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Artist Profiles

Pat Metheny: One Man's Band

By Published: May 19, 2010
His point is that the Orchestrion is merely a "different form," no better or worse, just different. As for conversation, he is having one—with himself. "I play for myself and myself only, but I try to be conscientious about the fact that the guy in the third row had to take a shower, pick up his date, park his car, get the tickets, wait in line etc. So I will do my very best to play my very best for myself—for that guy. Anything other than doing it that way would be a wild guess. As soon as you allow critics, audiences and everyone else to have a vote, you are dead. The fan that lives inside of me is the only thing I know for sure."

But if Metheny's prodigious machine can fool virtuoso listeners like Mark Egan into thinking that live musicians are playing, how far away are we from robotic improvisation? Now that computers can recognize speech and even beat chess grandmasters at their own game, how long will it take them to learn bebop licks or "Giant Steps" chord changes? How long before it is impossible to tell the difference between a human improvising and a machine programmed for 'creativity'—the jazz equivalent of a Turing Test? Metheny has an answer for that one too: "Not anytime soon." One man's band is another man's plan.

Selected Disography

Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life (ECM, 1975)

Pat Metheny, 80/81 (ECM, 1980)

Pat Metheny/Dave Holland/Roy Haynes, Question and Answer (Geffen, 1989)

Pat Metheny Trio, Live (Warner Bros., 1999-2000)

Pat Metheny, One Quiet Night (Nonesuch, 2001-03)

Pat Metheny, Orchestrion (Nonesuch, 2009)

Photo Credit

Hans Speekenbrink

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