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Pat Metheny: Another Phase Dance

By Published: December 11, 2006
AAJ: The album sounds like it has a logic and continuity of its own; did you both envision the album that way from the start, did the sequencing of the tracks suggest that or did it just evolve that way? (Or am I just hearing things?)

PM: As much as I have done collaborations over the years I am actually kind of a reluctant partner. There has to be a very strong reason or impulse to do something with someone for me. With Brad, it just seemed like the most natural thing in the world—and I could say the same about the duet record with Charlie [Haden], the projects with [saxophonist] Ornette [Coleman], with [saxophonist] Mike Brecker, with [guitarist John] Sco[field], with [drummer] Jack [DeJohnette] and [pianist] Herbie [Hancock] and on down the line. Each thing has been somehow an organic outgrowth of a connection that goes pretty deep.

In this case, I agree that the connection with Brad and I has a real organic quality. When I first heard Brad on the radio one night on Joshua Redman's record MoodSwing (Warner Bros., 1994) I literally had to pull off the road. I immediately recognized him as one of my favorite musicians ever. I became a huge fan of his right away. I then got the trio record he had made on Fresh Sound from Barcelona [When I Fall in Love (Fresh Sound New Talent, 1994)] and listened to it all the time.

When I read an interview with him where he listed me as an influence I was incredibly flattered. But at the same time, it somehow made sense to me. He seemed to be interested in the same kinds of things that I have always aspired towards—especially in the area of melodic development, an area that for whatever reason seems to me have kind of fallen out of favor as musical priority among younger players.

I think that the melodic piece of the puzzle in music is the most esoteric and difficult to quantify. One the early things about Brad that struck me was the way he would keep each idea going until it organically led to the next thing. He wouldn't abandon things midstream. And I think that that same level of detail and narrative flow is at work harmonically and rhythmically with him.

Those are all qualities that I have also always tried to aspire towards and have always tried to invoke as an in improviser, so in the unspoken way that I described before, the idea of us doing something together was a real natural fit. It seemed like we were both coming from the same tribe somewhere. There is a certain listening awareness that comes with this territory. When all three elements (melody, harmony and rhythm) are being addressed with a high level of consideration of the other musician, you can start swapping them around—a melodic phrase can be comping; a rhythm becomes a melody. As much as the term "free" gets thrown around, that level of mutual listening is always liberating. That quality of listening is what I feel like Brad and I were able to offer each other. With the shared melodic interest there, there was a special sensibility right off the bat that makes the music have a unique thing going on.

AAJ: How do you envision next year's tour together?

PM: I am really excited about the upcoming chance to play together next year. I don't think either one of us knows exactly what shape the actual performances will take. No doubt we will play both duets and quartet, but everything beyond that is sort of yet to be decided.

I have loved Brad's trio since they started, and of course Larry Grenadier and I have had an association in the past [Trio 99>00 (Warner Bros., 2000) and Trio>Live (Warner Bros., 2000) with drummer Bill Stewart]. I loved playing with [drummer] Jeff Ballard on the recording and I know that we are going to have fun together playing each night. With just the tunes that we have already recorded, we have a pretty big book. But the idea of playing other stuff might be great too. It will be exciting to see how it will unfold.

Pat MethenyAAJ: What's your next project: another Group effort? A trio or solo recording and/or tour?

PM: We have just released a live DVD of The Way Up that we are very enthusiastic about. That was a special piece that developed a lot as we played it live and I have a feeling that people who didn't exactly understand the record will have a much easier time as they actually see how it works live. That seemed to be true throughout the tour; we could see it registering in people in a way that was really fun to experience from a player's perspective.

I referred earlier to the trio with Christian and Antonio, which has been an ongoing group for the past few years. We have tons of material in the can and I am working now on finally getting a release together of that band. We are way overdue and it has just sort of worked out that way inadvertently. That is a one of the best trios I have ever had and we have had such a great time together playing all over the world with more stuff coming up.

We recorded a bunch of the gigs on a recent [vibraphonist] Gary Burton Quartet Revisited tour with [bassist] Steve Swallow [and Antonio Sanchez on drums] and it was fantastic. We hope to put out something from that in the next few years.

And there is a very special upcoming project with one of the major figures in the community that I was honored to be a part of, but I will let him announce it when the time is right.

Selected Discography

Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau (Nonesuch, 2006)
Pat Metheny Group, The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005)
Pat Metheny, Trio 99>Live (Warner Bros., 2000)
Pat Metheny Group, <Imaginary Day (Warner Bros., 1997)
John Scofield/Pat Metheny, I Can See Your House from Here (Blue Note, 1993)
Pat Metheny/Dave Holland/Roy Haynes, Question and Answer (Geffen, 1989)
Steve Reich, Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint (Nonesuch, 1988)
Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman, Song X: Twentieth Anniversary (1985, reissued Nonesuch 2005)
Pat Metheny Group, Travels (ECM, 1983)
Pat Metheny, 80/81 (ECM, 1980)
Pat Metheny Group, Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978)
Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber, Passengers (ECM, 1977)
Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life (ECM 1975)
Gary Burton Quintet with Eberhard Weber, Ring (ECM, 1974)

Related Articles
The Way Up Live (DVD Review, 2006)
Pat Metheny: Quantum Musician (Building a Jazz Library, 2006)
Pat Metheny Trio+1 (Concert Review, 2006)
Pat Metheny Group In Potsdam, NY (Concert Review, 2005)
A Fireside Chat with Pat Metheny (Interview, 2003)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Ziga Koritnik
Bottom Photo: Jose Manuel Horna

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