Famous Like Me > Composer > M > Pat Metheny
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Profile of Pat Metheny
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||12th August 1954
|Place of Birth:
||Lee's Summit, Missouri, USA
Patrick Bruce Metheny (born 12 August 1954 in Lee's Summit, Missouri USA) is an American jazz guitarist and leader of the Pat Metheny Group.
Roughly, Metheny's musical contexts separate into many branches: the Pat Metheny Group plus various collaborations, duets, solo works, and other side projects.
Pat Metheny Group
The Pat Metheny Group is a jazz band founded in 1977.
Core members of the group are guitarist and leader Pat Metheny, keyboard player and pianist Lyle Mays, and bassist Steve Rodby who joined in 1980. The group has had many additional personnel come and go over the years. Drummer Paul Wertico was a long lasting member of the group, whose tenure lasted from 1983 until 2000. The current members are Pat Metheny (guitars), Lyle Mays (piano and keyboards), Steve Rodby (double bass, electric bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums), Cuong Vu (trumpet), Grégoire Maret (harmonica, percussion, vocals, everything) and Nando Lauria (guitar, percussion, vocals, everything).
Founder Pat Metheny came onto the jazz fusion scene in the mid-1970s with a pair of solo albums; the latter of these, 1977's Watercolors, featured keyboard player Lyle Mays. Metheny's follow-up album formalized this arrangement, featuring several songs co-written with Mays; the album was released as the self-titled Pat Metheny Group on the ECM record label. The second group album, American Garage (1980), was a breakout hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and crossing over onto the pop charts as well, largely on the strength of the up-tempo opening track "(Cross the) Heartland" which would become a signature tune for the group. This early incarnation of the group included Dan Gottlieb (drums) and Mark Egan (bass). The group built upon its success through constant touring across the USA and Europe. The early group featured a unique sound, particularly due to Metheny's Gibson ES-175 guitar and Mays' Oberheim synthesizer and Yamaha Organ. Even in this early state the band played in a wide range of styles from experimental to grassroots. Metheny later started working with the Roland GR300 guitar synthesizer and the Synclavier System made by New England Digital. Mays expaned his setup with the Prophet V synthesizer made by Sequential Circuits, and later with many other synthesizers.
From 1982 to 1985 the Pat Metheny Group released Offramp (1982), a live set Travels (1983), and First Circle (1984) as well as The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) a soundtrack album for the movie of the same name in which they collaborated with David Bowie. Offramp marked the first appearance of bassist Steve Rodby (replacing Mark Egan) and Brazilian "guest artist" Nana Vasconcelos whose work on percussion and wordless vocals marked the first addition of Latin music shadings to the Group's sound, a trend which would continue and intensify on First Circle with the addition of Argentinian multi-instrumentalist Pedro Aznar, which also marked the group debut of drummer Paul Wertico (replacing Danny Gottlieb). This period became a peak of commercial popularity of the band, especially for the live recording Travels. First Circle would also be Metheny's last project with the ECM label; Metheny had been a key artist for ECM but left over conceptual disagreements with label founder Manfred Eicher.
Then next three Pat Metheny Group releases would be based around a further intensification of the Brazilian rhythms first heard in the early '80s. Additional Latin musicians appear as guests, notably Brazillian percussion player Armando Marcal. Still Life (Talking), (1987) was the Group's first release on new label Geffen Records, and featured several popular tracks. The album's first tune, "Minuano (Six Eight)," represents a good example of the Pat Metheny group compositional style from this period: the track starts with a haunting minor section from Mays, lifts off in a typical Methenian jubilant major melody, leading to a Maysian metric and harmonically-modulated interlude, creating suspense which is finally resolved in the Methenian major theme. Another popular highlight was "Last Train Home", a rhythmically relentless piece evoking the American Midwest. The 1989 release Letter From Home continued this approach, even more relentlessly Latin, in its bossa and samba pieces. Metheny then again delved into adventurous solo and band projects, and four years went by before the release of the next record for the next Pat Metheny Group, a live set entitled The Road to You, which featured tracks from the two Geffen studio albums amongst new tunes. The group integrated new instrumentation and technologies into its work, notably Mays' unique playing technique accomplished by adding midi-controlled synth sounds at command during acoustic solos via a pedal on the piano.
