Patrick Bruce "Pat" Metheny (/məˈθiːni/ mə-THEE-nee; born August 12, 1954) is an American jazz guitarist and composer.
He is the leader of the Pat Metheny Group and is also involved in duets, solo works and other side projects. His style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, post-bop, latin jazz and jazz fusion. Metheny has three gold albums and 20 Grammy Awards. He is the brother of jazz flugelhornist and journalist Mike Metheny.
Metheny was born and raised in Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb southeast of Kansas City. At age 15, he won a Down Beat scholarship to a one-week jazz camp and was taken under the wing of guitarist Attila Zoller. Zoller also invited the young Metheny to New York City to see the likes of Jim Hall and Ron Carter. Following his graduation from Lee's Summit High School, Metheny briefly attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida in 1972, where he was quickly offered a teaching position. He then moved to Boston to take a teaching assistantship at the Berklee College of Music with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton. He first made his name as a teenage prodigy under the wing of Burton. In 1974 he made his recording debut on two sessions for pianist Paul Bley and Carol Goss' Improvising Artists label, along with fretless electric bassist Jaco Pastorius.
Metheny entered the wider jazz scene in 1975 when he joined Burton's band, where he played alongside resident jazz guitarist Mick Goodrick. Goodrick was a 1967 alumnus of Berklee, who had held a teaching post there in the early 1970s. The two guitarists were interviewed jointly by Guitar Player Magazine in 1975, bringing them to the attention of fellow guitar aficionados around the world. Metheny's musical momentum carried him rapidly to the point that he had soon written enough material to record his debut album, Bright Size Life, with Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses.
Metheny's next recording, 1977's Watercolors, was the first to feature pianist Lyle Mays, Metheny's most frequent collaborator. The other musicians on this session were Eberhard Weber on upright bass and Danny Gottlieb on drums. Metheny's next album formalized his partnership with Mays and began the Pat Metheny Group, featuring several songs they co-wrote; the album was released as the eponymous Pat Metheny Group on West German musician/producer Manfred Eicher's ECM record label. Metheny also has released solo, trio, quartet and duet recordings with musicians such as Hall, Dave Holland, Roy Haynes, Toninho Horta, Burton, Chick Corea, Pedro Aznar, Pastorius, Charlie Haden, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Bill Stewart, Ornette Coleman, Brad Mehldau, Joni Mitchell, Milton Nascimento, Santana, Dominic Miller, Michael Brecker, Trilok Gurtu and many others.
Metheny has also joined projects such as Song X with Coleman; Parallel Realities, with Jack DeJohnette; Jazz Baltica with Ulf Wakenius and other Nordic jazz players like E.S.T. and Nils Landgren; and he has played with singers from all over the world, such as Silje Nergaard on Tell Me Where You're Going (1990), Bruce Hornsby on Harbor Lights (1993) and Hot House (1995), Noa on Noa (1994), Abbey Lincoln on A Turtle's Dream (1994) and Anna Maria Jopek on Upojenie (2002).
Metheny has been touring for more than 30 years, playing between 120 and 240 concerts a year. He has three children with his wife, Latifa.
Pat Metheny Group
The Pat Metheny Group is a band founded in 1977. The first Pat Metheny Group release, 1978's Pat Metheny Group, featured the writing duo of Metheny and Mays, a collaboration which has spanned over 25 years and 15 albums. The recording featured the electric bass playing of Pastorius's protégé, Mark Egan. The second group album, American Garage (1980), was a breakout hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and crossing over onto the pop charts as well, largely on the strength of the up-tempo opening track "(Cross the) Heartland", which became a signature tune for the group. This early incarnation of the group included Dan Gottlieb on drums.
The group built upon its success through constant touring across the USA and Europe. The early group featured a unique sound, particularly due to Metheny's Gibson ES-175 guitar coupled to two Eventide Clockworks' Harmonizer digital delay units and Mays' Oberheim and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesizers and Steinway piano. Even in this early state the band played in a wide range of styles from folk to rock to experimental. Metheny later started working with the Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer and the Synclavier guitar system made by New England Digital. Mays expanded his setup with the Synclavier keyboard and later with various other synthesizers.
From 1982 to 1985 the Pat Metheny Group released Offramp (1982); a live set, Travels (1983); and First Circle (1984); as well as The Falcon and the Snowman (1985), a soundtrack album for the movie of the same name in which they collaborated with David Bowie. A single from the soundtrack, "This Is Not America", reached number 14 in the British Top 40 in early 1985 as well as number 32 in the USA.
Offramp marked the first appearance of bassist Steve Rodby (replacing Egan) and Brazilian "guest artist" Nana Vasconcelos, whose work on percussion and wordless vocals marked the first addition of Latin music shadings to the Group's sound, a trend which continued and intensified on First Circle with the addition of Argentinian multi-instrumentalist Aznar, which also marked the group debut of drummer Paul Wertico (replacing Gottlieb) – both Rodby and Wertico were members of the Fred Simon Group at the time, and had played in Simon-Bard as well, in Chicago, before joining Metheny.
