As a teenage prodigy, Pat Metheny found himself playing with the jazz masters of his native Kansas, learning about the music and life of the city’s top musicians.
Fifty years later, Metheny, multiple Grammy winner, prolific entertainer and one of the world’s greatest guitarists, is doing that favor for a generation of young musicians with his Side-Eye project, leading them to record and perform. spin with him.
“I’ve been such a beneficiary myself, going back to my days in Kansas City when I was 15, 16, 17,” Metheny said in a recent video interview. “I was incredibly lucky to find myself playing bandstands in Kansas City with the best musicians in town. That’s really how I learned to play. All of these guys were, obviously, much older than me and gave me not only the opportunity but, being around them, kind of a window into what their worlds were like as musicians and everything else as well.
“Then I was 18 when I joined Gary Burton’s band and have continued to have a great relationship with this very special generation of musicians right above me. They include, of course, Chick Corea , Jack DeJohnette and Gary, especially Steve Swallow, Herbie Hancock This group of people, you know, besides being like my heroes, I ended up playing with them all the time and I got so much out of it.
NYC next to eyesthe album Metheny released in September 2021, finds the acclaimed guitarist accompanied by a handpicked rotating cast, including some of the most exciting and innovative new musicians on the New York scene.
Recorded just before the pandemic, Side-Eyed NYC (V1.1V) is a mix of originals and reworkings of some of Metheny’s most beloved pieces, such as “Timeline”.
The live version of side eyes will feature pianist/organist/keyboardist James Francies and various drummers.
“I’ve already gone through five of the 12 beaters that I hope to use along the way,” Metheny said. “Each of them have amazing abilities, but also kind of a glimpse of my stuff… They all grew up listening to the records that (are) mine and the records that I’m on, so they really understand how to play those tunes in such a way that at the time it was hard for me to find anyone who even knew what I was talking about in some cases.
side eye is the latest innovative project from Metheny, which has won Grammys in 12 different categories, including jazz, new age and country. For his previous album, road to the sunhe has written and recorded with a handful of the world’s finest classical guitarists.
This alone shows that Metheny, who is considered a jazz guitarist, is all over the musical map, not confined or defined by any genre.
“I’m going to take that as a compliment, rather than being accused of being schizophrenic,” Metheny said. “In many ways, the whole issue of gender has eluded me in terms of being able to discuss it or acknowledge it because I kind of feel unaligned.
“Whenever gender discussions come up, I feel like it’s mostly political discussions, cultural discussions or dress code discussions,” he said. “These are usually not musical discussions. The truth is that I’m really only interested in the musical part.
Metheny — who says he and his collaborators could play with Beyoncé one night and not get fired, play with the New York Philharmonic the next day, then do an impromptu jazz performance the next — has been honing his craft for more than five decades, constantly working on the music that animates and defines him.
“I’m much better now than when I started making records,” he said. “My first record I made in 1975. At that time I had only been playing for four or five years, now it’s like 50. During all that time I worked very hard to improve myself not only in terms of playing an instrument, but just as a musician and all that goes with it.”
As an improvising musician, Metheny, who is constantly on tour, is grateful to be able to perform night after night in an ongoing quest to find what he is always looking for. He’s also grateful for the music itself, one of the few anchors of truth in today’s turbulent times.
“You know, I’m not even going to say the last year and a half, the last five and a half years, really, really disturbing times, an incredible aspect of the music, whatever else is going on, you wake up every morning and B-flat is always B-flat,” he said. “It doesn’t change. No matter what happens, you can count on it. So, I feel like we’re coming to terms a currency. We are dealing with something akin to the most valuable bank account in the world“said Metheny. “I feel very lucky.”
Below is an early version of one of Metheny’s most beloved compositions, “Bright Size Life”, and Side-Eye’s reworked version.
Stay up to date with Central Florida news and views through our weekly newsletters and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team works tirelessly to bring you news from Central Florida, and every little bit counts.