Mays and Metheny themselves refer to the following three Pat Metheny Group releases as the triptych: We Live Here (1995), Quartet (1996), and Imaginary Day (1997). Moving away from the latin style which had dominated the releases of the previous 10 years, these albums were the most wide-ranging and least commercial Group releases, including experimentations with hip-hop drum loops, free-form improvisation on acoustic instruments, and symphonic signatures, blues and sonata schemes.
After another hiatus, the Pat Metheny Group re-emerged in 2002 with the release Speaking of Now, another change in direction adding musicians to the band who are one generation younger and thus grew up with the Pat Metheny Group. The new members on the bandstand are the drummer Antonio Sanchez from Mexico City, trumpet player Cuong Vu and bassist, vocalist, guitarist, and percussionist Richard Bona from Cameroon.
The latest release, 2005's The Way Up, is another large concept record which consists of one 68 minute-long piece (although split into four sections solely for CD navigation), a tightly organized, but not through-composed piece based on a pair of three-note kernels: The opening B, A#, F# and the derived B, A, F#. The auditory's reception of The Way Up was very homogenous as the piece received invariably standing ovations in each of the almmost 90 concerts during the world tour 2005. On The Way Up, harmonica player Grégoire Maret from Switzerland was introduced as a new group member, while Richard Bona contributed only as a guest musician. During the world tour brazilian multiinstrumentalist Nando Lauria completed the line-up of the PMG. The Way Up was released through Nonesuch Records and all of Metheny's Geffen and Warner Brothers released are to be released on the label.
When working outside of the confines of the PMG, Metheny has shown different sides to his musical personality. Working with established jazz figures such as Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, and Roy Haynes, he has made records that have found favor with jazz critics that were disparaging of the "pastoral" or "light rock" aspects of his work with the PMG. Projects like the collaboration with Derek Bailey or the hard-to-fathom Zero Tolerance for Silence have confounded critics who saw Metheny as following a path of increasing blandness with the PMG.
- New Chautauqua (1978)
- Zero Tolerance for Silence (1992)
- Passagio per il Paradiso (soundtrack) (1996)
- One Quiet Night (2003)
- I Can See Your House From Here with John Scofield (listed here as a duet -- also accompanied by Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart) (1993)
- Beyond the Missouri Sky with Charlie Haden (1996)
- Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1999)
- Song X : Twentieth Anniversary with Ornette Coleman including 6 unreleased recordings from the original sessions (2005)
- With Jaco Pastorius (b) & Bob Moses (musician) (dr) on Bright Size Life (1975)
- Interview and live performance with Jaco Pastorius (b) & Bob Moses (dr) on Portrait of Jaco, the Early Years (1975)
- With Charlie Haden (b) & Billy Higgins (dr) on Rejoicing (1983)
- With Dave Holland (b) & Roy Haynes (dr) on Question & Answer (1989)
- With Larry Grenadier (b) & Bill Stewart (dr) on Trio 99 > 00 (2000)
- With Larry Grenadier (b) & Bill Stewart (dr) on Trio Live (2000)
Symphonic Projects and Soundtracks
- The Falcon And The Snowman (1985)
- Secret Story (1992)
- Toys (1992)
- A Map of the World (1999)
- 80/81 (1980) with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Jack DeJohnette
- Song X (1985) with Ornette Coleman
- Electric Counterpoint with Steve Reich
- The Sign of Four (1996) with Derek Bailey, Gregg Bendian and Paul Wertico
- And as a key player on many other projects, repeatedly with Michael Brecker, Jim Hall, Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette.
Continuing the tradition of jazz guitarists borrowing tones and techniques from their rock counterparts, Metheny has made considerable additions to the jazz guitar tone palette.
