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Thread: Time for a New Pat Metheny Group Thread

  1. #1
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    Time for a New Pat Metheny Group Thread

    OK, I dug out a four disc compilation of live stuff that Ken Walsh sent me back in the days of PE 2.0 and I forgot how great this stuff is. Looks like I am now off on a Metheny/Mays kick that will compete with my current Marillion kick and my strange compulsion to play Led Zep's "Tea for One" every morning.

    Any further thoughts on Metheny and and Mays?
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  2. #2
    Metheny and Mays -- Arguably one of the finest pairings in modern music that ever was, IMHO at least. Metheny is my favorite living guitarist, and Mays is a monster piano/keyboard player (but subtle enough that I think he gets overlooked sometimes, perhaps). The music of PMG never fails to lift my spirits whenever I'm feeling down, and for me "Yolanda, You Learn" is one of the most life-affirming songs of all time.

    These guys never released a dud. Personal favorites would probably be Letter From Home, First Circle, and As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, but there are plenty of gems throughout their catalog. What are your favorites?

    I'm not a guitar player so my terminology is probably way off, but Metheny has such a soft and fluid way of playing, and a knack for melody that just hits me like no other. Reaches right to my heart.

    A Metheny/Mays kick is a good kick to be on.

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    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Indeed. Tasty stuff. "These guys never released a dud"? You must be excluding "Zero Tolerance for Silence."

    I have a KZAM live broadcast (Oct. 3, 1977) where the PMG was premiering the pieces from their debut album (1978) and the spirit and playing is in every way superior to the ECM studio recording, IMO.

    Also, I just finished digitizing two LP-only albums of the quartet of great albums by the Wayne Johnson Trio ("Arrowhead", "Grasshopper," "Everybody's Painting Pictures" and "Spirit of the Dancer") (1980-1988). Wayne sounds an awful lot like Metheny to my ears, and is widely overlooked. His backup on these albums is Flim & The BBs (minus Billy Barber).

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    "These guys never released a dud"? You must be excluding "Zero Tolerance for Silence."
    Indeed I was!

    I was thinking more of their work together as PMG, rather than separately.

    That said, Pat Metheny's Secret Story is a masterpiece, IMO. Breathtaking.

    I've never heard any of Wayne Johnson's stuff, but I'm gonna check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!

  5. #5
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    When I leave one of his shows I almost always have a silly grin on my face and a wonderful feeling of peace inside.
    At a time when I was still progging hard (maybe still am, but with a much broader taste in music ) a friend pulled out a pre release copy of American Garage just gushing about it.
    We probably listened to it 3 times that evening, been hooked ever since.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
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    Compositionally Metheny can be amazing. The cinematic scope of the music, the sense of texture and space. I love it.

    So here's the "but" part: I find his soloing with PMG often insipid, particularly on the late-80s and 90s releases and in concert. I saw the Imaginary Day tour and he grimaced (almost as much as Phil Miller) during all the solos as though he was going through some sort of catharsis in front of our very eyes but there wasn't much "there" there. I bought the DVD several years later and it confirmed what I remembered live. I think it was largely shtick.

    Still enjoyed the show though!

  7. #7
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    PM has some goofy guitar face, that is for sure. He gets some shit eating grins that are hard to believe are 'natural'.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
    -- Aristotle
    Nostalgia, you know, ain't what it used to be. Furthermore, they tells me, it never was.
    “A Man Who Does Not Read Has No Appreciable Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read” - Unknown

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    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    At least he doesn't 'sing along' like Keith Jarrett.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    At least he doesn't 'sing along' like Keith Jarrett.
    No he hires other people to do that. One of the things that's always bugged me about the PMG is the vocals. I could understand it if you had actual lyrics for them to sing, but here, most of the time, anyway, it's just some guy going "wooh, oh-oh" or whatever, singing a melody that's already being played by guitar and/or keyboards. I never understood the deal with that.