This period became a peak of commercial popularity of the band, especially for the live recording Travels. First Circle would also be Metheny's last project with ECM Records; he had been a key artist for ECM, but left following conceptual disagreements with label founder Manfred Eicher. The next Pat Metheny Group releases would be based around a further intensification of the Brazilian rhythms first heard in the early 1980s. Additional Latin musicians appeared as guests, notably Brazilian percussion player Armando Marçal. Still Life (1987) was the Group's first release on new label Geffen Records, and featured several popular tracks, followed by Letter from Home (1989), which also featured Aznar and Marçal. During this period The Steppenwolf Theater Company of Chicago featured an assortment of compositions by Metheny and Mays for their production of Lyle Kessler's play Orphans, where it has remained special optional music for all productions of the play around the world since.
Metheny then again delved into adventurous solo and band projects, and four years went by before the release of the next record for the next Pat Metheny Group, a live set entitled The Road to You, which featured tracks from the two Geffen studio albums amongst new tunes. The group integrated new instrumentation and technologies into its work, notably Mays' unique playing technique accomplished by adding midi-controlled synth sounds at command during acoustic solos via a pedal on the piano.
Mays and Metheny themselves refer to the following three Pat Metheny Group releases as the triptych: We Live Here (1995), Quartet (1996), and Imaginary Day (1997). Moving away from the Latin style which had dominated the releases of the previous 10 years, these albums were the most wide-ranging and least commercial Group releases, including experimentations with sequenced synthetic drums on one track, free-form improvisation on acoustic instruments, and symphonic signatures, blues and sonata schemes.
After another hiatus, the Pat Metheny Group re-emerged in 2002 with the release of Speaking of Now, another change in direction adding musicians to the band who were a generation younger and thus grew up with the Pat Metheny Group. The new members were drummer Antonio Sanchez from Mexico City, trumpet player Cuong Vu, and bassist, vocalist, guitarist, and percussionist Richard Bona from Cameroon.
The latest release, 2005's The Way Up, is another large concept record which consists of one 68-minute-long piece (although split into four sections solely for CD navigation), a tightly organized but not through-composed piece based on a pair of three-note kernels: The opening B, A#, F# and the derived B, A, F#. The reception of The Way Up was consistent, with standing ovations in each of the almost 90 concerts during the world tour of 2005. On The Way Up, harmonica player Grégoire Maret from Switzerland was introduced as a new group member, while Bona contributed only as a guest musician.
During the world tour Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Nando Lauria completed the line-up of the Pat Metheny Group. The Way Up was released through Nonesuch Records and all of Metheny's Geffen and Warner Brothers back catalogue is to be released on the label. Core members of the group are Metheny, Mays, and Steve Rodby (double and electric bass), who joined in 1980. Drummer Paul Wertico replaced Gottlieb in 1983 and continued to play with the group for more than 18 years, until he was replaced by Sanchez, currently also a member of The Pat Metheny Trio.
The current Pat Metheny Group members are Metheny, Mays, Rodby, Sanchez, and Vu. Other musicians that have been hired regularly for Metheny Group tours are: Mark Ledford (vocals, trumpet, guitar); David Blamires (vocals, miscellaneous instruments); Marçal (percussion); Aznar (vocals, guitar, percussion); and Bona (vocals, guitar, bass, and percussion). On the most recent tour to promote the record The Way Up, Grégoire Maret (harmonica, percussion, vocals) and Lauria (guitar, percussion, vocals) joined the Group. Pat Metheny has collected 19 Grammy Awards, and of them, as part of The Pat Metheny Group, 10 of those awards were consecutive.
When working outside of the confines of the PMG, Metheny has shown different sides to his musical personality. On Secret Story (1992) and Orchestrion (2009), he has ventured into areas of music not covered by the PMG. In the late 1980s Metheny began collaborating more with established jazz figures. While in his main career Metheny moved from Brazilian and other styles of Latin jazz into more traditional jazz, he continued to expand his musical boundaries in the mid-90s with the avant-garde albums Zero Tolerance for Silence and The Sign of Four (with Derek Bailey). Metheny's latest side projects team him with Brad Mehldau and his trio. In 2006, Metheny appeared as a sideman on Brecker's last album, Pilgrimage.
In 2012, Metheny revisited a quartet approach with Sanchez (drums), Ben Williams (bass) and Chris Potter (Sax). This ensemble was called the Unity Band. They toured Europe and the US during the latter half of the year.
In 2013, as an extension of the Unity Band project, Metheny announced the formation of the new Pat Metheny Unity Group, with an associated world tour.
Metheny also works for a non-profit organization known as CELP, The California Environmental Legacy Project.
Continuing the tradition of jazz guitarists borrowing tones and techniques from their rock counterparts, Metheny has made alterations to the jazz guitar tone palette.
Prior to Metheny, Pat Martino had used the electric twelve-string guitar on a studio album, Desperado, and John McLaughlin had used a double-neck electric guitar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. (Lenny Breau had introduced the acoustic twelve-string to jazz.) Metheny introduced alternative 12-string tunings to jazz; these can be heard on tunes such as "Sirabhorn" (from Bright Size Life) and San Lorenzo (from Pat Metheny Group and Travels).