Twelve-String Electric Guitar
Pat Martino had used the electric twelve-string guitar on a studio album, Desperado, and John McLaughlin had famously used a double-neck electric guitar as a sort of electric sitar, but Metheny was arguably the first significant user of the twelve-string electric in jazz. (Ralph Towner had previously introduced the acoustic twelve-string to jazz. Metheny unquestionably introduced alternate 12-string tunings to jazz; these can be heard to wonderful effect on tunes such as "Sirabhorn" (from Bright Size Life), "Icefire" (from Watercolors), and San Lorenzo (from Pat Metheny Group and Travels).
Six-String Electric Guitar
Metheny's tone on six-string guitar is arguably copied more widely than that of any other jazz guitarist (including Wes Montgomery and Grant Green), although the copying is usually done by smooth jazz players instead of "serious" jazzers. His tone, which is heavily influenced by Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead and Steve Howe of Yes, makes heavy use of compression to create a smooth, sustaining lead sound that is virtually devoid of piercing treble yet is able to cut through a dense mix. By using digital signal processing, he also created a "chorused" sound that is very difficult to describe, but instantly recognizable.
Metheny is known to disdain reverb. During his brief tenure as an instructor at Berklee, he put this animus to productive use when testing guitar students. Using a Fender amplifier with two discrete channels, Metheny would plug the student into the reverb channel, reserving the clean channel for himself. Metheny would play a complicated passage, and the student would have to play it back note-for-note; the heavy reverb would amplify any technical errors or hesitation on the student's part.
Metheny was also the first jazz guitarist to make heavy use of the Roland GR300 Guitar Synthesizer. While John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell also used it heavily in the 1980s, Metheny is the only one of the three who still uses the instrument on a regular basis. Unlike many guitar synth users, Metheny limits himself to a very small number of sounds; in interviews, he has argued that each of the timbres achievable through guitar synthesis should be treated as a separate instrument, and that he has tried to master each of these "instruments" instead of using it for incidental color.
42-String Pikasso Guitar
One of the most unique guitars that Metheny plays was created by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer. It can be heard on Into the Dream on the albums Imaginary Day and Trio->Live. Manzer has also made countless acoustic guitars for Metheny, including a mini guitars and an acoustic sitar guitar.
Metheny maintains that he plays what he would like to hear as a listener. His curiosity has meant that his compositional style has absorbed a fairly eclectic mix of influences. In turn he has himself been influential for a vast number of younger musicians. This is documented by the number of his compositions played by other musicians; and the number of younger players Metheny integrates into the Pat Metheny Group and various other settings.
In particular, he has been influenced by Brazilian music--both the European-influenced jazz sound of the bossa nova and the intensely polyrhythmic Afro-Brazilian sounds of the country's northeast. Metheny has lived in Brazil and performed with several local musicians such as Milton Nascimento and Toninho Horta.
Metheny has also named Ornette Coleman as a musical influence. He has recorded Coleman compositions on a number of his records (starting with a medley of "Round Trip" and "Broadway Blues" on his debut Bright Size Life); worked extensively with Coleman collaborators such as Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, and Billy Higgins; and has even made a record, Song X, with Coleman.
As a guitarist, Metheny cites Wes Montgomery as his biggest early influence. His playing (as well as his tone) also show significant influence by Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, and other classic jazz players.
- Bright Size Life (1976)
- Watercolors (1977)
- Pat Metheny Group (1978)
- New Chautauqua (1979)
- American Garage (1979)
- 80/81 (1980)
- As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (1981)
- Offramp (1982)
- Travels (1983)
- Rejoicing (1983)
- First Circle (1984)
- The Falcon And The Snowman (movie soundtrack) (1985)
- Song X (1986)
- Still life (Talking) (1987)
- Letter From Home (1989)
- Question And Answer (1990)
- Secret Story (1992)
- The Road To You (1993)
- Zero Tolerance For Silence (1994)
- We Live Here (1995)
- Quartet (1996)
- Passagio Per Il Paradiso (1997)
- Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories) (1997)
- Imaginary Day (1997)
- Like Minds (1999)
- Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1999)
- A Map Of The World (movie soundtrack) (1999)
- Pat Metheny Trio 99 → 00 (2000)
- Pat Metheny Trio → Live (2000)
- Speaking Of Now (2002)
- One Quiet Night (2003)
- The Way Up (2005)
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