Pat Metheny - Mick Goodrick: Gary Burton's Star Guitarists

by Michael A. Meltzer for Guiitar Player magazine, Volume 10, Number 3, March, 1976


Pat Metheny was born in Lee Summit, Missouri on August 12, 1954, and began playing guitar at age fourteen. His early influences included Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and, ironically, vibraphonist Gary Burton. Burton is well known in the guitar world for having included in his groups many fine young guitarists, among them Larry Coryell, Jerry Hahn, and currently, Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick.

Pat got his start playing in jazz groups in Kansas City while still in high school. He attended the stage band camps on a scholarship from Downbeat magazine. While there, he met guitarist Atttila Zoller, who invited Pat to New York to see the East Coast jazz scene. There, Pat says, "I saw Jim Hall, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Evans, and all those guys, and that got me all excited - that's when I really decided, gee, I want to play jazz."

From there, Pat finished high school and went to the University of Miami, where he taught guitar for a year. While in Miami, Pat "worked all kind of shows, ranging from Sid Caesar to Liza Minelli” as well as doing studio work."

Metheny met Gary Burton during a Midwest tour and was offered a job teaching at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Pat came to Boston in January, 1974, and started teaching and playing with various groups in Boston and New York.

Mick Goodrick was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania on June 9, 1945. He started playing guitar at the age of twelve. "I played polkas, was a big Elvis Presley fan, like the Ventures, was a big Chet Atkins freak, and a Johnny Smith freak.” Mick also attended the stage band camps (when he was sixteen and seventeen), which was when he decided to go into music."

"There were some people from Berklee at the camps and I decided to go to school there.” Mike recalls. "I went to Berklee for four years, then taught there for four years, and I've been teaching on my own since then."

Mick's playing experiences include three years with Gary Burton, a record and occasional gigs with drummer Jack DeJohnette, and jobs with singers Joe Williams, Astrud Gilberto, and others.


Michael A. Meltzer: Pat, you mentioned that your teaching system is different from the regular Berklee guitar curriculum.

Pat Metheny: My whole system is that I don't have a system. I don't do anything other than play tunes with my students, and just talk about what sounds good and what doesn't sound so good from my viewpoint of what they're playing. I don't have any methods or secret tricks or anything. In fact, I do very little in the way of specific information on voicings or licks or anything. My students are supposedly the thirty top students at Berklee and they've completed the whole Berklee system, the Bill Leavitt system. So it's just practical playing things. Now he [points to Mick] is weird.

Mick Goodrick: Probably the central idea of my method, if I have one, is to try to get people to quit. [Laughter.] That's probably the most important factor - now, mind you, it hasn't always been this way. I've been teaching continuously since I was sixteen, but during the last seven or eight years, doing it almost full time. I've seen changes in the way I teach. When I was at Berklee, since most of my students were interested in improvising and so forth, we spent most of the time on that. When I left the school and began to teach on my own, there was a change in the way I taught. I had a lot more freedom to experiment and teach each lesson based on what the student needed at that time. Although there seems to be a pretty definite order of presentation of materials, lately I'm not much concerned about that as I am about the student. If students are really interested in learning, they're going to learn one way or another. A teacher can present material which makes it easier to develop in a certain desired direction. I think also, though, that if it's possible, the teacher should try to help the student understand what is interfering with him learning what he wants to. So there you get almost more into musical therapy than actual teaching.

Michael: Could you give us some specifics on what you've been doing in that respect?

Mick: Most of the things I do are based on experiences where I saw that what I needed musically could not be learned by practicing or studying music. Past a certain point, if you are pretty familiar with your instrument and pretty familiar with the musical idioms you are working with, you have to pay some attention to the player. Somewhere around that time, I came up with three principles to teach from: Teaching the instrument; teaching the music; and teaching the player, who plays the music on the instrument. I guess a lot of this concept came from observations of myself; I had devoted most of my waking hours for years and years to learning music, going to school, and practicing a lot. I eventually realized that doing one thing exclusively, which has an awful lot of benefits, also means that you're neglecting other things. I began to inquire into that and became more interested in what I was about as a player and as a person; I became less compulsively attached to music for it's own sake. In other works, sometimes the best thing for your playing could be an experience you go through that has nothing to do with music.

Michael: Pat, what is your relationship to the guitar and playing music in general?

Pat: I'm still at the stage where it's the central thing; it's still very much a new toy to me. I've been playing for about six years, but intensively only for four. It gets more fun all the time because things are more and more available as I grow. But, at the same time, if I had to stop playing tomorrow, if my left hand got chopped off, it wouldn't be the end of my life. What I like about playing is not necessarily the actual playing as much as the things that go along with it. I play for people a lot and that feels good. Plus, it's really fu to wiggle your fingers around and hear something coming out. I have other reasons for liking it as much as I do. I feel that the guitar has yet to really make its way into the jazz scene of today. Actually, I don't generally like jazz guitar players, except for Mick and another Boston guitarist, John Scofield. So, for that reason I'm really interested in working hard to try and get some things happening musically on the instrument that I don't hear anybody doing at all now.

