"I Agree With Pat Metheny".
October 8, 2002 10:39 AM   Subscribe

"I Agree With Pat Metheny". Well, I do, and so does Richard Thompson in this live MP3 on his Web site. Ever since Pat Metheny made these comments about Kenny G there has been a lot of commentary, but Richard Thompson has put it to a folk song showing his talent as a guitar player, songwriter and singer. (Real Audio link)
posted by Eekacat (47 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"When Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, f***ed up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused [sic] musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, s**t all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician..."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2002

Funny, I was just listening to Richard Thompson (the beautiful and sad Shoot out the Lights made with then wife Linda as they were going thru a divorce).

Kenny G is a real easy target, but obviously Richard is having fun with it, ya can tell by the fairport convention-y sound to the song. Hey, sometimes its fine to shoot at easy targets, right?
posted by malphigian at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2002

Why are so many Jazz people so ...uptight...? Seriously, Kenny G is really awful, but sacrilegious? To think he sucks is one thing, to go to the effort of making sure everyone knows it is another thing altogether. Relax, Pat, relax.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2002

Richard Thomspon was one of the first musician/songwriters I saw in concert years ago that totally floored me. He opened for someone else, stood up there alone for an hour playing and singing. He went from hilarious foot-stomping songs to emotionally charged, technically amazing fretwork and back again. I even got to meet him backstage and he seemed like a delightful guy.

This is a minor bit of fun on his part, but check out the rest of his catalog, it's great stuff, and if you get a chance to see him live, give it a go.
posted by mathowie at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2002

"Musical Necrophilia?!!" Perfect!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:03 AM on October 8, 2002

When Harper's Magazine ran that Metheny piece in their August 2000 issue, they used the following headline:

Oh my God, He Killed Kenny G!

Still cracks me up to think about it.
posted by y2karl at 11:04 AM on October 8, 2002

Oh man, I'm showing that article to my mom. Unfortunately, she probably doesn't even know who Pat Metheny is.
posted by rotifer at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2002

Why are so many Jazz people so ...uptight...? Seriously, Kenny G is really awful, but sacrilegious?

If you read Metheny's whole statement, you'll see that he was responding to Kenny G overdubbing himself over a Louis Armstrong track. Given Armstrong's god-like status with jazz musicians, it is sacrilegious.
posted by timeistight at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2002

You go, Pat! Next, please turn your rage towards Philip Glass and Andrew Lloyd Weber and Robert Wilson.

He's as articulate in words as he is with his guitar, which is saying a lot.

And may I use this moment to direct your attention to Pat's work on the Joni Mitchell album/video "Shadows and Light"?
posted by e.e. coli at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2002

Wasn't Metheny the guy who recorded an entire album full of feedback as revenge for having to fulfill a crappy record contract?
posted by PrinceValium at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2002

Next, please turn your rage towards Philip Glass and Andrew Lloyd Weber

These are talented fellows. I think a more fitting target would be Michael Bolton.
posted by rotifer at 11:30 AM on October 8, 2002

My Junior year in college I lived with a bunch of musicians. They all were all the partying-variety typical college musicians, and they all hated Kenny G.

One of them ended up getting both a Kenny G calendar and a copy of Hustler for his birthday early in the year as a joke. As the year drew on we made a game out of cutting up the pictures of Kenny G and the various women and recombining them into these monsters. The monsters were then hidden around the suite we lived in for the others to find. Often while drunk.

By the end of the year things had escalated to the point were several Kenny G monsters were found each day. We left unsure that we'd actually remembered to remove all of them from the room... Several years later a friend confirmed that the next residents found a few, and were both shocked and horrified (I was so proud).

I don't think I'll ever be able to look at or hear Kenny G without remembering his grinning face tacked onto the head of some girl in a compromising position cut into little slits and taped to the back side of the miniblinds.

Thank god none of us knew how to use Photoshop yet.
posted by togdon at 11:32 AM on October 8, 2002

i don't know if metheney ever did that.
kenny g, however is in the guiness book for holding the longest note.... proving that he does indeed blow.
posted by the aloha at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2002

louis is the sum of all (jazz) parts, and kenny g is possibly one of the most insipid nitwits to ever take a breath, but maybe pat should be taking this up with the armstrong estate... being that they gave kenny g permission to mess with that track.

pat's also attributing too much to kenny g's decision or motivation to insert himself into that track. i'm pretty sure the guy is just too stupid to know how bad he is and how inappropriate his choice was. i think he's been too successful in his career (especially in the beginning when he may have been more able to learn a thing or 100 from a bit of failure) and that's insulated him from some harsh personal realities.

or he's the devil. i do know a lot of jazz musicians, ones old enough to have known louis armstrong personally (such as my dad), and they've brushed the whole thing off with nary a burst blood vessel. it's not like kenny g can tarnish louis' halo. he can only make himself look ever more the fool.
posted by t r a c y at 11:36 AM on October 8, 2002

Wasn't Metheny the guy who recorded an entire album full of feedback as revenge for having to fulfill a crappy record contract?