    Having said that, though, I do enjoy a lot of Metheny's music, but my favorites tend to be the more stripped down stuff, such as the ECM era records (well, up through Offramp, anyway, I don't have the last couple he did for ECM), Quartet, One Quiet Night, and the live album he did with Bill Stewart and Larry Grenadier. I also like Imaginary Day (in spite of the vocals on some of the tracks) and The Way Up.

    I've found I have to take the things I don't like about Pat's music, like the vocals and the (at times) excessive "smoothness" , and put that aside and focus on the compositions and playing. For instance, there's a track on Imaginary Day, I think it's called Follow Me, that has a section with vocals, but the "A" section has this great melody, which he plays entirely as harmonics on the guitar.

    Another one like that is Last Train Home, where I really like the first section, with that electric sitar melody, but then again the B section has the wordless vocals. Mind you, he's recorded at least one solo acoustic version of the composition (it's on One Quiet Night), but needless to say, that doesn't have the electric sitar on it. So, again one has to take the good with the bad, as it were, for the purposes of enjoying the stuff I do like.

    BTW, the first Metheny record I actually owned, was The Sign Of Four, the 3 CD skronk-fest collaboration with Paul Wertico, Gregg Bendian, avant guitar god Derek Bailey. I had heard some of his music before that (believe it or not, VH-1 used to play the gaggle of videos he made in the 80's), so I knew anything he did with Derek Bailey was going to be "different", and of course it was. I then remember going out and buying the Wichita Falls album, and not liking it at all, at first.

    Then a couple years later, I went to LA to see Magma play at the oriignal House Of Blues, and while there, my friend Matt played Imaginary Day, and that's what got me more firmly interested in Metheny's more "in" music. So like the first thing I bought when I got home from that trip was that album, and as I said, I've gotten a few more since then. I know I should own Travels, but it seems like whenever I go looking for it, I can't find a reasonably priced copy.

    And since then, I've seen him live four times, twice with the PMG (including one, the first hour of which consisted of them playing The Way Up in it's entirety), once where he played with just Christian McBride on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums backing him (that one was at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra), and most recently last summer he played just around the corner from my house (literally) with a quartet.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by markwoll View Post
    PM has some goofy guitar face, that is for sure. He gets some shit eating grins that are hard to believe are 'natural'.
    I always thought it was his hair that looked goofy, like he just rolled out of bed or something. IT always seemed to convey, to me, a musician too busy being a top flight guitarist, composer, bandleader, etc to bother with brushing his hair occasionally.

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    Big fan here. Much greatness, very small percentage that doesn't reach me. The video document of The Way Up is mind-blowing.
    David
    Happy with what I have to be happy with.

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    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aith01 View Post
    I've never heard any of Wayne Johnson's stuff, but I'm gonna check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!



  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    No he hires other people to do that. One of the things that's always bugged me about the PMG is the vocals. I could understand it if you had actual lyrics for them to sing, but here, most of the time, anyway, it's just some guy going "wooh, oh-oh" or whatever, singing a melody that's already being played by guitar and/or keyboards. I never understood the deal with that.
    That's really an oversimplification, and I think even you'd agree that it is. On at least three records, that "some guy going "wooh, oh-oh" or whatever" was Pedro Aznar, an Argentinian musician of some renown. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but you could show at least little respect for him right?

    If you don't "get" the point of wordless vocals (in jazz, no less), I don't really know what to say to that. *shrug*

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by markwoll View Post
    When I leave one of his shows I almost always have a silly grin on my face and a wonderful feeling of peace inside.
    At a time when I was still progging hard (maybe still am, but with a much broader taste in music ) a friend pulled out a pre release copy of American Garage just gushing about it.
    We probably listened to it 3 times that evening, been hooked ever since.
    Great story!

    American Garage has such a nice open sound, and it always makes me feel peaceful when I listen to it.

    What's your favorite(s) by PMG?

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    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aith01 View Post
    Great story!

    American Garage has such a nice open sound, and it always makes me feel peaceful when I listen to it.

