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What's Sacred?
May 20, 2010 11:37 AM   Subscribe

"To ignore this trespass is to agree that NOTHING any musician has attempted to do with their life in music has any intrinsic value - and I refuse to do that." Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, whose new album Orchestrion came out in January (see him discuss it here), ranted about smooth jazz legend Kenny G, claiming that his overdubbed performance of What A Wonderful World defiled the memory of Louis Armstrong. (Via Aaron Cohen at Kottke.org)
posted by Rory Marinich (67 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's quite a rant.

::remixes and overdubs it::
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:42 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with Pat Metheny
Kenny's talents are too teeny
He deserves the crap he's going to get
'Overdubbed himself on Louis
What a musical chop suey
Raised his head above the parapet
-Richard Thompson
posted by The White Hat at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I read this quite a few years ago. Pretty well-known, isn't it?
posted by naju at 11:44 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought this wasn't the rant I remember, because I couldn't find the "necrophilia" part. Then I did - yay!
posted by freebird at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2010


It looks like it's about a decade old, yeah. I thought it was interesting, particularly considering Orchestrion is in many ways Metheny trying to create new, interesting jazz and it's a fairly recent album.

Upon looking at the tags, it seems that rant was posted nearly ten years ago; my bad. I still think Orchestrion and the video of Metheny talking about it is fascinating and worth an FPP in its own right.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:48 AM on May 20, 2010


Just came here to post The White Hat's comment; the mp3 can be downloaded from Thompson's website here.
posted by TedW at 11:48 AM on May 20, 2010


This is really, really old. And insofar as MetaFilter has redacted or removed FPPs in the past to respect various people's wishes, it should be noted that Metheny apologized for the rant and removed it from his website (where it had originally appeared).
posted by cribcage at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Apparently the article was written as a defense of his total excoriation of the G-man in this polish interview.

I couldn't agree with him any harder, both on the front that a lot of Kenny G dislike is because: "there is no small amount of envy involved from musicians who see one of their fellow players doing so well financially" but that the recording over Louis Armstrong is a venal and unlistenable degradation of a national treasure.

I wish it was hip-hop so Pat could just challenge him to a battle and destroy his career forever cutting him up a la Ja Rule.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


As much as I can't stand Kenny G, this takedown is sort of like bringing a machine gun to kill an ant. I have a feeling that Satchmo himself would not give a flying crap what Kenny G did to his music.
posted by blucevalo at 11:55 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I say to myself, what a horrible post...
posted by fixedgear at 11:56 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing

maybe old, but quality ranting!

the new electronically interconnected culture that we now live in - where pretty much anything anyone anywhere has ever said or done has the potential to become common public property at any time

Not bad for ten years ago, right?
posted by yoHighness at 11:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I ♥ Richard Thompson.
posted by -t at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2010


One of my professors in college was a pretty prim and proper sort of guy, but he opened one of our History of Jazz classes reading this rant, word for word, with no context whatsoever until he was finished. It was... surprising!
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


EAT 9mm DEATH, ANT MOTHERFUCKERS!
posted by Artw at 12:09 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Kenny G's Christmas album is coming out this month. Happy birthday, Jesus! I hope you like crap!" --Norm MacDonald
posted by Ratio at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


Am I to suppose that there are people who can actually listen to Louis Armstrong's loose, wobbly, marijuana smoke-ravaged vocal cords gurgle out the sentiments of this pink-pony poshlust without gagging?
posted by Faze at 12:31 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Couldn't Charles Ives have just kept his robber's paws out of Beethoven's grave? And Luciano Berio, why did you desecrate the precious legacy of Mahler? And Stockhausen, what the hell is up with you?
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:43 PM on May 20, 2010


Sorry, Pat, but it doesn't have any intrinsic value. That's the point.
posted by cmoj at 12:46 PM on May 20, 2010


The rant is indeed one of the oldest things still on the internet, but its one of the best reasons for its continued existence. My hatred of Kenny G up to that point had been utterly inchoate. Metheny gave it voice.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:55 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Couldn't Charles Ives have just kept his robber's paws out of Beethoven's grave? And Luciano Berio, why did you desecrate the precious legacy of Mahler? And Stockhausen, what the hell is up with you?

Yes, those are analogous to what Kenny G did. Very insightful, StickyCarpet.

Metheny: "As a composer of even eighth note based music, [Kenny G] SHOULD be compared to Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver or even Grover Washington."

Perhaps, if Kenny G could stand up to any of those comparisons, Metheny wouldn't have been so offended.
posted by kenko at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2010


Sorry, Pat, but it doesn't have any intrinsic value. That's the point.

