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July 16, 2011 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Renowned Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, having recently fooled around with a giant robot orchestra (previously), and well known for his views on reinterpreting musical classics (also previously), has released a new acoustic album in which he covers songs that have influenced him. They're tasteful. Hear him explain what it's all about.
posted by Silverdragonanon (56 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, wow. He's covering Cherish by The Association? That's a great song by one of the great under-appreciated groups.

I didn't really catch much of his robot orchestra work, but I think that This Way Up is one of the most remarkable albums ever recorded by anyone. It's as if jazz and minimalist classical music had a child together. Completely absorbing and totally wonderful.

I will definitely have to check out this new release. It sounds pretty wonderful.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 AM on July 16, 2011


They're tasteful.

When I hear the word "tasteful", I reach for my revolver.

Metheny is, of course, a fine musician, and I especially like him for telling it like it is, in no uncertain terms, about Kenny effin G.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 AM on July 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


flapjax has a revolver? *buys a kevlar vest* I hope it's a tasteful model.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 AM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I hear the word "tasteful", I reach for my revolver.

You mean, this?
posted by Silverdragonanon at 7:16 AM on July 16, 2011


Elevator music for hipsters.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:17 AM on July 16, 2011


I seriously doubt the demographic most people think of when they think "hipster" has ever considered listening to Pat Metheny, even ironically.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 AM on July 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kind of nice elevator music. And I'm an overweight middle aged dued wearing black shorts and a hawaiian t-shirt eating peanut butter on toasted bread.
posted by pandrus at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2011


Elevator music for hipsters.

You know, charlie don't surf and he also don't really know what he's talking about.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:26 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Orchestrion kept me going when I was doing my degree. When I'd stumble in from the lab on a Friday evening, so fried that I was having trouble walking, those first chords would absolutely transport me, take me away, and by the end of the album I felt like a human being again. I collect paper birds, and I'd hung them from my ceiling so that I could lie in bed and look up at them, and listen to spare, gentle music that reminded me that there was a world out beyond my bedroom, the lab, the library.

This is part of why I get unreasonably cranky/sad at people who insist they don't understand art. You don't have to understand what the artist was going through, you have to look at the damn piece and let yourself fall into it (er, metaphorically, of course) and let it move you. I absolutely cannot believe that this is elevator music, even nice elevator music, because it's so easy to lose yourself in his pieces, and fall into a different state of mind. And I cannot be the only one.

(Listening to the album now, and liking it very much, perfect for a slow Saturday afternoon...)
posted by kalimac at 7:34 AM on July 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Elevator music for hipsters.

Yeah - your comment suggests you have a fairly tenuous understanding of both Pat Metheny and what a hipster is. But you gotta say something I suppose, so it might as well be something stupid.
posted by the noob at 7:37 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


dude
posted by pandrus at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2011


Not to mention having no idea what elevator music is, either.
posted by hippybear at 7:40 AM on July 16, 2011


Not to mention having no idea what elevator music is, either.

I would like to think that he meant elevated music, which I feel it is, and wanted to share!
posted by Silverdragonanon at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2011


you mean Pat MEH-theny?
posted by spicynuts at 7:57 AM on July 16, 2011


Virtuoso overarrangement of syrupy strings? Ironic appreciation of pop culture? Yeah, I'll stick with my statement.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:45 AM on July 16, 2011


Someone who worked with Jaco deserves way more respect than being written off as "elevator music."
posted by giraffe at 9:06 AM on July 16, 2011


Also, this is fantastic. Thanks, Silverdragonanon.
posted by giraffe at 9:07 AM on July 16, 2011


Prefer my Metheny mixed with Ornette, with a side order of Haden and DeJohnette ("Song X") , ("Trigonometry").

But re-interpreting pop songs is a big part of what jazz musicians do. Rock and roll as such hasn't been very productive in this area since so much of it is so harmonically simple. Metheny's choices seem okay, bit of a grab-bag.

