Internationally renowned jazz guitarist Pat Martino died following a long illness at 77 in the South Philadelphia house he grew up in, his manager Joseph Donofrio told The Inquirer on Monday.
The guitarist had been suffering from chronic respiratory disorder since 2018 which prohibited his lungs’ ability to bring in oxygen, necessitating 24/7 treatments, said Donofrio.
According to the late guitarist’s website, he hadn’t worked since November 2018 due to severe health issues and was facing financial hardships. It asked for donations to keep his household intact and to pay medical bills. His manager organised a fundraiser on GoFundMe and raised almost $250,000 to help with Martino’s medical and living expenses.
The jazz world mourned and tweeted in memory of the influential musician. Born Patrick Azzara in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1944, he was first exposed to jazz through his father who sang in local clubs.
Martino began playing professionally in 1961. He was 22 when he released El Hombre, his debut album. In 1976, while performing internationally with his fusion group Joyous Lake, Martino began experiencing seizures, which were eventually diagnosed as Arteriovenous Malformation, a condition he was born with.
After surgery and recovery, he resumed his career and relearned how to play the guitar when he appeared publicly in 1987 for the first time after his diagnosis.
In his 2011 book Here and Now! The Autobiography of Pat Martino, he documented the story of his life through recovered memories and restored his career. When the book came out, he told The Inquirer that the aneurysm was “the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
“The guitar is of no great importance to me,” said Pat Martino. “The people it brings to me are what matter. They are what I’m extremely grateful for because they are alive. The guitar is just an apparatus.”
The 2008 Martino Unstrung documentary explored the neuroscience of Martino’s condition and his ability to play music.
He was selected as the guitarist of the year in a 2004 Down Beat magazine reader vote.
In 2016, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes and his wife Sheryl Lee Ralph-Hughes presented Pat Martino with the Jazz Legacy Award.