I think that was Lou Reed.
posted by timeistight at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2002

when i was typing, togdon was also typing and beat me. i thought i was going to be sent to the raspberry patrol hahahaaha
posted by the aloha at 11:43 AM on October 8, 2002

PrinceValium: No, I think that was Lou Reed.

Richard Thompson is one of the greats, and I was glad to hear in an interview with her that he and Linda are working together (if not singing together) again. Shoot Out the Lights is one of the all-time classics. And I love the Kenny G rant.

On preview: Damn you, timeistight. But I got the link!
posted by languagehat at 11:46 AM on October 8, 2002

I should have taken more time editing that second sentence. For those who are wondering, I am aware that Richard is a he.
posted by languagehat at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2002

Kenny G and his music are worthless tripe. People that overdub their (usually) less talented selves on old music are all pig intestines as well.

However, like the old joke says, the overdubbers may be covered up in a pile of shit up to their necks, but they are standing on the shoulders of scumbags like Puff Daddy, PM Dawn and other rappers/hiphoppers who mangle and defile songs by rock masters like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles.

Risking this becoming a rant, don't get me started on Micheal "The Molester" Jackson's gross mismanagement of the Beatles' library. When I first heard "Something" on an OldsmoBuick commercial and "Revolution" on a Nike ad(strange considering their slave child labor practices), I wanted the King of Pedophilia drawn and quartered. The piece of shit belongs in prison with his boxers on backwards.
posted by Blubble at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2002

Having said all that, I actually allowed a girl to take me to a Kenny G concert in order to get laid.

I'm so ashamed!
posted by Blubble at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2002

Michael Jackson built a ranch with amusement rides to get his own brand of satisfaction.
Blubble... well, I can't even repeat it.

Who's more evil?

I thought so.
posted by websavvy at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2002

Who was it that said "Whenever I hear the word 'jazz', I reach for my pistol"?*

* O, that's right: it was me!
posted by dash_slot- at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2002

I did read the whole statement. That's what prompted me to ask the question. Overdubbing Louis Armstrong is in terrible taste, I agree, and it probably sounds just awful, though I can't bring myself to listen. My problem with the whole thing is this: When a musician does something terrible like this, I laugh at him or her. I describe how awful it is, but I just don't have it in me to make the mental leap required to claim that said musician is spitting on the graves of all musicians...etc. (Incidentally, "spitting on the graves of all musicians past and present"???)

I dunno about Pat, but Merzbow routinely records albums full of feedback to fulfill recording contracts.
posted by Fabulon7 at 11:58 AM on October 8, 2002

Sure Kenny G is an easy target. What about other slightly less offensive hacks, like Wynton Marsalis? He actually had the audacity to do an imitation of Satchmo's singing and playing live on television. I cringed then, and still do when I think back on it.
posted by mikrophon at 12:16 PM on October 8, 2002

Wasn't Metheny the guy who recorded an entire album full of feedback as revenge for having to fulfill a crappy record contract?

Commentary about Metheny's 1992 release Zero Tolerance for Silence:
At least two theories exist about this album. The first is that this was the artist's last solo record due under his contract with Geffen Records, and this release was his way of saying "screw you" to the label...
posted by astirling at 12:16 PM on October 8, 2002

mikrophon: I'm not a fan of Wynton (I prefer his dad and brothers Delfio and Branford) but I don't think anyone could call him a hack. The boy's got chops and knows his history. I just don't like the holier-than-thou attitude that comes across.
posted by Monk at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2002

Whenever I hear the word 'jazz', I reach for my pistol

Come on, now. Ornette Coleman? Dexter Gordon? Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers? 5% of John Zorn's output? There's good Jazz out there.
posted by mikrophon at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2002

The boy's got chops and knows his history.

I agree with both of these statements. He knows everything about those that came before him and has the skills to play exactly like them. It's his water-treading that irks me.

