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A Fireside Chat with Pat Metheny

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Having said that, there was a fairly long period of orientation. For almost any guy I've played with, what you think these tunes sound like and what they actually are when you have to play them, they are much, much harder and require an awareness of lots of things in the area of dynamics and the specific harmonic details of it. We really needed a record and a tour to just get everybody on the same page. That has allowed us to get to the point where we are at now and the record that I am in the studio working on now that will be our next record with the same lineup.

FJ: One Quiet Night is a solo guitar record, a challenge to avoid the trappings of predictability.

PM: It is an incredibly hard thing to do, but it is something that I never had a burning ambition to make that a central part of my thing. I have always enjoyed doing that a little bit, but I certainly never thought I would be doing an entire album of solo guitar. This one came about because I wasn't really trying in a way. It just kind of came out and I think that is part of what made it releasable to me. It really is just a documentary of a particular kind of sound and a particular way of playing that just kind of showed up and seemed worthy or pursuit. Next thing I knew, there was the record.

The people who can really play solo guitar is less than one handful's worth. It is a very, very difficult thing to do and I am not including myself in that group. To play a truly varied and fully expansive solo concert on the guitar is probably the hardest thing I can imagine doing. It is not just a baritone guitar, but it is a baritone guitar in a tuning that this guy in my hometown showed me when I was about fourteen years old. I had tucked it away in my mind and used variations on that tuning through the years. The tuning itself is a variation on what they call Nashville tuning, in which the bottom four strings of the guitar are tuned up an octave. It is a baritone guitar, but at the same time, it is sort of functioning in the same register as a conventional guitar where the middle strings are tuned up an octave. It really opens up some very interesting voicing possibilities.

FJ: The Ahn Trio, a classical supergroup, recorded one of your compositions.

PM: I heard something about that. We are getting lots and lots of people recording the tunes these days. That's great. I think for somebody that writes a tune and gets the chance to hear somebody else play what they've written is a special compliment, that somebody has found something of their own in a tune you've written.

FJ: You are currently in the studio, recording the new group album. Without letting the cat out of the bag, give me the scoop.

PM: I don't want to say too much, but I will say that compositionally, this takes everything to an entirely new level. This is certainly the most ambitious writing project that Lyle [Mays] and I have embarked on. It is coming out really, really well. We are really, really excited about it. It is going to take a fair amount of time to finish. It is very complicated and probably won't be around until sometime next year. This has been refreshing because usually we are in the studio with the tour already booked and not only are we worried about how we are going to play it live, but how we are going to get done. This time, we are not worrying about either thing. We are just letting the record be the record.

FJ: You have come full circle, from being influenced by a Miles record to becoming the primary influence for a generation of guitarists. Alas, the circle of life.

PM: I have been very, very lucky through my life as a musician to be around musicians that were much older than I was and playing in Gary Burton's band with Swallow and those guys. Then getting to be around great older musicians like Sonny Rollins and Ornette and Derek Bailey or Billy Higgins and Charlie. But also, I have enjoyed, now, being in the middle. I am happy to have a relationship with Antonio and Christian McBride, Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman, and Kenny Garrett.

It is nice to be part of the ongoing thing. I just want to find the good notes and try to play the music that I really love that has some kind of meaning to me as a listener.

Visit Pat Metheny on the web at www.patmethenygroup.com .


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