’One Quiet Conversation‘
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, although classed as a jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny has bridged the gap between jazz and rock music in the same way that Miles Davis did in the late 60s and early 70s. Additionally, he played a major part in the growth of jazz's popularity among the younger generation of the 80s. Throughout his career, his extraordinary sense of melody has prevented his work from becoming rambling or self-indulgent.
His early albums, Bright Size Life (featuring the late Jaco Pastorius), and Watercolors showed a man who was still feeling his way. His own individual style matured with Pat Metheny Group in 1978. Together with his musical partner, the brilliant keyboard player Lyle Mays, he initiated a rock band format that produced album after album of melodious jazz/rock.
Metheny was now also becoming fascinated by the musical possibilities of the guitar synthesizer or synclavier. He used this to startling effect on Offramp, notably on the wonderfully contagious and sexual "Are You Going With Me?". The double set Travels showed a band at the peak of its powers, playing some familiar titles with a new freshness. In 1985, he composed the score for the movie ‘The Falcon And The Snowman,’ which led to him recording "This Is Not America" with David Bowie. The resulting UK Top 20/US Top 40 hit brought Metheny many new young admirers.
Metheny continued into the 90s with Secret Story, an album of breathtaking beauty featuring gems such as "Above The Treetops" and the poignant "The Truth Will Always Be". Although the album may have made jazz purists cringe, it was a realization of all Metheny's musical influences. The follow-up, Zero Tolerance For Silence, could only be described as astonishing, but We Live Here was a return to more traditional ground. It restored Metheny to his familiar position at the top of the jazz charts and won a Grammy in 1996 for the best contemporary jazz album.
And now Metheny’s very first solo acoustic album, One Quiet Night featuring in addition to some beautiful new material, cover versions of "Ferry Cross The Mersey" (Gerry And The Pacemakers), "My Song" (Keith Jarrett), and "Don't Know Why" by multiple Grammy-winner Norah Jones is out in the stores.
This new album was conceived in late 2001, so I’m wondering why One Quiet Night took so long to come to fruition? ”Basically, it wasn’t actually intended to be a record. I was just kinda playing one night and trying a new guitar in a different kind of tuning and really just playing completely for myself. I was just about to go out on the road for a year, I had just finished making a record with my regular band and we had toured all over the world. And during that time I kinda made three CDs worth of stuff at night. I’d also gotten a CD burner that day and three blank CDs and I’d told myself I was going to fill up these three CDs with music. I had this baritone guitar that I’d strung up in this unusual tuning and as the tour went on I kinda developed some favorites, you know. Some nights I would listen to track seven on CD two and by the time the tour was over I was pretty familiar with everything I’d played that night. And so I came back and put together what seemed to be the best-of together and it seemed like it was a record. I actually mixed it very quickly and put together the cover and everything and then put it out in a matter of a couple of weeks. So, in a way it does feel like it took a long time, but on another level it’s like, ‘Wow, is that a record? OK, it is so let’s put it out’,” he laughs.
What made you choose the three standards on the album? ”Well, all the stuff that I played on that night I was talking about where I made the three CDs was all improvised. When I got back and realized that this could be a record, it seemed like it wasn’t quite a record. Like it needed a couple of components to finish it off as a record - to balance out the improvised stuff. So I very quickly played three songs that I’d always really liked. One was ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’ which when I got my very first transistor radio was the number one hit. So I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for that tune. And Keith Jarrett’s ‘My Song’ was a tune I’ve always liked. And then this tune, ‘Don’t Know Why’.”
When did you first become aware of this great track and artist? “Well, Norah Jones used to play in a bar across the street from my house all the time and she’d always sing that tune and it would be me and about three other people. So, that’s sort of where I learnt the tune,” he gently laughs. ”And of course, the rest is history,’ he laughs harder. ”And then I wanted to have some wrist in there, some strumming and so the new tune ‘Song For The Boys’ and then another one ‘Over On 4th Street’ were put together there in that second session just before we released the record.”
Having written and composed with your group for years prior to this, did you find yourself kinda lonely in the studio for this solo project?! ”Well, the thing is I was never in the studio. I did it all at home and wasn’t really trying to really do anything. I think if I’d said, ‘Yes, now I’m gonna make a solo guitar record and I will go into the studio and I shall create one’, then I would probably have been lonely and I would also probably be terrified,” he laughs.
