, and to encourage your personal growth
in some way. Again, here's wishing everyone the joys of the season,
and more than this, a year of fresh beginnings, and wonderful new opportunities
full of love and hope in your hearts.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! ¡Felíz
Navidad y Felíz Año Nuevo!