The in­cred­i­ble Pat Metheny has been push­ing the bound­aries of mod­ern jazz for over 40 years. John Wheatcroft ex­plores his style.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

John Wheatcroft doffs his hat in hon­our of per­haps the finest mod­ern jazzer, Pat Metheny.

Pat Metheny is a phe­nom­e­nal gui­tarist, com­poser and all-round mu­si­cian. From the early ‘70s and while still in his teens, Metheny be­gan to gain ex­po­sure as a mem­ber of vi­bra­phon­ist Gary Bur­ton’s band on record­ings with bass vir­tu­oso, Jaco Pas­to­rius, and as the youngest ever lec­turer at Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic. From then to now Pat’s ca­reer has been stag­ger­ingly fruit­ful, as band leader, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with artists such as Michael Brecker, Or­nette Cole­man and John Scofield, as side­man for Joni Mitchell, Bruce Hornsby and many more, and solo per­former with ground-break­ing projects such as his Orchestrion Project and solo acous­tic al­bum, One Quiet Night. He has re­ceived 35 Grammy nom­i­na­tions across 12 dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, win­ning 20, and he shows no signs of slow­ing down.

Pat has achieved the Holy Grail in jazz, cre­at­ing a unique voice on his in­stru­ment while sound­ing com­pletely con­nected to the his­tory and vo­cab­u­lary of jazz. So while you can clearly dis­cern the in­flu­ence of Wes Mont­gomery and Jim Hall, this is bal­anced with a more horn-like vo­cab­u­lary taken from John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Michael Brecker. Add the an­ar­chic free sprit from Or­nette Cole­man and Derek Bai­ley, a mas­tery of Latin rhythms plus an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the melodic sim­plic­ity of James Tay­lor, govern all this with a con­sid­er­able imag­i­na­tion and you’re in the gen­eral ball­park.

Pat’s compositional prow­ess is per­haps the main fac­tor that sets him apart. Any­one that can claim to have an en­tire ‘Real’ book ded­i­cated ex­clu­sively to their pieces is pro­lific by any­one’s stan­dard. Check him out! His play­ing and writ­ing tran­scend bound­aries with in­tel­li­gence, flair and beauty. One senses with Metheny that the only thing that matters to him is the mu­sic and all the other trap­pings of his suc­cess have lim­ited in­ter­est for him.

The fol­low­ing eight ex­am­ples typ­ify what Pat might play in a spe­cific im­pro­vi­sa­tional sit­u­a­tion. This should be con­sid­ered the start of your stud­ies, so con­sider some care­ful lis­ten­ing, tran­scrib­ing and wood-shed­ding to get the most from this les­son. Don’t get too con­sumed with tech­nique, as it’s the mu­si­cal ideas that have the most value.

Pat favours a lightly-picked legato ap­proach but this could eas­ily be mod­i­fied to fit your pre­ferred play­ing style. How­ever, It makes sense to fol­low the tran­scribed lines as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble to be­gin, and then al­low what­ever comes nat­u­rally to come to the fore while keep­ing a care­ful watch on mu­si­cal fac­tors such as clar­ity, time­keep­ing ac­cu­racy, flow and swing. As al­ways, en­joy!

I would al­ways con­tend that tal­ent Is an el­e­ment, but Ul­ti­mately It Is mostly hard work Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny with his Ibanez sig­na­ture model

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