Before jazz guitarist and composer Pat Martino's surgery after a brain aneurysm, which took away his memory and ability to play for seven years, he made a kind of left turn. Martino had been making trio and quartet recordings for most of the '70s that featured his reflective or quietly swinging originals and standards. In 1976 he made Starbright, on which he played synthesizer and percussion in addition to guitars. He also employed some of the hottest jazz fusion players, like synthesists Warren Bernhardt and Michael Mainieri, electric and acoustic keyboardist Gil Goldstein, drummer Michael Carvin, and bassist Will Lee, with Marty Quinn on tablas, Joe Donofrio on violin, and Al Regni on flute. The result was a startling yet warm and, in retrospect, wonderful recording of originals and covers, the most notable of which were two radically interpreted Wayne Shorter compositions, "Nefertiti," and "Fall." Later that year, Martino went further afield with Joyous Lake, employing Delmar Brown on all manner of keyboards (electronic only, a Fender Rhodes being the most conventional), electric bassist Mark Leonard, and drummer and percussionist Kenwood Dennard. All the compositions were by Martino or his bandmates. The latter album was too far out in the fusion field. Not funky enough, and too completely technical to be of much use to jazz fans who may have enjoyed the sparing experimentation of the former release but were not prepared for so studied and artificial an outing. Where Starbright showed another powerful and poetic dimension to Martino's personality, Joyous Lake subsumed it wholesale. The pair are available together on Collectables.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek