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Pat Metheny at the Kaufmann Concert Hall

Pat Metheny at the Kaufmann Concert Hall

Courtesy Chris DeRosa

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Pat Metheny
Kaufmann Concert Hall (The 92nd Street Y)
Pat Metheny's "Dream Box Tour"
New York, NY
April 7, 2024

Hello, my name is Chris DeRosa and this is what I heard...

Pat Metheny has been at the forefront of jazz guitar for more than 40 years. His career started way back in his University of Miami days (1972), first as a student performing with the famed Concert Jazz Band (CJB) and then becoming the youngest teacher (at 18) the university has ever had. He met Gary Burton in 1973 at the Kansas City Jazz Festival, after which Burton invited Metheny to join the Berklee College of Music faculty and subsequently to join his quartet. The rest, as they say, is history!

Tonight's performance was at the Kaufmann Concert Hall (part of the 92nd Street Y), which Metheny himself specifically chose to host this intimate event. He opened with a medley of excerpts from his early works, including "Phase Dance" and "Minuano," all played in his familiar style but executed on the acoustic guitar. Afterward, he put the guitar down and talked at length about his early days growing up in Lee's Summit, Missouri, playing the trumpet at age eight, as did his brother Mike, his dad, and his grandfather, who was a professional musician. As fate would have it, Metheny saw the Beatles on that famous Ed Sullivan performance when he was 12, and his world was flipped upside down. He told the story about how his parents were not happy with his desire to change instruments but said if he worked and saved his own money, he could buy a guitar. He said he was able to start playing professionally by the time he was 14 since there were few jazz guitarists in Kansas City, a stone's throw from his home. Metheny talked more in the first 30 minutes of this concert than in all of the six or so times I had seen him play combined! This biographical aspect of the performance was necessary for him to communicate why he became who he is.

Metheny expressed how important it was for his personal development first to meet Burton and then, soon after, to meet Charlie Haden. The latter became not only an important band mate but also his best friend. He then played pieces from the album he and Haden had recorded together, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve, 1997). Metheny humorously noted about this album that "people fell in love to it, were married to it, conceived children to it, and got divorced to it in varying orders" (yes, he was quite funny!).

Metheny pointed out that, regarding the trumpet, we all had a very similar idea of what that was and how it sounded. He then communicated that the guitar as an instrument was undefined, so when one mentions it, we each conjure our own specific idea of what that means, i.e. Jimi Hendrix, Segovia, or Van Halen, for example. This excited Metheny because of the endless possibilities it created.

Metheny went on to play a few examples of songs he enjoyed listening to as a young person, like "Alfie" and "House Of The Rising Sun," and afterward mentioned a neighbor his parents introduced him to who played guitar. Pat recalled talking with this gentleman, who had a great fondness for the baritone guitar, and mentioned that the key to making the baritone guitar really work was to tune the middle two strings an octave higher. This bit of information, although unremarkable at the time, was tucked away into Metheny's memory and, when later recalled, was the sonic motivation for the Dream Box (BMG, 2023) album, this tour, and his next album, MoonDial (coming out July 26, 2024).

It is important to note that Metheny often uses unique and uncommon tunings to create his soundscapes, and he has even commissioned the creation of various custom guitars that focus on different registers and string configurations. For this tour, Metheny had his longtime luthier, Linda Manzer, make him a special baritone guitar. He stated that he sees this six-stringed guitar as three separate instruments: two strings as cellos, two as violins, and two as violas. We see Metheny as a guitarist, but after seeing this performance and hearing him talk about his concepts, it is apparent that the guitar is just a vehicle to express the sounds he hears in his head. Based on this performance, Metheny is a musician/composer/orchestrator first and a guitarist second. With many years of touring and 53 albums under his name, he has perfected both live and recorded performances. Metheny's use of simple triad chords and beautiful melodies on one tune and incredible dissonance and chaos on another is profound. He can seamlessly weave these elements together, all while making these extreme textures and dynamic contrasts fit into the same box.

Further proof of the compositional priorities was displayed in the following two portions of the show. Metheny brought out the "Pikasso," an instrument he first drew out on paper and brought to Manzer to see if making it was even possible. He quipped that since it contained 42 strings, he had seven times the chance of hitting the right note! He then said the comedy portion of the show was over. All in attendance now saw in person the player and instrument we each had heard on countless Metheny compositions, and it was something special to see and hear.

In the last part of the show, Metheny used some effects to create bass loops for him to play over. The way in which this was introduced was seamless, and the audience was surprised when he switched guitars and the sounds kept going. After performing several compositions in this manner, like "Ipanema" and "Ferry Cross The Mersey," we were all introduced to "The Orchestra." This strange contraption is an assembly of percussion instruments that included a vibraphone, marimba, shakers, cymbals, and other various metallic instruments, all programmed to support the following few compositions, such as "Imaginary Day" and "Beat 70," which were the absolute pinnacle to end the show. Metheny came out to do two encores, closing the show with the beautiful ballad "Wichita Lineman."

Note: For those who are interested in learning more details on the instruments Pat Metheny used at this performance, the video below features Metheny's guitar tech, Andre Cholmondeley, who goes over each instrument in great detail.

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