Sessions @ West 54th

David Byrne: On your new record, on the first tune, the title tune, you're playing a fretless acoustic which sounds very Asian. Somewhere between Indonesia and China. I felt - not only there but in other cultures as well, maybe not quite so distant, music is used in such a wide variety of ways in people's lives. It seems like such an integral part. How does that effect you when you think about music in the context and how it fits into our lives where we live?

Pat Metheny: Music is such an odd thing when you think about it because, what is music anyway? You can't see it. You can't touch it. You can feel it and we all know it's these vibrations. I've often thought that music is this big mistake. Whatever made this whole thing happen it was sort of like, "oh, god, music kind of slipped in the cracks there." Music is this thing, it's a memory that we all know. Why does a perfect fifth sound right to everybody? Everybody agrees, "yeah, that resonates." And to me, it's this memory of what was before and what's after. It's the "in between thing."

David Byrne: How do you teach that? You've taught briefly-

Pat Metheny: Briefly-

David Byrne: How do you transmit that?

Pat Metheny: Teaching to me is extremely difficult and my respect for really good teachers is enormous. It's so important, especially at a very young age, to get kids to know what's out there in the music world. It's a fact now that kids who are exposed to music at a young age become better thinkers. Music is an incredible thing for that. If you can listen to Bach or Talking Heads or Miles Davis or whatever, you're going to grow. You're going to have a sense that most kids, if they want to learn about things that are not "mainstream radio," that they have to make an effort and have to have somebody showing them. So I always encourage people who don't even know they're teachers, just people who are fans of music, play records for your kids and for their friends because they might not ever hear it otherwise. In my case, I grew up in a little, puny, very nice, but remote town in Missouri where there was just no chance that I would have heard Thelonius Monk or Miles Davis. My brother had a friend who gave him some records. I was 11 years old and I heard literally, five seconds of a Miles Davis record called For and More and my life has not been the same since. If I hadn't heard that, I don't know what I'd be doing right now, but I sure wouldn't be sitting right here.

David Byrne: You've worked with Charlie Hayden more than once and Charlie Hayden is, in a way, this kind of seminal figure who ties together all these disparate strands of American music. How did you first encounter Charlie and how did that eventually lead to this recent project?

Pat Metheny: I agree with everything you said. Charlie is this very interesting figure in the panorama of all musicians because he's so many things to so many different people. Yet, at the same time, his "thing" is so singular. It's not like somebody who's has all kinds of different musical personas that they can put on. He's this one "thing." It just fits with so many different things and I always admired that and became a Charlie fan from learning about those records. Then when I was playing with Gary Burton in the early '70s, Charlie was playing with Keith Jarrett's quartet and we used to do a lot of concerts opposite each other. That's when I started to get to know Charlie a little bit. We actually had some other connections, we're both from Missouri and Charlie's from down near Springfield, a little town called Forsyth. I'm from just southeast of Kansas City, a place called Lee's Summit. Charlie and I became friends and in 1980 I made a record called 80-81 with Charlie and Dewey Redmond, Jack Dejeanette, Michael Bracker and that was really when we started, what has become, a very important friendship. I think, for both of us. We always talked about doing a duet record and this past year we did Beyond Missouri Sky which was just one of those records where we went into the studio for a couple of days and played a few tunes, joked around, and kind of talked and played a couple more. It's become an incredibly successful record for both of us. He's probably one of my two or three favorite musicians on any instrument. Any time that I can be around him as a musician, I don't want to say I'm in awe, but I just have so much respect for what he does as a musician. At the same time, he's probably my best friend. So I kind of have to to say, "that's Charlie Hayden," but no, "that's Charlie." So it's something that I really love, that we've had this great association as musicians.

David Byrne: You've worked with a lot of collaborators, whether it's Ornette Coleman, Charlie Hayden, Sonny Rollins-I can go on and on. But you keep coming back to working with the Pat Metheny Group. What is it that keeps you coming back to that format?

Pat Metheny: It's true. I'm lucky that I've had so many opportunities to work in lots of different settings but the group is really home base for me. In many ways it is the place where I feel most free because the idea of the band from the beginning was to explore. We are a band now that's been together for an incredibly long period of time. Lyle Mays and I have been working together since 1977, which is about the time you guys started too. It's been, basically, one long tour since then. During that time, the whole fabric of what was possible with music changed several times. At the time we started, it was a quartet of acoustic piano, guitar, bass and drums. And right around that time, and all of a sudden and since, we went from being something that was "okay" to something that was really usable. We've spent a lot of time trying to explore ways of combining acoustic and electric instruments. It's been so much fun to learn what we can do and also to grow up as a band. After Lyle and I started Steve Rodby joined just a couple of years after that, he's our bass player. And Paul Wertico, the drummer, joined a year or so after that. So the basic rhythm section, that's the band, the quartet, has been playing together as a unit since 1982. We've literally grown up together as people and as musicians and we've shared the development of this group vocabulary. We all go off and do our separate things when there's a break. But, when we come together, all those different things that we've learned add up to something that's more than any one of us. That's such a satisfying feeling to be a part of. And the best part is that we have so much to talk about musically, on and off the bandstand.

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