Music took backseat after startling Web blast at saxman Kenny G

The Denver Post, October 2, 2000, Section: SCN, Page: F-05
Bret Saunders Special to The Denver Post


Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny was astonished by response to his remarks about Kenny G on his Web site.

The vast attention paid to Pat Metheny in recent months has nothing to do with his notable accomplishments as a veteran guitarist, composer or bandleader. He's been the subject of scrutiny, as well as adulation based on a statement he made on his Web site in regard to the much-maligned saxophonist Kenny G. This "international incident," as he sarcastically refers to it, came in response to Kenny G's decision to overdub his own saxophone meandering on top of Louis Armstrong's performance of "What a Wonderful World."

"With this single move," states Metheny in his diatribe, "Kenny G became one of the few people on Earth I can say that I really can't use at all - as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music."

Metheny's message has been reproduced on numerous jazz-devoted Web sites since it was posted earlier this year. It's been responded to on what seems like a message board consuming miles of cyberspace. Some music fans seem perturbed that the seemingly laid-back Metheny would lash out at another musician: Others express support for Metheny's views with an "it's about time" attitude. "What saddens me is that there are a lot of great things to talk about, and people have talked more about this than anything in jazz in the last five years," Metheny said in an interview with The Post. "I was really writing about Louis Armstrong; this year is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and he's one of the most important Americans, ever."

To say that the controversy regarding his Kenny G remarks was surprising "would be an understatement. I thought there were 30 people who used my Web site." He wryly adds, "Had I ever known that it was going to be cut and pasted worldwide, I would have run it through spell-check."

Fortunately for Metheny, there are other creative matters at hand to distract him, including his latest trio, featuring bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart, who will be performing at the Boulder Theater on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This year's "Trio 99-00" (Warner Bros.) alternates between lush acoustic meditations and upbeat electric excursions that display Metheny's ever-widening range. The guitarist has proven himself in an impressive variety of contexts, including forward-thinking collaborations with classical composer Steve Reich and sonic innovator Ornette Coleman.

He's also demonstrated an unusual degree of sensitivity within the confines of his regular Pat Metheny Group, whose music often conjures up a modern version of '50s "exotica" performers such as Martin Denny and Les Baxter. However, Metheny occasionally makes a foray into straight-ahead jazz, and judging by the latest disc, one wishes he would continue more often in that vein.

The trio has worked as a unit for over a year, with highlights of their collaborations scheduled for release on a double-disc set in November. "People are going to be shocked with this live trio record. There's a very dense treatment of sound in general," says Metheny, alluding to the levels of intensity his current group has been attaining live.

Considering the meticulous, even prettified nature of the arrangements on the majority of Metheny's recordings, it must be difficult not to play "control freak" and just see what happens in such a spontaneous setting as a live trio recording.

"I get to do a lot of different things, and I think that making records is something you have to do with a specific goal in mind. Sometimes it's like making a movie or creating a sonic world, but in this case it's more like a documentary."

Metheny's music embodies the spectrum of sound, and the conversation turns to recordings other than his own. You'd assume he's always listening to an expanding collection of works from every aspect of culture, right?

"Actually," he says with a chuckle, "sometimes I'll only listen to one record over and over for an entire year. That's how it's been this year with (saxophonist) Sonny Rollins' 'A Night at the Village Vanguard.'"


Bret Saunders hosts the KBCO Morning Show, 5:30-10 a.m. weekdays at 97.3-FM.
maintained by Thomas Hönisch TOP last update: September 30, 2001