Michael: Your technique has some interesting characteristics: For instance, you'll often pick one note of an eighth- or sixteenth-note run and hammer-on or pull-off the other notes.

Pat: I hardly pick at all. Most of what I do is in my left hand. I have a lot of reasons for doing that. Mainly, thought, it's for the same reason that I'm so down on most traditional jazz guitarists. Their phrasing sounds very stiff because they're picking every note. It's almost as if a trumpet player were to single-tongue every note - it just sounds corny. You also can't get the dynamic possibilities when you're picking every note that you can when you have all kinds of articulations.

Michael: What equipment are you using now?

Pat: We both recently got Acoustic 134 amps and really like them a lot - they're great. It's the best-sounding small amp; it really has presence. For a guitar, I use a real old [Gibson] ES-175.

Mick: I have an old Epiphone Sheraton that I've had for about thirteen years.

Michael: What about your 12-string Pat?

Pat: I have two 12-strings, a Guild Starfire-12 and a Fender Coronado-12 which is tuned really weird, with fourths and fifths on the harmony strings.

Michael: Mick, you've been using a wah-wah pedal.

Mick: I don't really use it too much as a wah-wah, although I've been resorting to it lately out of boredom. Mostly I use it to sort of put under my foot so I don't fall over, and as a volume pedal. That way I can make changes in volume without having to stop playing.

Michael: What has it been like being in Gary Burton's group?

Mick: It's been very interesting. About 1968, I saw Gary's group in Cambridge. It left me breathless. The instrumentation, the kind of music they were playing, the sound just seemed to be absolutely perfect. And then, a little over three years ago, I started playing with him. At first it really threw me for a loop, because the jazz playing I had done was just in different clubs where some people came to listen, other people really didn't care. I began to see that there definitely is a big difference between just playing in your room or playing a session with some friends, and playing with other musicians for people who are specifically there to hear the music. Now, since I feel more seasoned and more confident with the material, I can be more concerned about polishing my craft and working deliberately with the emotional content of the music.

Pat: It's been really nice for me since my big dream was always to be in Gary Burton's group. In a way that was good and in a way it was bad, because I had really studied the guitar role in the Gary Burton Quartet: Guitar, vibes, bass, and drums. And when Gary asked me to join, the word was that it would be a quintet, with two guitars. The hard thing was that I knew the one guitar role and I had to devise a totally new role. For the first few months it was difficult for a lot of reasons. The group was so strong, and here I was, nineteen years old, in a group with [drummer] Bob Moses, [bassist] Steve Swallow, and Gary and Mick. We also decided early on that it would be redundant to have two 6-strings, so I went and got a 12-string and learned all the material on it. At first I was really nervous and didn't really know how to use the 12-string properly. Now I'm more relaxed and confident, and I'm not trying too hard anymore. And mainly, I just don't play the 12-string the way I play 6-string. But finding that fifth role was quite a job there for a while.

Michael: Pat, you've been working around Boston with your own group.

Pat: Right, I've been experimenting with a lot of different combinations. The most successful group included two drummers and both electric and acoustic bass.

Michael: Have you recorded any albums of your own yet?

Pat: I've recorded a solo album for ECM/Polydor. It's called Bright Size Life [ECM-1073], and on it Jaco Pastorius plays bass and Bob Moses plays drums. The Gary Burton Quintet has also recorded a new LP, Dreams, So Real [ECM-1072]. On the album, which will be released around May, we play music written by Carla Bley.

Michael: Would you talk a bit about your playing approaches?

Mick: As far as the differences between the ways we play, I think I tend to play more structurally (although I hate to use the word), while Pat tends to be more of a lyrical player. To a large extent, my playing approach has been determined by the fact that I no longer use a pick. I'm not so much concerned with musical results, though, as other kinds of results that are very hard for me to define at this point. With music, you get to a certain point and you can see what you're doing and where you're going, and you move in that direction. Then, when you think you've arrived at that place you find that it's changed and you see something else. A couple of years ago, I felt I had gotten to where I was headed and it seemed to level off for a while. But then, I think it was the first time Pat and I did a duet together, something new happened which I'm still trying to figure out.


Discography

Mick Goodrick:
With Gary Burton - The New Quartet [ECM/Polydor, 1030]
In The Public Interest [Polydor]
Seven Songs For Quartet And Chamber Orchestra [ECM/Polydor, 1040]
Ring [ECM/Polydor, 1051]
With Jack DeJohnette - Sorcery Prestige

Pat Metheny:
With Gary Burton - Ring {ECM]


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