Pat Martino Gets His Groove Back

Pat Martino Gets His Groove Back

L: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer, R: Andrew Lepley / Contributor


Five years ago, when neurosurgeon Marcelo Galarza saw images from jazz guitarist Pat Martino’s cerebral MRI, he was astonished. “I couldn’t believe how much of his left temporal lobe had been removed,” he said. Martino had brain surgery in 1980 to remove a tangle of malformed veins and arteries. At the time he was one of the most celebrated guitarists in jazz. Yet few people knew that Martino suffered epileptic seizures, crushing headaches, and depression. Locked in psychiatric wards, he withstood debilitating electroshock therapy.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” the actor Joe Pesci said to Martino. “I’m going to tell you what you used to drink
in 1963.”

It wasn’t until 2007 that Martino had an MRI and not until recently that neuroscientists published their analyses of the images. Galarza’s astonishment, like that of medical scientists and music fans, arises from the fact that Martino recovered from surgery with a significant portion of his brain and memory gone, but his guitar skills intact. In a 2014 report in World Neurosurgery, Galarza, of the University Hospital in Murcia, Spain, and colleagues from Europe and the United States, wrote, “To our knowledge, this case study represents the first clinical observation of a patient who exhibited complete recovery from a profound amnesia and regained his previous virtuoso status.”  (Read the full story here)

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