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Virtual benefit for South Philly guitar great Pat Martino

Photo: Arnie Goodman

A local jazz cafe will launch a livestream event to raise money for South Philly guitar legend Pat Martino.

The internationally adored jazz guitarist has endured serious health issues and hasn’t performed since November 2018, leaving him financially impacted by the mounting hospital bills.

Chris’ Jazz Cafe, located at 1421 Sansom St., is launching a series of weekly live concerts beginning on Aug. 1 to benefit different causes. The first two weeks will pay tribute and raise money for Martino, who was born in South Philly under the name Patrick Azzara.

“Pat’s condition is not improving, and his financial situation is dire,” said longtime manager Joe Donofrio. “But his outlook remains upbeat and inspiring, which is one of his endearing qualities.”

Martino’s recovery from an aneurysm in the 1980s was both inspiring and amazing. After undergoing life-saving surgery, Martino lost all memory, having no recollection of his music ability or his career.

Studying his own recordings, Martino learned to play guitar again, reversing his memory loss and returning to form on the instrument he loves. Prior to the aneurysm, Martino was involved in  Philadelphia’s early rock scene, playing alongside other stars such as Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Darin. Since his recovery, he has received multiple Grammy nominations for his albums “Live at Yoshi’s” and “Think Tank,” which were both released in the early 2000s.

Martino currently relies on oxygen tanks and is reportedly too weak to undergo a lung transplant due to a compromised immune system, brought on by his long recovery from the aneurysm.

Chris’ Jazz Cafe will be the first jazz venue in the city to livestream shows. The longest continuously running operating jazz club spent $25,000 to transition its stage into a state-of-the-art high-tech performance space, perfect for producing and broadcasting virtual content.

“Never in a million years when I first took over the club in 2000 did I think we would turn a cozy, live music setting into a virtual event venue to be enjoyed by millions of jazz aficionados worldwide,” said Chef/Owner Mark DeNinno. “But we’ve figured out how to adapt to an unprecedented global event and stay ‘open’ while preserving the legacy of Chris’, which is synonymous with world-class musical entertainment.”

The venue now features a new lighting grid and four remote-controlled HD cameras with state-of-the-art pan, zoom and tilt features. It also includes improved audio systems, with a new switcher and mics.

“Unlike many other live streams, where a static camera focuses on stage, for viewers watching at home it will feel like they are actually experiencing the show from the club, as we’ll utilize a multitude of camera angles, shots and effects,” DeNinno said.

The Martino tribute livestreams on Aug.t 1 and Aug. 8 (both 8 p.m.) are free to view by using the promo code PHILLYJAZZ, and donations are encouraged to raise money for Martino. The Aug. 1 show will feature saxophonist Eric Alexander and the Young Philadelphians, which includes Joe Block, Byron Landham and Alex Claffy. The Aug. 8 show will feature guitarist Peter Bernstein and his quartet.

Six additional shows are listed on the venue’s website at https://www.chrisjazzcafe.com throughout the month of August, and those shows can be streamed for $5 each.

Fans of Martino can donate directly to medical bills through a GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/f/pat-martino-fund.

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