An Idealist Reconnects With His Mentors

February 25, 2005 by Ben Ratliff for the New York Times

It was one of the coldest days of the winter and the guitarist Pat Metheny was only a few minutes late, but he had called ahead. When he arrived at our meeting place, a small recording studio within Right Track Studios in Midtown Manhattan, he arranged his stuff on the couch - including some musical scores - and sat down in a swivel chair before the 96-channel console. Mr. Metheny grew up in the rural Midwest but seems Californian: he has the inner glow. He had no socks on and looked comfortable.

"Basically, it's impossible," he said flatly, and smiled. "My taste, my general connection to music, I mean, you know, it just, I mean, even now, I think it just can't be done."

My proposal was that we listen together to a few pieces of music (not his) that affected him strongly. It could be any music: the point wasn't desert-island endorsements or a strict autobiography of influence; it was to talk about how music works. I had defined "a few" as three, or even one long piece, like a whole record. But Mr. Metheny took the challenge seriously.


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