Now check out Herbie Hancocks's 1995 album, The New Standard:
Mercy Street
Norwegian Wood
Your Gold Teeth

wrt Kenny G, here's Richard Thompson's ("I Agree With Pat Metheny").
 
posted by Herodios at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2011


he slows the tempo, speeds it back up again, slows it, speeds it back up again - obviously, it's exactly what he means to do with these songs, but i think it gives them a ponderousness and weight that don't work so well with them

i would have a hard time recognizing ipanema if it weren't for the title - which was the one performance that interested me, simply because of that

and i kept looking at the list of songs - and i kept thinking that the list of songs wouldn't have shocked anyone if they'd appeared on a jose feliciano record in the 60s or early 70s

the list probably wouldn't be that surprising on a kenny g album, either
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who has been called a hipster on a few occasions, I have never been drawn to listen to Pat but love the shit out of Joni's Shadows and Light.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:39 AM on July 16, 2011


I'm sure Pat Metheny realizes that he's not going to win over jazz fans covering "Cherish" and "Girl from Ipanema." But he's not going to lose any, either, considering the body of work he's produced over the years. He plays the songs well, but Pat Metheny fans (like me) aren't going to stand in line to buy this music. In a sense, it's pretty brave to release non-ironic versions of classically saccharine songs.

By the way, it's always funny when couples request that "Cherish" be played at their weddings. They obviously haven't listened to the lyrics, which include:

Perish is the word that more than applies
To the hope in my heart each time I realize
That I am not gonna be the one to share your dreams
That I am not gonna be the one to share your schemes
That I am not gonna be the one to share what
Seems to be the life that you could
Cherish as much as I do yours


But we wedding musicians just smile and say, "Yassuh."
posted by kozad at 9:41 AM on July 16, 2011


Virtuoso overarrangement of syrupy strings? Ironic appreciation of pop culture? Yeah, I'll stick with my statement.

No string arrangements in any of the tracks. No ironic anything of pop culture (these songs are all decades old).

So, you haven't actually clicked through on any of the links in the FPP, then.

It's fun seeing exactly how you work sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2011


Seconding, 'tasteful' is hideous, please don't.

Strangely I have mostly heard this adjective used by guitar musos to describe fretwankery which generally is anything but.

In fact, why do they do that? Does anyone know the etymology of the tasteless guitarist 'tasteful'?

Though I haven't had a chance to listen to the clips yet (as I'm on a mobile connection), Metheny is presumed excused - by dint of Electric Counterpoint.
posted by iotic at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2011


kept thinking that the list of songs wouldn't have shocked anyone if they'd appeared on a jose feliciano record in the 60s or early 70s

the list probably wouldn't be that surprising on a kenny g album, either


A dozen jazz musicians could put out albums with these exact titles and they'd all be different. Some would be good, some not so good. Some would be commercial, others avant-garde.

It's not the titles. It's not the words that aren't being sung. D'ya think that when Charlie Parker recorded "Lover Man" he was just 'covering' a pop song? Was Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" a Christmas album?

via Wikuhpaedia:
In the documentary The World According to John Coltrane, narrator Ed Wheeler remarks:
"In 1960, Coltrane. . . transformed "My Favorite Things", the cheerful populist song from 'The Sound of Music,' into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance. The recording was a hit and became Coltrane's most requested tuneā€”and a bridge to broad public acceptance."
The jazz musician hears something in a pop song that resonates, and uses it a springboard for individual expression. If enough of the original song remains, it might become a jazz 'hit' (that's selling like 10,000 units). Maybe not.

If you are suggesting that because they also used pop songs as source material, Bird and Trane's achievements are on the same level as Kenny G's or Jose Feliciano's (I quite liked his Light My Fire, by the way), I shall have to ask you to step outside.
posted by Herodios at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seconding, 'tasteful' is hideous, please don't.

