A Fireside Chat with Pat Metheny

October 2003 by Fred Jung for all•about•jazz


I recall first listening to Song X and marveling at its sheer density. Often noted as what Pat Metheny should have, would have, could have been, Song X has long been an unwarranted foil for one of improvised music's most enigmatic figures. Critical dogmas have long burdened Metheny, whose versatility has liberated him from convention, playing with Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden ( Song X ), Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker (80/81), Derek Bailey and Gregg Bendian ( The Sign of 4 ), John Scofield and Steve Swallow ( I Can See Your House from Here ), Kenny Garrett and Brian Blade ( Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane ), Joshua Redman and Billy Higgins ( Wish ), Gary Burton and Chick Corea ( Like Minds ), and Joni Mitchell ( Shadows and Light ).

Yet his own Pat Metheny Group has largely been critically ignored. A shame since as much as Metheny's past may say, it says little about his future, where once again, he is certain to defy categories, confounding the very critics that have failed to honor his music. But Song X should be reminder enough. Should have, would have, could haves be damned, boys and girls, Pat Metheny, unedited and in his own words.


Fred Jung: Let's start from the beginning.

Pat Metheny: Well, my whole family is very musical. My mom's dad was a professional trumpet player his whole life. He was just an incredible, intuitive, natural musician. My dad played trumpet all through his high school and college years and still plays pretty good. My older brother Mike is a great trumpet player and was kind of a child prodigy. He's five years older than me. Really as far back as I can remember, there was trumpet. We were always going to concerts. It was classical music. It wasn't jazz or popular music. At the same time, there was music on the radio that I really liked that I would sing along with. When Mike got to be about fifteen or sixteen, he started to get an awareness of jazz on a larger level through the trumpet and his interest in the trumpet...

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