”This all sort of happened in a backwards kinda way and I’ve never really experienced any of that because really I was playing just kinda for myself. It was only in hindsight that I thought that I had managed to get to something unique. Which, I probably would not have gotten to otherwise. It’s just sort of a testament to the technology of our time that you are now able to sit in front of the computer at home and do not only a decent recording, but really a very good documentation sonically of what that guitar sounds like. And that would never have been possible even ten years ago.”
Do you think this new found love for the solo baritone guitar will cross over into your group’s next album? ”It’s more than likely, as I never really thought about playing solo guitar one way or the other before, but to have done one and to have got one under my belt is a great feeling. And to have done one on a guitar that’s probably the most bizarre restringing imaginable, well, that was incredibly difficult to play. A baritone guitar is halfway between a regular guitar and a bass in terms of its scale neck, so the frets are quite far apart and quite big. So it’s not an easy instrument to play. So it kinda makes me think that I should at least do another solo guitar record at some point on a conventional guitar since I’ve been playing it for the last thirty years,” he laughs. ”So, yeah, it was a weird way to start the solo guitar experience on this strange instrument, but on the other hand it was kinda good as that’s what got me to do it. But yeah, I can see – not so much with the group – but continuing to do occasional solo guitar things.”
Being a 15-time Grammy winner, one has to ask the obvious question - where you keep them all?! ”I really have no idea,” he admits laughing. ’I know my mom’s got a couple of them and I think the guys in the office have a couple of them and I know some are in a warehouse somewhere. Basically, what it seems from visiting people’s houses there are two categories: There’s the people that have their walls plastered with their gold records and their awards in like a shrine to their accomplishments; and there’s the other people where there’s no evidence that they’re even an active musician, you know what I mean. And I’m in the second category. It’s nice to win an award and I’m happy when we get recognition from people and they like it and everything, but on the other hand I don’t think you can really sit on it. You have to go on and there’s a kind of temptation to linger in your previous accomplishment. Which I actually think is somewhat dangerous. So, I have no evidence around me whatsoever of these things. It’s like every time I start it’s new.”
Is One Quiet Night still an introduction to Jazz for a first-timer, or should they perhaps go elsewhere?! ”Boy, these are hard questions,” he laughs. ”It’s very difficult for me at this point to have any sense of how people perceive anything. We live in a culture that is so bizarre. In many ways I don’t feel qualified to address the record via the public, because we’re sort of living in two different universes, you know. For me, I always felt like the general job as Jazz musicians is to sort of reinterpret the culture through the more advanced musical dialect that we deal in. This way the two, three or four per cent of the culture that actually gets bored with the average stuff can go find something in the sort of alternate universe that Jazz offers. There they will be still be able to recognize some aspects of it through the fact that we as a small group of individuals are dealing with this fairly complicated language that has evolved in the last one hundred years. And therefore we are able to manifest sounds and things that will offer those people something to look at that will remind them something about who they are, or what they dream about, or what they aspire to that they might not know yet.”
Describe your music to someone that may amazingly never have heard of you?! ”It’s really difficult, especially in my case because I really thing of music as one big thing. The whole way our culture, and in particular the entertainment business, is so devoted to dividing, separating and categorizing, well, that has always made my place in that culture complicated. Because you really can’t say it’s Jazz, or it’s rock or it’s pop, or it’s folk or it’s improvisational or it’s this, that or the other thing because for whatever thing you may say it is you could find on the next record two or three things that bring that argument back in really one way or another. The one big thing theory is the way I view music. I don’t really think about my music being Jazz or rock or pop or being classical or country. I mean I see connections between Shostakovich and Herbie Hancock more than Herbie Hancock and any other Jazz musician. It’s like the basic materials that they begin with are the same across the board stylistically. It’s just more of a political/cultural context that they’re perceived in that causes them to be basically separated from each other. So, if there’s three words that would be them: One big thing’.”
Finally, what would Pat do on ‘One Quiet Night’ away from music?! ”I’d probably go out and see a movie,” he quietly laughs.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
To win a Brand New AUTOGRAPHED copy of Pat's new CD, One Quiet Night just answer this question! On which PMG album would you find the studio track, "The Awakening"? Now, just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'PAT' and the answer in the text to:
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