You know, when you present your position this way, it sounds almost irrefragable. I was nearly won over! But then I happened upon the following neat refutation. It goes like this:

Some musicians' accomplishments do have intrinsic value. That's the point.

(The point of what? The point of overdubbing your talentless noodling over an iconic performance? Kenny G is more of a nihilist than I would have thought, if so, and that wouldn't change the fact that it's rather inconsiderate in any case.)
posted by kenko at 12:59 PM on May 20, 2010


His next album could be "G the Defiler". Sort of a mixture of smooth jazz meets GWAR.
posted by quin at 1:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some musicians' accomplishments do have intrinsic value.

Really? Intrinsic? So some music is objectively good, and some objectively bad?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:21 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we just make this a thread about Richard Thompson?
posted by Rangeboy at 1:21 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Prior MeFi art on "I agree with Pat Metheny.
posted by artlung at 1:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Does music have any intrinsic value? Certainly there is subjective value, but that's very audience specific. I think there's value to the creator in being able to find a means of expression, but that would be subjective too. Once you remove the subjective experience of the creator and the audience, what's left?

2. Even granting that music has an intrinsic value, it's not like revisiting a work diminishes the original. The original is still there, and still has whatever attributes it possessed before it was reworked.

I might buy the argument that I now can't hear the original without thinking of the new work and thinking of the new work reduces my enjoyment of the original, but if that's the case, then clearly the value was not intrinsic.
posted by willnot at 1:27 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


We did this a couple of years ago. This contentious previous thread on smooth jazz contributes to the discussion, especially this comment among many, including this complicating factor:

"One of the more problematic facts you will not hear mentioned much among jazz scholars is that smooth jazz has a much higher proportion of African American listeners (and purchasers) than "serious" jazz does, though the actual numbers are elusive."
posted by umbĂș at 1:30 PM on May 20, 2010


The above quote should be credited to fourcheesemac.
posted by umbĂș at 1:32 PM on May 20, 2010


Really? Intrinsic? So some music is objectively good, and some objectively bad?

What makes you think that the claim that some music has intrinsic value is the equivalent of the claim that some music is objectively good?
posted by kenko at 1:37 PM on May 20, 2010


What makes you think some musicians' accomplishments have intrinsic value. How do you define that?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:41 PM on May 20, 2010


Kind of a double, and (I think) discussed in more than one thread over the years.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2010


i know many jazz fans who hate metheny for many of the reasons he hates kenny g. i think they're being a little unfair - while much of his output is martini-fuelled fluff, you have to hand it to him for working with ornette, jim hall, derek bailey etc etc and particularly for the utterly baffling (and thurston moore endorsed) zero tolerance for silence album. and he is always an intelligent, sensitive and thoroughly melodic improviser. this is a rare thing, particularly among guitarists. on the other hand, i thought orchestrion was a complete wase of time, energy and solenoids. what was the point?
posted by peterkins at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Since that record came out - in protest, as insignificant as it may be, I encourage everyone to boycott Kenny G recordings, concerts and anything he is associated with."

Aaaaaaaaaaaand... done!
posted by turaho at 1:46 PM on May 20, 2010


Metheny produces a lot of stuff that I don't like, but his stuff with Ornette is great, as are some of his early, early albums with Jaco Pastorius (Bright Size Life, Jaco). Incredible stuff. The guy is a tremendous talent, but I think a lot of his stuff is fluff and waste.

That said, I LOVE this description of Kenny G: "lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing"
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:10 PM on May 20, 2010


So some music is objectively good, and some objectively bad?

Kenny G's music defines objectively bad. Until he came along, there was no such thing as "objectively bad" music. But he created the concept: he's the platonic form of crap.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


No, that category was created by Marvin Hamlisch. Kenny G merely ran with it.
posted by blucevalo at 2:22 PM on May 20, 2010


[added main link to main quote, carry on]
posted by jessamyn at 2:31 PM on May 20, 2010


Kenny G always makes me think of Bill Hicks:

"[...] all these fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious and making us pay a higher psychic price than we imagine."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:32 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


The White Hat: "
I agree with Pat Metheny
Kenny's talents are too teeny
He deserves the crap he's going to get
'Overdubbed himself on Louis
What a musical chop suey
Raised his head above the parapet
-Richard Thompson
"

I always thought Metheny rhymed with veiny, not teeny. Huh. Anyways, I am still a little embarrassed that I once called my local NPR / Jazz after 8:00 (KJZZ represent!) station and requested that they play Kenny G. The dj/hostess yelled at me. Angrily. Said something about "you people always calling" and "it's not funny. And hung up on me. I felt bad; my funny little joke had backfired. Then I realized that it wasn't really funny, and I wasn't the only person who was doing it. Sorry.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 3:23 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, music has an intrinsic value. Because, really, almost nothing has an intrinsic value. So if big buildings, old books, shiny rocks, and pieces of paper with drawings of dead people can all be said to have intrinsic value, then music can too.