But then, that's kinda how I feel about most modern jazz. It's like the ska, rockabilly and swing revivals that came about in the last decade: Sure, you can play just like (Desmond Dekker, Carl Perkins, Woody Herman, Clifford Brown) but what original ideas do you have?
posted by mikrophon at 1:19 PM on October 8, 2002

I'm a big fan of Pat Metheny's music, but after reading that statement of his, I have to say that he has a humungously large stick up his ass and comes off like an elitist jerk.

As for Richard Thompson, I used to have the album Shoot Out the Lights that he made with his ex-wife, Linda. Great stuff. "Wall of Death" is a classic.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2002

OK, OK, I let a bit of my prejudices slip out there.
Thanks for the tips, mik, I'll go investigate them. I dont think I'll ever be able to like 'free' jazz, tho, but anything which relates to the blues - and clearly, in jazz thats a lot - is sweet to my ears.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2002

Speaking of blasphemy, didn't one of the Marsalis's (Marsali?) do a jazz cover or a Vivaldi trumpet concerto?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:46 PM on October 8, 2002

Oops; that was supposed to read "OF a Vivaldi concerto."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:47 PM on October 8, 2002

Duh, I missed those other two prior references to Shoot Out the Lights. Just shoot me.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:48 PM on October 8, 2002

Zen -
I wouldn't be surprised if that were true, but that does not always lead to a bastardization of the original.

Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea collaborated on some Mozart piano concertos in the 90s. Everything is played legit (and quite wonderfully) except for introductory passages and cadenzas which are interpreted by Corea using jazz harmonizations, and one arrangement where McFerrin does the same with his voice. The result is one of the most gorgeous albums I own. If you do this kind of stuff, make sure it's with dignity and respect toward the original artist. Albeit not having heard what Kenny G did to Armstrong, I gather that's not the case here.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:17 PM on October 8, 2002

As a rock and roller, why should I care what either Pat or Kenny G think? And don't lecture me about how great Coltrane or Bird was, thank you, I've heard that for myself and know it when I hear it.

Pat's talented and dull and Kenny G's untalented and dull and their major failing is dullness, not the amount of talent they do or do not have. During the late 70s it occured to me that a lot of jazz music was becoming easy listening music with chops. On my occaisional listens to Bob Parlotcha's show on NPR I hear a lot of new jazz - it's well played and breaks little new ground. I find jazz snobs to be tiresome - one of these days they might figure out that the recording studio is an instrument in itself and do something besides setting up 4 to 7 musicians in front of microphones and having them play their live set. Miles figured it out in the late 60s - when will they figure it out?

Jazz needs a serious kick in the ass, period.
posted by pyramid termite at 2:17 PM on October 8, 2002

For the past 40 years or more, many jazz musicians seem to be unable to play any way but around the music. Playing the music directly seems to be beneath them. If they can't show their technical pyrotechnics then they don't want to bother.

I recently downloaded some old Ella Fitzgerald MP3s and was thrilled that she actually sung the melody back at one time, with very little of that DooDiiDaaDiDiDoDooDlydyiadiodoopoo scat stuff which I really can't stomach. Lena Horne is that way also. Her old stuff is melodic and soulful, while her later stuff is bouncing everywhere BUT on the melody and just leaves me unsatisfied.

I think Mr. G is more popular than other jazz musicians because he's not concerned with being Mr. HotestJazzMan, but just with playing straight forward music. Though I still consider him too frilly for my tastes. (And I don't really consider him jazz anyway.)
posted by HTuttle at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2002

I dont think I'll ever be able to like 'free' jazz

That's what I used to think, too. I even bought and sold a copy of Free Jazz before getting it again as part of the Beauty is a Rare Thing boxed set. Just once, though, before you die, plop down in between two big speakers, close your eyes, and listen to two quartets improvize at each other. The order that comes out of that initial chaos is staggering.

Jazz needs a serious kick in the ass, period.

The same could be said for the "popular" branch of pretty much every music scene. Mainstream hip-hop, country, jazz, rock, r&b, metal, etc, mostly sucks. They could all use a good kick in the ass.
posted by mikrophon at 2:26 PM on October 8, 2002

Alright, I found it, and listened to it. It's not horrible - I don't like it much, but I just don't see it as an act of musical sacrilege, which might have made it more appealing. It's pop fluff, but so was the original. All the notes are in the right place and Kenny did some clever things with the changes. The truth is, if it'd been Sammy X, or Tommy Y, or Sam, Dick or Harry G., Pat Metheny wouldn't have been so offended by it.

He wants to complain about musical sacrilege? Let's hope Kid 606 or Opal get ahold of this song ... "I s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-ss-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-ay ttttttttttttttttttttttoooooo ..." (BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIP)(smurf voice)watawonerful world-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d bRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIP!! Now that would be a cool atrocity.

