, , , ,

Since the 1970’s, Pat Metheny (1954 – ) has been one
of the major Jazz guitarists on the music scene, both as
a leader and a sideman. He has played with many
“heavyweights,” and his musical credentials are
impeccable. Not long ago, I watched
“Pat Metheny Group: We Live Here (Live in Japan),”
a DVD release of a 1995 concert performance. Not only
did it showcase Metheny’s formidable playing skills,
but also those of his band members. It was a sort
of democratic “cooperative,” and included interview
footage with each participant.

For example, bassist Steve Rodby mentioned his
occasional dual roles as band conductor and
wordmeister, stating that “…whenever everyone’s
playing their best, it means I’ve done my job.”
David Blamires shared vocal and multi-instrumentalist
duties with the late trumpeter Mark Ledford (1960-2004)
and during this concert, Blamires played guitar,
mellophone, flügelhorn, accordion, and marimba!
In fact, when interviewed, Blamires and Ledford
both mentioned that they were occasionally asked
to learn entirely new instruments on two months’
notice. Talk about “pulling your weight” in a band!

As the main composers of the group, Metheny
and keyboardist Lyle Mays were prominently featured
throughout the disc, and although the group has
Metheny’s name, it was clear that the primary
purpose of this group wasn’t to just “show off” his
or any other band member’s playing chops,
regardless of their individual virtuosity. It was
evident that the MUSIC mattered the most, with
each musician’s abilities solely used in the service
of the various compositions. The set list included
numbers, such as “This Is Not America,” from
Metheny’s score for the film, “The Falcon and the
Snowman,” “Have You Heard,” “To the End of
the World,” and “Here to Stay.”

At the same time, I would like to say that I was
quite impressed with Metheny’s tasteful playing,
on a few different instruments. He used the tonal
settings of a true Jazz guitarist, without noticeable
distortions or effects. In general, the music seemed
to mostly adhere to the Smooth Jazz/Fusion genre
that is commonly heard in Los Angeles on KTWV-FM,
aka “The Wave.” While this music is quite beautiful,
impeccably arranged and performed, I’m not
particularly drawn to this genre. Nevertheless,
I welcomed the change of pace, combined with
the knowledge that I was watching and hearing
first-rate musicians. As I haven’t heard a lot of
his music making, I’m curious to check out Metheny’s
other work in different musical contexts. Based upon
the class and quality of the overall show, I’d have
to highly rate this one-hour and 42-minute DVD.