Question and Answer
Question ViewLogin to Post
|--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category|
|Subject:||First trumpet; why the guitar?/Early listening and KC days/Meeting Herbie for the first time.|
|From:||musician magazine (usa)|
Your first instrument was trumpet. Why did you pick up the guitar?
Several reasons. One is that my older brother Mike is an excellent trumpet player. By the time he was 12, he was playing around Kansas City in various classical situations, and he was already an amazing talent. The comparisons of being his little brother and also playing the trumpet--and, I have to add, I was not a naturally gifted trumpet player--didn't feel that good. I thought my name was "Mike Metheny's little brother." Combine that with getting braces on my teeth, which increased the pain quotient quite a bit, and blend that in with the cultural context of the time, which was 1962 to 1965, where suddenly the guitar became this icon of youth culture all over the world, thanks mostly to the Beatles. Add to that that I saw A Hard Day's Night 12 or 13 times, and that the guitar was the one instrument that my parents absolutely refused to let in the house. So you add it up [ laughs ] and see that irresistible forces led me to the guitar.
>Was jazz something you wanted to play at that point?
The first thing I learned was the theme from "Peter Gunn" . The second thing I learned was "The Girl from Ipanema," which is ironic, the way things have gone. But around that time, my brother brought home a Miles record, "Four" & More . And it was an instant reaction. People sometimes say that it takes a long time to become a jazz fan, but for me, it took about five seconds: " What is that?" I remember running home from school every day just to put that record on, sit between the speakers, and hear that sound.
>So from the moment you heard Miles, you were trying to play like that.
Yeah. And I mean, that record certainly was an advanced place to jump in the pool. It took me a year or so to figure out that they were playing on forms, that things actually were repeating.
>You didn't have a regular teacher?
I never had a teacher who said, "Sit down and do this," but between listening to the records and then playing with the guys around Kansas City, it was better than any normal teaching situation I could imagine. There was an organ player in Kansas City named Russ Long, and he'd get on the bandstand and say, "Okay, 'The Song Is You,' one-two-three-four," and I was like [open mouth ]. . . I mean, fast tempos, different keys--this guy was the best training I could have had. And a piano player, named Paul Smith--not the Paul Smith that used to play with Ella Fitzgerald. We played in a lot of groups together, and I'd sit to his left and check out what he was playing. That's how I learned about harmony. And a great trumpet player named Gary Sivils that I played with all through school, just an unbelievably melodic player, an incredible lesson in melody each night. And a drummer named Tommy Ruskin, who to this day is one of the best drummers that I've ever played with; he really had a feel. I can trace almost everything to one of those guys.
>Forgive me for stating the obvious, but there aren't too many guitar players in that lineup.
And the reason is, if there had been a guitar player that I could list among those guys, he would have been doing those gigs and not me. The best guy in town was a guy named Monty Musa, who kind of took me under his wing and was a real enthusiastic supporter of mine. In fact, Herbie Hancock came to town when I was about 16, and this guy went to the club, picked up Herbie, and dragged him to this jam session that I was at, just for him to hear me. Which scared me to death. That was the most nervous I've been in my entire life. I was 16, playing with these guys, I look up and there's Herbie, in full "Mwandishi" garb checking us out. He ended up playing a tune with us, and it was the greatest. So this other guitar player did more for me than anybody, but it wasn't a teacher kind of thing.
>Did Herbie say anything to you?
Oh yeah. We still talk about that all the time. He spent the whole afternoon with us talking about stuff, and there wasn't any bullshit in it; he was like, "You should be working more on this and this."
>What did he tell you to work on?
He said something about my time. To tell you the truth, when he walked in the room, I was sitting, and I remember looking down, and my knees started shaking [ laughs ]. He said, "You're kinda rushing," and I'm sure I was [ laughs ].