Joe Alexander meets guitarist Pat Metheny (below). while overleaf. Tom Lappin wonders Whatever Happened To. . . The Buzzcocks. Plus: the triumphal return ofNorman Chalmerson the Whistlebinkies.
LISTINGS: ROCK 39 JAZZ 35 FOLK 36 CLASSICAL 39
Get down and burn
Joe Alexander frets over the smooth guitar genius of Pat Metheny.
Sometimes. you just have to admit that you can‘t beat the balance sheet. Despite a penchant for playing what falls on these ears as a super-competent but rather bland jazz-fusion. guitarist Pat Metheny is one ofthe few players working out of improvised music — and there is no doubt that he is a supremely gifted improviser. both melodically and harmonically — to rack up the kind ofsalcs figures which bring smiles to the faces of the accounts department as well as the A&R men.
Metheny"s A()R good looks tend to augment that impression. but it is not an analysis the player himselfwould accept as a rationale for his work. As he has demonstrated in other contexts. notably the 80/81 record with saxmen Dewey Redman and Michael Breckcr. the trio set Rejoicing with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins (both ECM). or. supremely. the furious torrent unleashed with ()rnette Coleman (more fission than fusion) on Song X (Geffen). Metheny can get down and burn on the outside with the best of them.
Like his recent excursion into minimalism in
Steve Reich‘s Electric Counterpoint (Nonesuch).
his choosing to work in a more relaxed. groove-oriented format with his own group (Check the latest release. Letter From Home (Geffen). their eighth. for a prime example) is exactly that: a highly conscious choice. but just another aspect of his diverse musical interests.
‘Well.’ Metheny argues. ‘people say to me that playing with Ornette is some huge exception. but I don‘t see it as being very different from what I usually do. I think ofmysclfas essentially a melodic player. and ()rnette would have to be near the top of my list of role models ofmclodic playing— that is certainly what attracted me to his music.
‘In the group. though. we concentrate a lot more on writing and conceptual ideas. rather than the kind of improvisation which might occur when I play with Charlie Iladen and Billy Higgins. We also have a very strong percussion section. and ifanything. rhythm is even more important than melody. lfyou play with really strong rhythmic confidence. you can play almost anything.‘
Metheny is predictably unapologetic about his hi-tech use ofelectronics in his music (‘it‘s not even that controversial to me. although I guess that to some people the idea ofplaying with a sequencer is pretty foreign to jazz‘). and equally so about the generally upbeat feel of his music.
‘A lot ofthe music which I play. and the music which I am interested in playing. is idealistic— it doesn‘t so much represent the way things are as the way I would like them to be. And for us to play such upbeat music gets more and more idealistic as the times get bleaker and bleakcr. and our society becomes less and less culturally attached to the rest of the world.
‘Basically.’ though. the guitarist adds. bringing the motivations back to basics. ‘I play music the way I hear it. and ifit comes out idealistic or optimistic or whatever. then that‘s the way it is.‘
If Metheny chafes a little uncomfortably against the grain ofthe jazz tradition. then his music - and its success — nonetheless remains a tribute to affirmation. a joyful response to the precocious musical gifts which saw him teaching at the University ofMiami and Berklee College in Boston while still in his teens. and to the creative spark of the players around him.
"l‘he Group is very much an cnsemble.‘ he confirms. ‘and the music has a whole lot to do with the individuals who are in the band. It has been very stable. and that has given us a chance to develop together.‘
For his long-awaited Scottish debut. appropriately sponsored by sound-specialists In Hi-Fi (you can bet your life it will be. too). Metheny will be joined by long-time collaborator Lyle Mays on keyboards. Steve Role on bass. and the drums and percussion of Paul Wertico. Pedro Aznar. and Armando Marcal.
PatMet/ieny Group, Usher Hull. Edinburgh. 18 Dec. 8pm.
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Square have been snapped up last. although a special allocation torThe List readers is on olier(see page 92). So tarconiirrned lorthe line-up are Bobbie Coltrane as compere. The River Detectives. Tommy Smith. Bunrig and Patand Greg Kane. We can but hope
that Pat's voice will have recovered irom its apparent
‘tailure' at Hue & Cry's
second night at the SECC
recently. when the band were torced to abandon the receiving some welcome gig atteronlytwo songs. doshlrom the Music In
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several record companies waving large wads oi cash. another word on another street saysthatThe Blue Nile and Virgin are experiencing ‘diﬂiculties'.
releasing their third album
The List 8 — 21 December I989 23