Pat Metheny brings brilliant technique, versatility, innovation and overall musicality to his playing and his compositions, making him one of the most accomplished jazz guitarists out there.
Up to this point, he has received an astounding 20 Grammy awards, most recently 2013's Best Jazz Instrumental Album award for the album United Band, which also features the talents of Chris Potter (saxophone), Ben Williams (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums).
And while the band smokes on the record, I'm guessing they'll be even more exciting to see in concert, which we're lucky to have the chance to do at the Lobero Theatre next Wednesday, Feb. 26. Tickets to this show are available by clicking here.
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Jeff Moehlis: I've been enjoying your new album, Kin (←→). How do you see this album fitting into your prolific and varied career in music?
Pat Metheny: To me, all of the recordings I have made over the years are like one long record, or one long story divided up into different chapters, with different tones, different characters coming and going, and sometimes wildly different temperatures represented. Every record that I have done has been offered with the idea of trying to reconcile the things that I love about music and that have had resonance to me with what I perceive are my favorite aspects of the musicians that I have hired to join me on this or that particular part of the journey.
This band is unique. It is such a strong group of musicians, and my goal was very specific this time. I am really happy with the result and it lines up almost exactly with what I was aiming for.
JM: Is there any "hidden meaning" to the arrows in the title of the album?
PM: Kin is a word that implies connection or family or lineage. To me, like the word unity, it really fits with what I am shooting for — and not just with this band, in music in general. I like the idea of making connections, finding inclusion and forming a way of thinking about not just the way the people making the music may be connected to each other, but also the way the music that I hope to present has connections with all of the other music I love.
Beyond that, this may be the first band I have ever had that really can address everything from my trio stuff, to stuff from Song X, all of my regular band stuff, the more straight ahead kinds of things; all of it can coexist under one roof. And the "unpronounceable" symbol that follows the word, (←→), was something that just sort of popped out that I thought did a good job of indicating that our "kin" is not always behind us chronologically in an ancestral sense — we are also going to be the ancestors for many generations to come. And also musically. So this is a message to those future listeners as well.
JM: The band on this album, the Unity Group, adds multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi to the Unity Band lineup, which came to Santa Barbara just over a year ago. What, to you, does Giulio bring to the music?
PM: He is a really unique talent. I have never run across anyone quite like him before. He is just an excellent musician first of all. And he is able to apply that musicianship to music in a whole bunch of ways. He is a multi-instrumentalist, but also a really good singer.
I needed someone to kind of fill out the sound of the band. I didn't really need another soloist, especially with Chris Potter standing right there, but I did need someone who understands the language that we are dealing in and can contribute in a textural way and give me another voice to write for. He is a perfect fit for that role in this band.
JM: My favorite track on the new album is the first one, "On One Day." How does a rather sophisticated track like this come together?
PM: It takes a long time for me to write in general, and writing a piece like that is especially time consuming. It obviously is different from writing something that is very direct and simple, but mostly in the sense that the kinds of skills that are required to keep a sense of perspective and balance over 15 minutes in a structure where improvisation and a lot of written material will live side by side requires a kind of objectivity that can be elusive. Often I write a whole bunch, then step away for an hour, or a day, or whatever it takes, then I can usually hear it and bring out what it is I hope to achieve with the piece.
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
PM: This year is a touring year. We are playing just about everywhere. My goal is to play the best that I can every night.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.