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Pat Metheny

with 2 comments

May 4, 2010
Kingsbury Hall

I was only passingly familiar with Pat Metheny’s work prior to Tuesday night’s concert. I will fully admit that music is a part of the aesthetic life that I’ve really not paid very much attention to, and jazz doubly so. I have plenty of favorite musicians and music that I listen to, but I’m certainly not well educated when it comes to music, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about different kinds of music. After a very entertaining evening, I can certainly attest to Metheny being a consummate storyteller armed with emotionally evocative work.

Here is the story I heard:

My name is Pat Metheny.
I am a guitar virtuoso.
I can, as I stand here on stage, think of a more complex musical idea than you could devise if I gave you six weeks, a slide rule, and unfettered access to Beethoven’s brain.
I find my creativity sometimes going into areas that you would find confusing.
At worst, you’d wonder if there is anything there but noise.
I understand every note, every nuance, and every theme.

I have a band.
It is full of the most talented jazz musicians I can find.
Sometimes I find my job frustrating.
I explain the nuances of a particular sound I want from my wind section.
All I get are blank stares.
“I want you to fill up a series of glass jars and play them like they were moonshine jugs” couldn’t be more clear.
Granted, I’m talking to a Julliard graduate.
I find this very frustrating.

Other times, I ask my vibraphone player to play 14 notes simultaneously.
He responds that he only has a limited number of hands to hold mallets with.
I suggest that we might want to surgically attach new limbs to allow him to do this more efficiently.
He looks at me like I’m crazy.

All the while, my imagination runs, spitting out a phrase, or a theme, or three notes and begging me to play them.
I refuse to tolerate the frustration anymore.
I am, after all, a cool and laid-back jazz musician in my heart.

One day, I’m considering the merits psychically dominating my drummer so his playing will be more precise.
It occurrs to me that all I really need to do is implant a metronome in his frontal lobe.
If I sat there with the tempo control in my hand, I could make him play exactly what I wanted.

So, rather than conduct human experimentation and possibly ruin a perfectly good drummer, I did the next best thing.
I took a cue from my grandfather’s old player piano.
I made a player orchestra instead.

The Orchestrion Tour, I’m told, is quite different from Metheny’s usual live performances. That isn’t terribly surprising, since one would think that a musician touring with a stage that looks like Grant Imahara designed it would get more media attention. For me, being a non-gearhead and yet loving an overwrought technological fix for a simple problem as much as any other red-blooded American male, it may well be a visual that is even more exciting than a stage full of accomplished musicians. Given the amount of time I willingly spend with technology, it certainly is a more familiar and comfortable one.

There are comparisons to be made here to James Cameron’s latest work. Though he trips over himself to deny that the 3D animation in Avatar isn’t meant to propose the end of human actors’ involvement with films, it’s hard not to see that as a possible endgame, especially given what a notorious control freak Cameron can be. While I doubt Metheny is actually planning to abandon working with his band any time soon, I have to admit that the complexities of his Creation are such that, after hearing the music he has already composed for it, as well as that improvised at the concert, I’m left wondering what a year or two of non-stop devotion to the Orchestrion might yield.

Written by ireviewsomething

May 6, 2010 at 1:39pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you are a great
    author. I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will come
    back later on. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great writing, have a nice holiday


    October 18, 2014 at 1:03pm

  2. ….you had to be there. ….and I was. 5 years later i’m still breathless. I first heard Pat’s music around 35 years ago. everytime I hear it chills run down my spine.


    October 29, 2015 at 11:34am

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