Maybe he meant 'tasty'.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2011


How is this elevator music? Elevator music shouldn't bring on the sort of melancholy appropriate to a dark rainy night in NYC, which is what inspired Pat's previous album in this vein, a la the cover art.

How is this ironic or related to hipsters in any way? Does it make one smirk knowingly to hear a jazz guitarist, and one of the most prolific musicians of the last four decades playing The Sound of Silence?

Pat Metheny continues to be one of my favorite human beings. I just can't think of many other musicians who are as wholly dedicated to their art as he is.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2011


D'ya think that when Charlie Parker recorded "Lover Man" he was just 'covering' a pop song?

he really is wandering into pop instrumentalist territory here of the kind that used to be played on "beautiful music" stations in the 60s and 70s

why you insist on comparing this to bird and trane is beyond me - i wouldn't even compare it to the local college jazz band

it's lite instrumental music - just because it's done by a master musician doesn't make it any more than that
posted by pyramid termite at 11:22 AM on July 16, 2011


why you insist on comparing this to bird and trane is beyond me
PT: the list of songs wouldn't have shocked anyone if they'd appeared on a jose feliciano record. . .

PT: the list probably wouldn't be that surprising on a kenny g album. . .
H: A dozen jazz musicians could put out albums with these exact titles and they'd all be different. Some would be good, some not so good. Some would be commercial, others avant-garde.

H: It's not the titles.
The fact that Metheny chose to work with, for example, "Cherish" does not support categorizing this work as 'lite instrumental music'. What he does with it may (see above). The choice of tunes does not.

That is all.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2011


No string arrangements in any of the tracks.

The guitar is a string instrument.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2011


Seconding, 'tasteful' is hideous, please don't.

Nah, hideous is hideous. Tasteful was a word to highlight the relative difference in quality between Kenny G's interpretation of another artists work, and Metheny's.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 3:40 PM on July 16, 2011


Someone who worked with Jaco deserves way more respect than being written off as "elevator music."

And this, friends, is but one of the reasons why I've never been written off as elevator music.

NOTE: link contains image of flapjax back when he had much more hair on top of his head
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:07 PM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


(f@m ftw)

(self-link and all)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 4:16 PM on July 16, 2011


And this, friends, is but one of the reasons why I've never been written off as elevator music.

Now that would have been an amazing experience. Jaco doesn't appear like he's in the best of health there, but I imagine he was still playing his ass off.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2011


The guitar is a string instrument.

do you think mrs butterworth or aunt jemima is best to play with? and how do you keep the pickups from shorting out?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:47 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jaco doesn't appear like he's in the best of health there

Indeed, he wasn't. Sad to say, but drug use was getting the best of him by this point. But yes, he did play his ass off.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:54 PM on July 16, 2011


I find this a pretty interesting effort, and the interpretations go far beyond simple covers. I like his version of Sound of Silence. The whole album is up on Spotify if you have an account (they didn't give me any invites, or I'd share).

Personally, I've always loved Beyond the Missouri Sky, an album Metheny did with Charlie Hayden back in 1997. The beautifully contemplative "Spiritual", written by Josh Haden, Charlie's son) is strikingly pure without the lyrics (compare to the Johnny Cash version, and you can see how Hayden and Metheny turned it into an entirely different song). The high-energy The Precious Jewel nicely captures a mood.
posted by zachlipton at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2011


Someone who worked with Jaco deserves way more respect than being written off as "elevator music."

Jaco, Joni, Lyle Mays, Herbie Hancock - yeah, a fucking stupid thing to say.
posted by the noob at 5:29 PM on July 16, 2011


Jaco, Joni, Lyle Mays, Herbie Hancock

And as Herodios reminded us upthread, Ornette freakin' COLEMAN.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:59 PM on July 16, 2011


But yes, he did play his ass off.

So is there a story behind that photograph? How'd he come to get up and start playing with you guys, after all?
posted by Silverdragonanon at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2011


So is there a story behind that photograph?

