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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: The Metheny Sound
Category: General Questions
From: Jazz Online (sf, ca)

Over the years you've performed and recorded in a variety of musical contexts: fusion jazz, mainstream jazz, "outside" playing, even pop. There's always a recognizable Metheny sound, but your playing changes to suit the setting. My question is, how conscious is this? That is, are you deliberately limiting yourself to certain scales, guitar tones, amounts of dissonance, etc., or is it more a matter of reacting to what the other musicians are doing?

Pat’s Answer:

that's a really good first question because it hits on a bunch of stuff that i've been thinking about lately. to me, the attraction i have to the "style" of music being played has always been secondary to the spirit and energy that the people that are actually gonna be doing the playing bring to the bandstand. i've always been attracted to ideals involving inspiration and conception more than technique or stylistically "pure" definitions of particular cultural/musical/political "contexts".

my first relationship to any kind of musical situation is as a listener. i have always considered myself to be someone who is a big fan of music in general who happens to occasionally find themselves in the middle of having to play or write something. in any playing situation, basically i try to play what the "fan" inside me would like to hear if there were a guitar player standing up there (which i guess there is). because my listening tastes have always been pretty wide it has been natural for me to want to understand the details of whati dig as a listener in literal musical terms. this process of learning to understand music in an intimate way has absorbed almost every waking hour of my life since i was about 12 years old. learning to play is mostly about learning to hear, and learning to really listen deeply to sound in a musical way is a lifetimes worth of work.

the technical differences between what is necessary to play if i'm gonna play with joshua redman, or in my regular group, or with john scofield, or milton nascimento, etc. etc. have more to do with "dialect" than with meaning or intent or soul. i will always be interested in being in any situation where there are musicians present who have a passion to play a particular way that is of their own invention or conception. that's really the one thing that ALL of the musicians that i've been able to work with have in common and that's the place where i like to be most of all. i have to admit, i find this to be most often true in the zone that most people call "jazz". however, i have never felt that "jazz" is necessarily superior just because it is "jazz". but, i ALSO have to admit, most of the best music i've ever heard has been played by "jazz" guys. but sometimes you can hear some kids in a garage somewhere who can just barely play their instruments and are hitting it with a kind of ferocious, undeniable spirit that has a power and energy that no one else other than those kids playing on that day in that place will ever achieve in THAT particular way. it's all precious to me. i love the variety. for those who want to limit the definitions of what "good" or "great" or "serious" or "The" music is, they'll always find an argument from me, cause i've seen "It" show up in too many weird places to believe that it has to do with "style". but one thing i AM sure of- it has to do with listening, and in any great musical setting there is some very intense, particular kind of listening going on amongst the players that is unique to that situation.