In a word: awesome. I still remember walking into a CD shop here in Penang about 13 years ago. There was this wonderful jazz guitar music playing through the speakers, and surprisingly it caught my attention (I say surprisingly because I’m a pianist, and I usually go for music with lots of piano and keyboards).
I discovered the music I was enthralled with was Pat Metheny’s Still Life (Talking). With its infusion of Brazilian rhythms, wordless vocals, and Pat’s signature jazz guitar sound, it was unlike any other CD I’d ever heard. Needless to say I bought it straight away and have been hooked to Pat’s music ever since.
If you’re new to Pat Metheny’s music, here are the CDs I would recommend, in chronological order:
- As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (1981) This is like a road trip through middle America (in fact Pat was born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri). Backed by Lyle Mays (a brilliant keyboard player) and Nana Vasconcelos on percussion, close your eyes and feast your ears on the journey that is truly memorable.
- Still Life (Talking) (1987) The album that started my enriching journey with Pat’s music. Brazilian rhythms pervade throughout this CD; just listen to the first track, Minuando (Six Eight).
- Letter from Home (1989) This CD, to me, feels like a second installment of Still Life (Talking). The playing standards of Pat and his band are all top-notch.
- Secret Story (1992) If I could take only one Pat Metheny CD to my desert island, this would definitely be THE one. With the superb backing of many talented musicians, members of the London Orchestra, and even the Cambodian Royal Palace Choir, this is a veritable tour de force of over 75 minutes of music. My favourite track is Finding and Believing, a roller-coaster ride through African vocal chants meeting up with Steve Reich and Pat, who does his amazing guitar solos towards the conclusion of the piece. This album has been re-released as a 2-CD set, with five bonus tracks which did not make it to the initial recording.
- We Live Here (1995) The Pat Metheny Group is in full-swing here, taking us on another trip across the USA, this time perhaps a bit more funkier. The opening track Here to Stay, grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go. Not that I mind at all.
- Quartet (1996), Imaginary Day (1997), Speaking of Now (2002), The Way Up (2005) These four albums see Pat delving into experimental jazz rhythms while still letting the music speak. The nice thing is never knowing what he’ll come up with next. The Way Up resembles a four-movement jazz symphony, which suits me just fine because I like classical music anyway.
It probably sounds corny, but Pat’s music always uplifts my spirits. The way he plays his guitar, you know he’s playing from his heart. And what a wonderful composer he is as well.
Here’s a video of a concert performance of Finding and Believing (Part 2):