It was my gig. I was playing with multi-string maestro Hahn Rowe (Hahn was a member of the band Hugo Largo, which might ring a distant bell for some of you folks out there), who was on bass that night. We were about midway through the first set, when Jaco walked into the place. IIRC, the conga player in the pic was with Jaco, although he might've been in the club before that.

Of course we were all surprised and delighted that Jaco showed up, and Hahn just immediately handed him the bass. That fellow on conga wound up in the mix (I think that pair of congas just lived at the club), and we had ourselves a little rhythm workout for a good, oh, thirty minutes or so, I'd say.

We broke for an intermission. Jaco asked if I could give him a few bucks for a sandwich... said he needed a bite, and he'd be right back to play some more later. I gave him ten dollars. Never saw him again.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:19 PM on July 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


And as Herodios reminded us upthread, Ornette freakin' COLEMAN.

Now that was a show, the Song X tour.

Metheny rose to occasion, playing as free as any guitarist I've heard with Ornette. None of your Windam Hillesque stylings there. It was a better partnership that I had any right to expect, and in some ways, the setting brought out the best in Ornette, too. Pretty sure Ornette stuck with the alto the whole evening.

Metheny and Ornette Denardo did not spare the electronics. Some tunes 'pitted' that digital duo in call and response against the acoustic trio of Ornette, Haden, and DeJohnette. . . Fastbreak Antiphonies.

Have to say Denardo played better than I'd expected based on his work on Ornette at 12 and Tales of Captain Black and did a fine job of integrating that early electronic percussion into his kit.

And of course Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette are monsters. Tons of arco work from Haden, DeJohnette in a class by himself.

"Endangered Species" was the last tune. They must've played it 45 minutes. Pure joyful poly-synchronous polyphony.

So is there a story behind that photograph? How'd he come to get up and start playing with you guys, after all?

Jaco walked into the place. . .

Yeah, I was gonna ask, too. Thanks for that story, Flapjax! Not that we thought you were an elevator man anyway. You must've caught Jaco at a good time. But, drugs or no, I bet he forgot where he got the sawbuck before he was out the door.

Been to that dance.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:41 PM on July 16, 2011


Jaco asked if I could give him a few bucks for a sandwich

oh, fuck - now that is just really sad
posted by pyramid termite at 6:46 PM on July 16, 2011


that is just really sad

It is. Drugs can really fuck people up, no doubt about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:50 PM on July 16, 2011


Thanks for the story, Flapjax. It's sad to hear a first-hand account of how Jaco had deteriorated... I guess it's pretty cool that he could still kick out in those later years, but it makes me wish that he'd stayed around for a few more years and kept clean.

I'm going to listen to Donna Lee and Jaco-era Weather Report now, and think about how I've been born in the wrong country, and two decades too late.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 10:39 PM on July 16, 2011


No string arrangements in any of the tracks.

The guitar is a string instrument.
[Wikipedia link!]

Heh heh. Yeah, charlie, just keep digging yourself in deeper, there, buddy. Never mind that "string arrangement" is universally understood to be an arrangement for a string section (you know? violins, cellos? that sort of thing?).

I tell you though, nothing like throwing something else that's utterly wrong out there to try to cover up for the first thing you said that was utterly wrong. Good tactic man. When you're talking to morons, that is.

Anyway, someday you're gonna be really, really glad you remained anonymous here at Metafilter. You're saving yourself a lot of future embarrassment, man, I ain't kiddin' ya.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:21 AM on July 17, 2011


As an Adult-Onset Musician, I have to chime in though and say that just watching Metheny quietly sitting with the guitar on Cherish, knowing his instrument the way most of the rest of us know breathing... just beautiful.
posted by theplotchickens at 2:42 AM on July 17, 2011


I notice that remarks about the blandness of this particular recording are rebutted by references to his past work, but that's unfair. I love the man and his work, but also find this stuff syrupy and twee.
posted by e.e. coli at 3:42 AM on July 17, 2011


no kidding, theplotchickens, see vis a vis this quote:

When you are 19 or 20 years old, everything moves at a velocity that you will never experience again in your life. I really encourage kids that age to practice 18 hours a day, stay up all night playing music with their friends, transcribe anything that they like, and take every gig that comes along. It is a period in life when you can make enormous progress in short periods of time. It was that way for me.
posted by yoHighness at 5:52 AM on July 17, 2011


(you know? violins, cellos? that sort of thing?)