    What's your favorite(s) by PMG?
    That is a Hard question. Album wise.
    I am a fan of live music, so The Road To You covers a lot of favorites.
    Song wise:
    San Lorenzo (Pat Metheny Group ), Bright Size Live, Midwestern Nights Dream, ( Bright Size Live ), Follow Me ( Imaginary Day ), Offramp ( Offramp), Letter From Home ( Letter From Home ). To name but a few.
    And I like the Orchestrion project. The video is nice, and I enjoy his "solos" with it live.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
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    Nostalgia, you know, ain't what it used to be. Furthermore, they tells me, it never was.
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  16. #16
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    I always thought it was his hair that looked goofy, like he just rolled out of bed or something. IT always seemed to convey, to me, a musician too busy being a top flight guitarist, composer, bandleader, etc to bother with brushing his hair occasionally.
    Lyle Mays really had the hair shaking thing going on.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
    -- Aristotle
    Nostalgia, you know, ain't what it used to be. Furthermore, they tells me, it never was.
    “A Man Who Does Not Read Has No Appreciable Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read” - Unknown

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by aith01 View Post
    That's really an oversimplification, and I think even you'd agree that it is. On at least three records, that "some guy going "wooh, oh-oh" or whatever" was Pedro Aznar, an Argentinian musician of some renown. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but you could show at least little respect for him right?
    Well, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I find the vocals superfluous in this context.

    If you don't "get" the point of wordless vocals (in jazz, no less), I don't really know what to say to that. *shrug*
    I think I know what you're inferring, that there's some connection here to the great jazz vocalists of the past, e.g. Ella Fitzgerald, Jon Hendricks, etc. But I get what they did, they were improvising solos, just as the other musicians did, whereas in the PMG stuff, it just sounds like the singers are singing melodies that are already there.

    In general, though, I prefer my jazz to be instrumental. About the only jazz vocalist I like is June Tyson.
    Last edited by GuitarGeek; 03-04-2018 at 09:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Well, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but...whereas in the PMG stuff, it just sounds like the singers are singing melodies that are already there.
    It's orchestration, combining instruments or voice with other instruments in order to achieve a specific and unique texture and/or timbre. Metheny/Mays are quite adept at this, and it's a big part of what gives the music a distinct sound. Maria Schneider, Ben Monder, Kenny Werner, and many others have done this successfully, IMO. No disrespect intended here either.

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    In general, though, I prefer my jazz to be instrumental...
    Can't argue with that!
    David
    Happy with what I have to be happy with.

  19. #19
    Member BobM's Avatar
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    Favorite Metheny? Damn, that's hard, but from his solo work I like Secret Story, obviously.

    From his group albums I would probably go with Imaginary Day then maybe The Way Up.

    Then there's Lyle's self titled solo album which is also great.
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    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    Favorite. Well, you never forget your first love.

    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  21. #21
    I'm generally not a fan of jazz vocals, but I think it really works in Metheny's material. I like the texture that it adds, and it's very much in service to the music (whereas too many other vocals are distracting and in service to the singer, IMO).
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    Member nosebone's Avatar
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    Wichita's my favorite also.

    Big Eberhard influence on that one.
    no tunes, no dynamics, no nosebone

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    Favorite. Well, you never forget your first love.

    Good choice.

    The ending minutes of the title track almost moved me to tears the first time I heard it. Something exceedingly rare for me, especially with instrumental music.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post

    And since then, I've seen him live four times, twice with the PMG (including one, the first hour of which consisted of them playing The Way Up in it's entirety), once where he played with just Christian McBride on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums backing him (that one was at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra)
    The Way Up and the trio were two of the Metheny shows I have seen too. I also saw the Letter From Home tour in 1989, Metheny with Gary Burton's quartet in 2006 and solo w/Orchestrion in 2010.

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    1. Pat Methney Group s/t
    2. New Chautauqua
    3. As Fall Wichita
    4. Offramp
    5. American Garage

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