And it's not really about subjectivity. An excellently crafted pb&j *is* better than a crappy steak. I mean, obviously some people enjoy his music. But let's not kid ourselves.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I just feel this has been beaten to death. I would agree that Pat Metheny is a more interesting musician than Kenny G. But Kenny G is popular over much of the planet, among people with the most diverse life experiences, and has been for many years. Metheny's idea of jazz as a high art also does violence to Louis Armstrong's music, which was much closer to what we think of as pop than Metheny would admit. Take a listen to the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, where the dirty parts of Armstrong's songs are excised because they don't conform to the official idea of jazz. "What a Wonderful World" in Kenny G's version means a lot to a lot of people, and I wouldn't care to speculate on whether that or Metheny's' music will be around longer. At least he had the grace to apologize; I think he realized it's attitudes like this that are killing jazz.
posted by texorama at 4:29 PM on May 20, 2010


I already said way more than my piece on this subject in the thread umbu mentioned above.

There is no such thing as good or bad music. Only differences in the functional context in which music is interpreted as good or bad. And all dancing *is* about architecture. (And no, we don't know who said the other version of that statement first, but whoever it was sacrificed truth on the altar of pithiness.)

So I will just add that many years ago I lived in Cambridge, where Pat Metheny also lived at the time (and may still do, I don't know). I used to see him all the time at the White Hen Pantry in Porter Square, often very late at night (I was a cook and got off work at 2AM or so, and usually picked up a pack of smokes at the WHP). He used to buy a sliced turkey sandwich, as I recall.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


When it comes to Kenny G, I side firmly with Garth Algar.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2010


cribcage: it should be noted that Metheny apologized for the rant

Anybody have a link to the apology?
posted by ericost at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2010


Connecting Kenny G with the word "legend" (whether smooth or not, whether jazz or not) is an oxymoron. Frankly, though, I prefer the last five letters of that word when describing him.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 5:26 PM on May 20, 2010


Can we just make this a thread about Richard Thompson?

My first ever metafilter FPP endeavored to connect Richard Thompson, a certain carnival sideshow attraction and mosh pit chaosity. I firmly believe that it was even more successful than Kenny G's "improvement" of What A Wonderful World.

That Richard Thompson link has since done the YouTube shuffle by the way. You can now find it here.
posted by philip-random at 5:32 PM on May 20, 2010


There is no such thing as good or bad music. Only differences in the functional context in which music is interpreted as good or bad.

This is true, and yet, certain talents elevate themselves to the point of cultural consensus. What makes an artist important and transformative isn't entirely subjective, because it's not that difficult to differentiate between popularity and influence.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:42 PM on May 20, 2010


"So some music is objectively good, and some objectively bad?"

Good music weighs more.
posted by klangklangston at 5:51 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's an egend, Seekerofsplendor?
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:55 PM on May 20, 2010


And insofar as MetaFilter has redacted or removed FPPs in the past to respect various people's wishes, it should be noted that Metheny apologized for the rant and removed it from his website (where it had originally appeared).

Intriguing. Do you have a link to his apology? A friend enjoys busting this one out once in a while and I'd like to have something to counter with.
posted by John Shaft at 5:56 PM on May 20, 2010


Good music weighs more.

except for Brian Eno's ambient stuff. that shit just floats away.
posted by philip-random at 6:36 PM on May 20, 2010


The last time we did this, ZachsMind said:

I agree that Kenny G doesn't have the artistic talent to play with Armstrong, but I bet if the man were still alive he'd sit in with Kenny G, cuz that's the kinda guy he was. He didn't brand people or judge them. Louis Armstrong just loved making music. And Kenny G would have risen to the challenge or fallen on his butt, but Armstrong wouldn't have had the problem with it that we have.

posted by straight at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2010


Well, Metheny is a composer who continually engages with new technology.

He was the one who was interested in synth-guitar interfaces a few years back.

Future readers may view him as a pioneer in music technology, kinda like Bartolomeo Cristofori. Not exactly, but you know.
posted by ovvl at 6:43 PM on May 20, 2010


What form do I need to sign to officially declare that anyone, whether they make the kind of music I personally enjoy or not, anywhere, anytime, before or after my death, is free to cover, remix, reinterpret, re-use, draw inspiration from, borrow from, sample, mashup, hum along to, harmonize with, or otherwise use my music in any way they see fit?

Or am I automatically covered because I'm in the Electronica genre?

Or is this question irrelevant due to the fact that I suck?
posted by Xezlec at 7:13 PM on May 20, 2010


Good music weighs more.