Why does nobody ever mention the viola?

*sobs*
posted by Wolof at 6:13 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I tell you though, nothing like throwing something else that's utterly wrong out there to try to cover up for the first thing you said that was utterly wrong. Good tactic man. When you're talking to morons, that is.

You go ahead with your jazz freaks and keep twisting my words, it's a good tactic when you're preaching to the choir. Just to be clear, I said it was "syrupy strings" and while that description is generally applied to elevator music with a whole string section, it applies just fine to this music.

So I'll tell you my my problem with this music, it's the same problem I have with all "instrumentalist" jazz. I play myself, so I can't help but see what they're doing. I see that little scale, that little progression, the rhythms and melodies, he's making it all so complex. Even buried in adaptations of crappy pop music, I can see things in the way the instrumentalist intended it. And I think to myself, I could really enjoy this, but it takes too much effort.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:06 AM on July 17, 2011


And I think to myself, I could really enjoy this, but it takes too much effort.

it really helps sometimes if you forget you're a musician when you listen to music
posted by pyramid termite at 10:11 AM on July 17, 2011


I tried that, it doesn't work with music like this. I know his intent was to make an album that said, "hey listen to this awesome music." But it comes off like "hey listen to me, I'm an awesome musican." That gets really boring after about 10 seconds.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2011


I love Metheny, and I love Jaco (thanks for that story, flapjax, although it made me a bit sad). I grew up listening to jazz due to the influence of my father, but discovered Metheny on my own. It was really a great experience.

A Metheny/Pastorius/Bob Moses appreciation link: Pat Metheny & Jaco Pastorius - Live At The Jazz Workshop - Bright Size Life
posted by pleasebekind at 12:21 PM on July 17, 2011


flapjax That's a really bitter sweet story, but I'm glad you had to opportunity to have played a bitchen set with him.

I have a deep appreciation for PM, he's definitely someone every guitar player should check out and learn from at some point...BUT, I prefer Jazz that is obviously the son or daughter of old blues. LIke the blues sent their kid off to college to get a little sophisticated but the kid still works the farm on the weekends. A foot in the past and another in the future.
posted by snsranch at 3:41 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You go ahead with your jazz freaks and keep twisting my words, it's a good tactic when you're preaching to the choir. Just to be clear, I said it was "syrupy strings" and while that description is generally applied to elevator music with a whole string section, it applies just fine to this music.

Charles, I hold no truck with "syrupy strings" - I don't even mind the elevator music jibe, if that's your opinion of Metheny's music that's fine, your young and your tastes may develop further, may not, but lets be positive.

For me its the hipster thing -I don't see how you could possibly equate Metheny's music with - fuck I don't know, Joanna Newsome or Franz Ferdinand? it shows that you really don't know what a hipster is. A jazz freak is a hipster now?

Please listen to "Are you going with me" from Off Ramp. here's a link so none of your rock buddies will see you searching and confuse your for being ironically cool/not cool (hipster like).

Enjoy, I did and will continue to do so.
posted by the noob at 9:50 PM on July 17, 2011


Please listen to "Are you going with me" from Off Ramp. here's a link

That was a wonderful version of the original. I would have loved to see him tear loose on the guitar synth for the whole thing, but rearranging it for such beautiful vocals and backing instrumentation was an amazing change.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 11:42 PM on July 17, 2011


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