Oh, and mikrophon, you're right about other genres needing a kick, too ...
posted by pyramid termite at 2:47 PM on October 8, 2002

Great links.

I agree with Pat Metheny.

Richard Thompson is a great guitarist/singer/songwriter. I have probably seen him perform more than any other artist. As a young musician, I was influenced more by Fairport than by any other band.

That song, however, is absolute crap. It is what he would regard as a throw-away. I recommend seeking out any of the hundreds of other songs he has written and recorded -- all of them are brilliant.
posted by free pie at 3:19 PM on October 8, 2002

To those who think jazz needs a kick in the ass, check out David S. Ware -- I'd recommend Godspellized or Go See the World to start with, but they're all worth listening to. Talk about high energy -- but the man's saying something, he's not just braying. (I used to be leery of free jazz too, but you put a toe in, then a foot, and pretty soon you're listening to Ornette and Cecil Taylor with pleasure...)
posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on October 8, 2002

another anti-kenny g. rant found here

i think that jazz becoming 'lame' in the critic's and the public's eyes is similar to the pop situation. what's being shoved down our throats is recycled nonsense. even the best publicly funded jazz radio staions tend to not delve into anything new but are more than happy playing re-hashed tribute albums and the classic stuff. there's plenty of great *new* jazz out there, but its not on the radio and the marsalis brothers aren't going to be dropping the armstrong/ellington tributes anytime soon.
posted by oliver_crunk at 3:48 PM on October 8, 2002

Jeez, it's not being "shoved" down anybody's throat. If you want to bitch about something, bitch about the, er, "variegated" tastes of the consuming public. Mr. G, whether he goes to the same church-o-Jazz as Mr. Metheny or not, has provided an awful lot of people with the art they like. Is that a crime? (And, for the record, I find just about all of Mr. G's work execrable, and like most of Pat Metheny's stuff).
posted by gregor-e at 5:32 PM on October 8, 2002

no. it's not a crime that kenny g. provides art that a lot of people like. and mr. g couldn't even point us in the direction of any church-o-jazz.
posted by oliver_crunk at 5:54 PM on October 8, 2002

After getting a good chuckle from Pat's comments, Richard's song, and the comments here, I had to see for myself how bad this was - off to Limewire I went. A search on "wonderful world kenny" delivered results like "it's a wonderful world - kenny g" and "ray charles kenny g - wonderful world"

Without even listening to the track, I weep for the future.
posted by birddog at 6:53 PM on October 8, 2002

i got a kick out of pat's comments, but i think he's going a little over the top. far worse has been perpitrated on great music.

i was more interested in some of the comments on this thread about jazz. why exactly does music have to "break new ground" to be good? i'll take a more traditional idea performed with great style, technique and musicality over a "cutting edge" idea that lacks any of these elements any day. Innovation is a healthy thing in music, but it is not the only measure of what makes music good, or even important. Mozart didn't innovate so much as perfect a style of music that was already fairly well established when he was composing. Much the same could be said of the unjustly maligned Wynton Marsalias, who, although no innovator, is by far the best jazz trumpter around right now, IMO (yes, he has some wacky opinions about jazz, but that's no reason to dismiss the guy's music).

pyramid termite: i think you are the first person i've ever heard anyone object to jazz because it wasn't overdubbed enough. in fact, many criticize miles' later recordings precisely because they were edited together in a studio and lack much of the spontenaity that many would say is a defining characteristic of jazz. i like some of the post bitch's brew miles stuff, but it doesn't hold a candle to his work with either of the two great quintets of the 50s and 60s.
posted by boltman at 11:39 PM on October 8, 2002

I think La Rochefoucauld's maxim, Some people hold a contrary opinion because they find the best seats already taken and they do not wish to sit in a back row paraphrased from less than verbatim recollection — is applicable here.

Abridged edition: What boltman said.
posted by y2karl at 12:00 AM on October 9, 2002

My take on G is that he *is* concerned with being 'Mr. HotestJazzMan', but he's only interested (and only capable) of coming off that way to an audience who has no knowledge of the history of jazz. He plays lots of fast stuff. But none of it takes any risks. It's just dull, easy-listening music. Something for the dentist's office.

Jazz is a form where context is really important. If your only idea of jazz is just that it's "instrumental music with lots of saxaphones" then you might mistake G's sound for jazz and wonder why jazz is so boring. I think that along with the fact that he makes money hand over fist and has really bad hair) is the reason jazz musicians and jazz fans hate him.
posted by wheat at 3:32 PM on October 9, 2002

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