Just two weeks off the road following an exhausting but highly successful three-month European tour, Grammy winner Pat Metheny was relaxing in Boston with a hamburger, cold french fries and a warm root beer. He was casually turned out in white sneakers, T-shirt and jeans.
This year has been a momentous one for the guitarist from Lee's Summit, Missouri. First, there was the Grammy for the Pat Metheny Group album, "Offramp," and a clutch of awards including Best Jazz Performer of the Year (Rolling Stone), Best Jazz Guitarist (Guitar Player Magazine), Best Jazz Album for "Offramp" (Playboy Readers Poll) and Best Jazz Act of the Year (Performance Magazine Readers Poll).
Metheny, who brings his group containing two replacement members to Concerts on the Common next Tuesday night for a projected 2 1/2-hour performance, said last week that his first experience at playing a motion picture score in Hollywood this year, was one of the most "fantastic" things ever to happen to him.
"It was an unusual and great experience," said the guitarist, "because of what I learned from composer Jerry Goldsmith. I had received many offers to do film scores because a lot of the music we play does have a kind of visual quality. Quite often I would have to decline the offers because I felt the scripts didn't measure up. I was asked to score Under Fire' by the producer who happens to be a big fan of the group. However, when I saw the creativity that was involved and the mathematical precision that enters into a movie score, I felt I wasn't qualified. Then, they decided to hire Goldsmith but the producer still wanted me involved."
"The movie, 'Under Fire,' will probably be very controversial. It's about the last three weeks of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua as perceived by a newsman played by Nick Nolte whose boss is Gene Hackman. It's really intense. You could compare it to 'Missing' a little bit. It involved a lot of guitar playing, mostly Spanish stuff, and they needed a guitar soloist anyway."
"So, they asked me to do it. More than any other consideration, it was the opportunity to work with Jerry Goldsmith. You remember his scores for 'Patton,' 'Chinatown' and 'Poltergeist.' His latest is 'Twilight Zone.' I have always enjoyed music that served a function. Soundtrack composers must deal with a lot of mathematical factors and still elicit a response from the audience. The film editor is where it all happens. He lets the musician know how much time and space he has in which to fill between dialogue."
Metheny disclosed that he feels ecstatic when he can write two songs in a week but lately he has become even more prolific. He traces the step-up in output to the education received in Hollywood.
"When we play the Common, we'll include a bunch of new tunes that haven't been recorded," said Metheny. "Last week I had a blitz and wrote 13 tunes. I never had anything like that happen before. I think hanging out with Jerry Goldsmith and reconsidering a lot of things from a compositional standpoint had a lot to do with it. Not that all 13 songs are fantastic, although five of them are first class. I can't wait for the Boston audience to hear the new guys play the material."
The new members of the Pat Metheny Group are drummer Paul Wertico and multi-instrumentalist and singer Pedro Aznar.
"Danny Gottlieb, who had been our drummer for several years, is living in New York and playing with different people," Metheny revealed.
"We both felt in need of a change. I just felt I wanted to get some new blood. Danny's still my best friend in the world. He's playing a lot with Stan Getz, Flora Purim and Airto and percussion ensemble music with various contemporary composers. The move was made more for him than for me in a way. Danny missed out on the opportunity to play with different groups before settling into a specific group."
"Lyle [pianist Lyle Mays] and I have been together since May, 1977. He and I and Bob Moses were together about that same time for a year and a half and played Pooh's Pub in Kenmore Square and later the Jazz Workshop. We're planning a sort of reunion of that group in 1985."
Wertico had worked with the group's bassist Steve Rodby in Chicago. Metheny feels he's not so cymbal-oriented as was Gottlieb which is to the group's advantage inasmuch as Aznar is not exclusively a percussionist. Metheny has announced a search for another percussionist, a sixth member of his group, but admits the difficulty in connecting with the right musician. "Weather Report has gone through 10 percussionists in the past two years," he observed.
Aznar, a native of Argentina, was in Brazil two years ago when he and Metheny met. Aznar plays drums but he's primarily a singer and, by Metheny's yardstick, an incredible guitarist. Aznar's demo tape particularly impressed Metheny because all of the instruments heard on the tape were played by the Aznar.
"Pedro is so moving when he sings 'Goodbye' from our new ECM album [Pat Metheny Group 'Travels'] that you can hardly contain yourself," said Metheny. "His voice is a cross of David Crosby, Milton Nascimento and John Lennon."
The new album, a double-disc live production, contains several new tunes and such Metheny favorites as "Are You Going With Me?," "Phase Dance," "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls" and "San Lorenzo."
"There is no overdubbing on the album, which should clarify the mystery as to what instruments are being used. 'Extradition,' one of the newly recorded tracks, uses a guitar synthesizer as does 'Song for Bilbao.' "
His latest album title aptly describes the peripatetic life of Pat Metheny who's been on the road so often he hasn't returned to his Woodstock, N.Y., home in more than a year. Moreover, his travels won't be winding down soon. The guitarist will be playing in a Sonny Rollins-led quartet for a Japan tour in August. Jack DeJohnette will be on drums and Alphonso Johnson will play bass. Metheny will also perform with his own group in Japan this summer.
Metheny considers playing with Rollins a high compliment.
"The awards, like the Grammy and the poll victories, I appreciate," said Metheny. "I can send the trophy to my mother and she gets a kick out of it but nothing is more satisfying than playing in front of an audience and getting a response. That's the best award of all."
"Recently, I received a letter from [tenor saxophonist] Dave Liebman. We had played together last summer. He wrote that I was getting better. That's worth a million Grammys. Or having Charlie Haden calling me up and telling me 'Gee, I really like the way you play,' or having Sonny call me and ask me to go on tour..."
"It would take a million Grammys to equal one of those things."
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