See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Pat Martino's solo on:
"St. Thomas"(Sonny Rollins)
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas and ¡Felíz Navidad! to everyone!!! Once again, we are having a Pat Martino bonus transcription gift to you all for this glorious time of year. "St. Thomas," which was written by the great Sonny Rollins, appears on saxophonist Eric Kloss' "LIFE FORCE"(Prestige) LP, and was recorded during '67. It still has never been released in CD format. I was probably able to purchase this album during the late '60s for only $2 while living in Los Angeles and attending U.C.L.A.!
The recording features Eric(a fellow Pennsylvanian to Pat Martino) on alto and tenor sax; Jimmy Owens on trumpet; Ben Tucker on bass; and Alan Dawson on drums. I will never forget arriving in New York in '70, and seeing Jimmy Owens, for the first time, playing in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. At that moment, he had the most huge "Afro" haircut I had ever seen in my life. It was so wide on each side that, to get in the door of the Village Vanguard, he actually had to turn his head to the side to fit in!!! I swear this is true!
I always enjoyed Pat Martino's playing on this recording because it was a keyboardless context and one could hear everything so clearly. It was also engineered by my good friend, Richard Alderson and it sounds to me as though Richard, as a safeguard, took a direct signal from Pat's guitar, and it is this sound which we hear on the recording. I know that Pat likes to play with a 'darker than dark' sound, and often times there can be, in truth, unwanted distortion as most speakers will eventually give way to the low-end. This makes him a difficult artist to record well. But here, I believe that Pat's Gibson L-5 sounds beautiful, and with a clean, clear, and crisp tone, while not losing any of the warmth and body.
Between Pat's approach to the chords, and the Calypso-tinged, felt in two, groove from Ben Tucker and Alan Dawson, the flavor of this Sonny Rollins "chestnut" is given its own lilt. And from all the players, it is given an enthusiastic and fun treatment. Pat's solo is comprised of 3 choruses over the 16-bar form. Essentially the tune revolves around a basic 'turnaround' progression in C major, though bars 9-12 can almost feel like a 'mini-bridge.' Bars 13-16 are not unlike changes you might find in bars 5-8 of a letter [A] in any "rhythm changes" tune. As Pat is in control of the harmonic flavor due to the absence of piano, he is free to imply various harmonic colors. So, at times, you can hear the Cmaj7 chords in bars 8-9 become dominant 7th chords, which adds a 'bluesy' flavor. And, you will also hear that he will ignore some of the iim7(Dm7) chord sounds and change them to dominant 7th chord, V7 of V7 approaches. All of these devices work well, and add points of interest to the interpretation and performance.
Though I have never enjoyed transcribing any guitar solos which feature octaves, much less passages of chordal improvising, I decided to do this one because it was so short. It also serves notice of how Pat had absorbed the a rich portion of the chord soloing style of his hero Wes Montgomery. So, when you combine the fact that the solo is in octaves and chords, it is all the more obvious that Wes had a huge influence here.
Martino's solo follows the tenor sax solo by Eric Kloss, and Chorus  begins with octave phrases which have a decidedly R&B flavor to them. The notes are clearly derived from the A minor pentatonic(A, C, D, E, G). What is good about this choice is that, if one desires, the configuration of notes stays away from the blue notes, especially Bbs and Ebs, and also dances around sounding too much in major, by not touching upon B-naturals. When Pat plays through bars 9-16, more jazz-influenced alterations begin to appear. In bar 10, he outlines the notes of A7b9; and, in bar 12, he passes by the #9(Bb) and b9(Ab) of G7 as it resolves to Cmaj7 in the next bar. Bars 11-12 see Pat slamming home Ebs, and speaking a clearly bluesy language over major 7th chords. In this chorus, Pat only plays chord voicings during bars 2 and 6, the A7(alt.) bars. In bar 2, he uses a most basic voicing for A7#5(w/ F on top); and, in bar 6, he employs a simple sequence of descending diminished 7th chord voicings, with the top voice going from E to C# to Bb. This is something which we have heard Wes Montgomery play 1,000 times, and is really part of an A7b9 chord and should not be labeled as individual diminished chords. This device appears again in bar 6 of Chorus .
In Chorus , Pat continues with octaves, and in bars 2 and 4, he outlines 7b9 sounds for both the A7(alt.) and G7(alt.) chords. As I've indicated in earlier analyses, the key scale degrees to hit are the 3rd and the b9. So, over A7, you should expect to see: C# and Bb; and over G7, you would see: B-natural and Ab. When he plays the little diminished sequence in bar 6, it announces the arrival of the chordal portion of this solo.
For those of you who are just beginning to ponder the execution of any solo passage in chords, I would want you to know that all the voicings, which Pat employs here with such grace and ease, are very standard in the jazz guitar lexicon, and would probably be found in any basic chord book! The chordal sonority which gets the greatest 'workout' is Dm7. And, you would want to carefully investigate the voicings in bars 7-8; and 11-12 in Chorus ; and, in Chorus  bars: 2-4 and 6-8. In bars 2 and 6 of Chorus , instead of going back to the little diminished sequences, Pat plays a standard A7(13b9) voicing(w/ Bb on top).
Earlier, I touched upon the fact that because the guitar is the only chordal instrument present here, Pat is much freer to modify the colors of some of the chords. If you listen to, and look at bar 9 in Chorus , you can see that what might be a Cmaj7 chord has now become a C7(9). This gives things a funkier attitude, and this type of device is often done in jazz groups which offer a more R&B and/or blues flavor to their music. Certainly, Pat would have experienced this a lot in the organ-led groups of "Brother" Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, and others. Pat also treats the Fmaj7 chord as a dominant 7th sound in bars 13-14 of both Choruses  and .
But the most interesting usage of 'applied harmony,' where this chord solo is concerned, is during bars 13-15 of Chorus  where you see a sequence of Fm7 voicings appearing where you might expect to see Dm7 sounds. So, why does this sound so great? To me, the answer is relatively simple because it is, once again, an ancient harmonic device: the usage the 'plagal cadence'[IV(F) to I(Cmaj) or iv(Fm) to I(Cmaj)]. In this instrumentation, it works perfectly because there can be no conflict with a piano. This is a most important element to always keep in mind.
For the guitarists in the group, if you are going to try to 'learn' the chordal aspects of this solo, do NOT try to approach it as "one whole thing." What I mean by this is, you should examine small phrases, extract them, and, work hard at them, one at a time, until they are fluid, and feel natural under your fingers.
As we now come to the end of 2004, and look ahead with hopes and dreams for the New Year of 2005. 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 our small part to enrich your enjoyment of music, and to encourage your personal growth. 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 good and positive feelings, and hope in your hearts. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! ¡Felíz Navidad y Felíz Año Nuevo!