Pat Metheny has for years been one of my favorite jazz guitarists. He has a bright, accessible sound with both a jazz and rock sensibility. I recall reading in Guitar Player magazine years ago that he attended the University of Miami as a student and after about a year or so, they instead asked him to teach!
He later gravitated to Boston to teach at the Berklee College of Music. He has won best guitarist in Downbeat magazine multiple times and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame.
What I like about Metheny is that he is very varied in what and with whom he plays. He’d do solo guitar stuff, then put out something with a rock-like flavor then do something totally “outside” with someone like Ornette Coleman. And as mentioned in an earlier post, he was one of the jazz musicians who backed Joni Mitchell for a while.
This song, “New Chautauqua” is from his 1979 solo album of the same name:
I thought that that song would be a nice introduction to his clean, open sound. But let’s go back a few years to Metheny’s very first album, Bright Size Life. He is teamed here with the (seemingly) ubiquitous Jaco Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums. (Pastorius had been teaching at the University of Miami when Metheny showed up there).
Pastorius would eventually wind up as a member of the seminal fusion band, Weather Report, and is one of the most influential bass players ever. (Unfortunately, he passed away at a fairly young age). The list of artists Moses worked with is way too long to even state here.
This tune is called “Round Trip/Broadway Blues” and is a great tune that showcases each musician’s talents, I think, equally well:
Not only is Metheny a big fan of just about every jazzer but he loves pop music, especially Lennon and McCartney. As to his attitude towards music in general, I like this quote on his website. A bit long-winded but the point is, I think, fairly clear:
“I feel very happy that I have the capacity to get goosebumps listening to just about anyone playing just about anything if they are doing it at their very best. When they are illuminating something unique and important and special about that particular musical endeavor at that particular moment in their particular lives as musicians and they would suffer greatly unless they could make that moment come alive in that particular way – that is when I dig it.
That quality can be found in the most unlikely places. By the same token, that quality is often lacking in the places where one would expect that it would certainly have to be there the most. That quality is also elusive and mysterious, and one can rarely predict anything about it.”
For the final number, I feature a song I hadn’t thought about or heard for a long time. The evocative “Last Train Home” from 1987’s Still Life Talking album. You may recognize it as it’s been used commercially in several places. But it’s still a damn fine song so I say let’s take it back. Beautifully evocative. Forget the onscreen psychedelics. Just close your eyes. And listen.
Personnel: Pat Metheny (guitar), Lyle Mays (keyboards), Steve Rodby (bass), Paul Wertico (drums), Armando Marçal (percussion), Mark Ledford, David Blamires (vocals):
I by no means intend to imply that Metheny’s career ended in the ’80s. On the contrary. Pat Metheny is 61 years young. He’s still out there touring. (His website shows him as being scheduled for the 2016 Seoul Jazz Festival). I’ve seen him a couple of times in large and small venues, at least once solo. If you like what you heard do not miss this artist.