What if it's Light Favorites?
posted by jonmc at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2010


What if it's Light Favorites?

Cotton candy.

Which is fine, if you want cotton candy.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:38 PM on May 20, 2010


But Kenny G is popular over much of the planet, among people with the most diverse life experiences, and has been for many years.

OK?

Metheny's idea of jazz as a high art also does violence to Louis Armstrong's music, which was much closer to what we think of as pop than Metheny would admit

I didn't get the idea that Metheny was saying that jazz is high art that only the erudite can comprehend and that Kenny G is bad because he's soooo low brow. I felt like he was saying good jazz is exciting, vibrant, engaging music that challenges and innovates, while Kenny G plays boring shit and Pavlovian dog whistle riffs over and over again.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:40 PM on May 20, 2010


"One of the more problematic facts you will not hear mentioned much among jazz scholars is that smooth jazz has a much higher proportion of African American listeners (and purchasers) than "serious" jazz does, though the actual numbers are elusive."

While I don't doubt this fact on its surface, I wonder about which "smooth jazz" artists are the ones who get purchased by these "African-Americans." Does Kenny G have a huge black following? Or are we talking about people like Grover Washington, Marcus Miller, and George Benson -- genuinely talented musicians who play music that is (imo) totally lame?
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:08 PM on May 20, 2010


Do you have a link to his apology?

I don't. He posted it on the discussion board on his website. This all happened at least ten years ago, and all the relevant threads are probably long gone. What happened is that he posted the rant without really thinking about it and certainly not realizing it would go "viral" (before anybody used that word). When he realized that it was no longer just a sarcastic venting between himself and a handful of dedicated fans on his message board, but that people were passing it around worldwide, he deleted the original thread and apologized for it.

Metheny wasn't the only one. This was back when people thought the Internet really did have private corners. Google existed, but it wasn't a verb. I remember Challenge Records had a section of their website dedicated to Q&A with a certain outspoken valve trombonist who posted candid and incendiary comments about, among others, a couple of jazz writers. It was a similar situation: His comments were true, but maybe not phrased the way you would if you thought they would be preserved forever and exposed via searchwords, and Challenge eventually removed that portion of the website. It's too bad. There was value to having 'corners' on the Internet where musicians would talk candidly knowing the audience was limited to those in the know.

I think it's lame that Matt, Jessamyn, and Cortex are letting this FPP stand. For one thing, it's a double. For another, it's old. Third, the FPP is just an "LOL THIS SUX" rant with a couple of links to Wikipedia and Amazon. And fourth...I may not have a cite to back up the claim that Metheny asked people to stop circulating this, but he did. Given some of the FPPs that have been deleted here (didn't Matt delete one recently just because some pal of his said, "Hey, I don't want everybody to know about this"?), this one ought to go. But oh well.
posted by cribcage at 8:08 PM on May 20, 2010


posted by kenko: Couldn't Charles Ives have just kept his robber's paws out of Beethoven's grave? And Luciano Berio, why did you desecrate the precious legacy of Mahler? And Stockhausen, what the hell is up with you?

Yes, those are analogous to what Kenny G did. Very insightful, StickyCarpet.


Glad to see that you are clear on the difference between analogous and equivalent.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:41 PM on May 20, 2010


I read it in Harper's (get your glasses or your wallet out). I guess they grabbed it from Pat's site before the retraction. They were paying close attention to the internet early on.

I've seen Pat play quite few times - his good nature is as obvious as his good playing, so I am not surprised at the retraction, but I was not aware of it till now.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:44 PM on May 20, 2010


cribcage: I think Metatalk is the appropriate venue for your complaints, isn't it?
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:43 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cribcage: I totally get what you mean, but without this link now, I'd never have read the rant.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 PM on May 20, 2010


Kenny G is music's nadir. Lady Gaga has more talent in her pinky toenail than Kenny G could ever muster, and that is not bragging about Lady Gaga.
posted by caddis at 5:23 AM on May 21, 2010


So if big buildings, old books, shiny rocks, and pieces of paper with drawings of dead people can all be said to have intrinsic value

That would be true, if I agreed those things also have intrinsic value. I do not.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:05 AM on May 21, 2010


I'm always surprised when one working musician bad mouths another. Whether I agree with the sentiment or not. It seems like making it to a point where you can quit your day job and just make music professionally is rare enough that no one would dare jinx it by so much as hinting at the idea that someone else in the same business ought not be. I expect some kind of thin blue E-string of silence.
posted by Babblesort at 8:10 AM on May 21, 2010


Still, I found it fascinating in the thirty seconds I could stand watching Kenny G and his Jheri-curled mane on a PBS fundraising show that his audience seemed to be older black women.
posted by kozad at 12:34 PM on May 21, 2010


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