Metheny's tone, which has evolved over the years, involves using the natural full-frequency response of his hollow-body guitar, combined with high-midrange settings on his amplifier to create a smooth, sustaining lead sound that is virtually devoid of piercing treble yet is able to cut through a dense mix. By using digital signal processing that involves digital delay/chorus and reverb, he has created a big, rich, and resonant instrumental voice.
Metheny was also one of the first jazz guitarists to make heavy use of the Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer. While John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell also used Roland guitar synthesizers heavily in the 1980s, Metheny is the only one of the three who still uses the instrument regularly. Unlike many guitar synthesizer users, Metheny limits himself to a very small number of sounds. In interviews, he has argued that each of the timbres achievable through guitar synthesis should be treated as a separate instrument, and that he has tried to master each of these "instruments" instead of using the synthesizer for incidental color. One of the "patches" that he has often used is on Roland's JV-80 "Vintage Synth" expansion card, entitled titled "Pat's GR-300".. Metheny was also heavily into the Synclavier Digital Audio Workstation made by New England Digital and brought it out on tour starting in the early 1980s.
42-string Pikasso guitar
Metheny plays a custom-made Pikasso I created by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer on "Into the Dream" and on the albums Quartet, Imaginary Day, Jim Hall & Pat Metheny, Trio→Live, and the Speaking of Now Live and Imaginary Day DVDs. Metheny has also used the guitar in his guest appearances on other artists' albums.
Manzer has also made many acoustic guitars for Metheny, including a mini guitar, an acoustic sitar guitar, and the baritone guitar, which Metheny used for the recording of One Quiet Night. His latest use of the Pikasso is found on the album Metheny Mehldau Quartet, his second collaboration with pianist Mehldau and his trio sidemen Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard; the Pikasso is featured in Metheny's impressionistic composition "The Sound of Water". Pat uses D'Addario Chrome Strings as well as their Acoustic Strings on his instruments.
As a young musician, Metheny did everything he could to sound like Wes Montgomery, but when he was 14 or 15, he decided that he felt that it was disrespectful to imitate him. In the liner notes on the 2-disc Montgomery compilation Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides, Metheny is quoted as saying, "Smokin' at the Half Note is the absolute greatest jazz-guitar album ever made. It is also the record that taught me how to play."
The angular compositions, asymmetrical lines, relentless rhythmic drive, and deep blues feeling of Coleman's New York Is Now! inspired Metheny to find his own direction. He has recorded Coleman compositions on a number of his records (starting with a medley of "Round Trip" and "Broadway Blues" on his debut Bright Size Life); worked extensively with Coleman collaborators such as Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, and Billy Higgins; and has even made a record, Song X, with Coleman.
Metheny's playing (as well as his tone) also show significant influence by Hall, Joe Diorio, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, McLaughlin and other classic jazz players. Metheny has often been quoted saying that he is as likely to name non-guitarists as significant stylistic influences as fellow guitar players, giving as examples players like Clifford Brown and John Coltrane. He has stated that Miles Davis' live album Four & More was hugely influential on his pursuit into jazz music. He has also admitted to being heavily influenced by the Beatles, going so far as to say that everything by the Beatles has impacted him as a musician. He has paid significant attention to the evolution of guitar playing across genres, and is familiar with the playing of notables from the likes of rock guitarists Eddie Van Halen to Leo Kottke.
In particular, he has been influenced by Brazilian music – both the European-influenced jazz sound of the bossa nova and the intensely polyrhythmic Afro-Brazilian sounds of the country's northeast. Metheny made 3 albums on ECM with the Brazilian vocalist and percussionist Naná Vasconcelos in the early 1980s. He also lived in Brazil from the late 1980s to the early 1990s and performed with several local musicians such as Milton Nascimento and Toninho Horta. He also played with Antonio Carlos Jobim as a tribute, in a live performance in Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters: Verve 50th Anniversary.
He is also a fan of several pop music artists, especially singer/songwriters including James Taylor (after whom he named the song "James" on Offramp); Bruce Hornsby, Cheap Trick, and Joni Mitchell, with whom he performed on her Shadows and Light (1980, Asylum/ Elektra) live tour. Metheny is also fond of Buckethead's music. He also worked with, sponsored or helped to make recordings of singer/songwriters from all over the world, such as Pedro Aznar (Argentina), Akiko Yano (Japan), David Bowie (UK), Silje Nergaard (Norway), Noa (Israel), and Anna Maria Jopek (Poland).
Two of Metheny's recordings, The Way Up and Orchestrion, evidence the influence of American minimalist composer Steve Reich and utilize similar rhythmic figures structured around pulse. Reich's composition Electric Counterpoint was first recorded by Metheny and appears on the Different Trains CD released by Nonesuch Records in 1987.
Metheny took part in recording some of the CDs by his older brother, trumpeter Mike Metheny, a jazz musician and a trumpet player based in Kansas City, Missouri, among them Day In – Night Out (1986) and more recently Close Enough for Love (2001).
- Goins, Wayne E. (2001). Emotional Response to Music: Pat Metheny's Secret Story. Edwin Mellen Press.