Pat Metheny / Kenny G: The Jazz Soul of P.D.Q. Bach (2004)
Senior Contributor since 1997A former newspaper writer / editor who has been writing about big-band Jazz for more than fifteen years.
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In a move that has left the jazz world buzzing and their legions of fans traumatized in shock and disbelief, erstwhile polar opposites and outspoken adversaries Pat Metheny and Kenny G have recorded together for the first time, choosing as their common ground the singularly uncommon music of the opprobrious nineteenth/eighteenth century composer P.D.Q. Bach.
At a media event held to trumpet the partnership (Pat’s brother, Mike, played lead trumpet) the former combatants were in a conciliatory mood. “It’s time we buried the hatchet,” guitarist Metheny said of the alliance with Kenny G, his hands trembling and nostrils flaring at the thought of such an eventuality. “Yes, I’ve made a few nasty remarks about G — okay, a lot of nasty remarks — but deep down I’ve always admired his... his... give me a moment here... Well, anyway, the label thought our getting together would be a great idea, they came up with some killer bread, and frankly, I’m quite...,” he cleared his throat, paused, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I’m quite... rather... somewhat pleased with the results.” Metheny then excused himself, hastened to the nearest men’s room and upchucked his lunch.
G, who speaks as he plays, using simple monosyllabic words, stretching them to their utmost limit, then clinging to them for dear life, said, “It was swell to play with Pat. He is good. We had fun, no fuss. Now we friends. He Pat, me G.” And with that, he grabbed a nearby vine and swung through the trees in Central Park to an escarpment where he was reunited with Jane and Cheetah. Onlookers were understandably flabbergasted to observe Kenny G actually swinging.
But what of the music, you may be wondering. Ah yes, the music. It’s hard to meander far from mediocrity when deciphering P.D.Q. Bach (1807–1742?), one of the more visionary charlatans of his time (whenever that was), a man whose genius for recycling detritus discarded by others has never been equaled and whose inscrutable leitmotifs have been lovingly preserved and annotated by his stalwart champion, Prof. Peter Schickele. Metheny and G are surprisingly compatible on such bite-size bon bons as “Concerto for Horn and Hardart,” “Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups,” “Lip My Reeds” and “Oedipus Tex,” but rather less successful on those pieces misappropriated for larger ensembles including “Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz,” “Last Tango in Bayreuth” and the anaphrodisic “Erotica Variations.”
A special problem arises on “What’s My Melodic Line?,” as Kenny G seems unable to answer the question (or even to comprehend it). Metheny does his best to compensate, often strumming the backbeat in the style of Freddie Green, but to no avail, as G appears determined to rehash riffs from his latest double-platinum album “Sleek and Sexy Sax Clichés for Sweethearts.” And on “Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice,” the duo’s minimalist style seems somewhat at odds with P.D.Q.’s habitually bombastic modus operandi.
In spite of its conspicuous flaws, the album is certain to generate a warm response and record-breaking sales from jazz aficionados, the idly curious and those who take pleasure in watching train wrecks. An even more ambitious sequel is planned, tentatively titled “P&G in the Key of C.”
Visit PDQ Bach on the web.
Track Listing: What
Personnel: Pat Metheny, guitar; Kenny G, alto, soprano saxophone.
Style: Fringes of Jazz