Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pat Metheny - 1978 "Pat Metheny Group"

Pat Metheny Group is the first album by Pat Metheny Group, released in 1978. It features Pat Metheny on guitars, Lyle Mays on piano and synthesizer, Mark Egan on electric bass, and Dan Gottlieb on drums.

“When the Pat Metheny Group released this debut album on ECM in 1978, the musicianship of Pat was already beginning to turn some heads. His previous trio album for ECM in 1976, featuring Jaco Pastoris (bass) and Bob Moses (drums), had forced the world of traditional jazz to take notice of this contemporary sound. There is not a drab track on this album, and Metheny is joined by an entirely new lineup of musicians: Lyle Mays (piano, autoharp, Oberheim synthesizer), Mark Egan (bass), and Dan Gottlieb (drums). The group really brought new life into the genre. The album starts off with “San Lorenzo,” featuring some wonderful piano solos by Mays that will knock your socks off. “Phase Dance” is the most widely recognizable Metheny piece on here, with some great riffs by Pat threading throughout the piece. The track “Jaco” is not really very funky as one might expect, since it was a tribute to bassist Jaco Pastorius, but does show off Egan as a great bassist that knows how to groove to an upbeat. “Aprilwind” is a brief quiet piece that is fairly straightforward in the delivery department. “April Joy” features Pat gracing the guitar in a style we have all grown to love. And finally, “Lone Jack,” a track that has a bop feel to it. Most of the tracks on this release have gone on to become standards in their own right. This album solidified Metheny’s place as a gifted composer with an outstanding mastery of his guitar-craft. This is certainly one of the most important contemporary jazz albums ever released.”

The first recording by the Pat Metheny Group features the innovative guitarist along with keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Mark Egan, and drummer Dan Gottlieb. The music is quite distinctive, floating rather than swinging, electric but not rockish, and full of folkish melodies. The best known of these six Metheny-Mays originals are "Phase Dance" and "Jaco." This music grows in interest with each listen. All Music.

It was 1977 and I was a student at a technical school in Boston, an ardent fan of Jean-Luc Ponty. There was a concert at the Berkley Performance Center where JLP was going to feature pieces from his Enigmatic Ocean release, one of my favorite albums of all time. I was completely oblivious to the warm-up act because I was there to experience Jean-Luc Ponty but at the opening of the show there was a guitar at center stage positioned on a stand where a guitarist need only walk up behind the instrument and begin playing. There it was, its neck jutting at a 45 degree angle, waiting to be brought to life by an appropriate musician. Soon, a floppy-haired guy, accompanied by the other members of his group, bounced onto the stage amongst tentative applause. The floppy-haired guy waved appreciatively at the smattering of recognition from the audience while the other musicians took their places at their respecive instruments. Slung over the back of the floppy-haired guy was another guitar, presumably his principle instrument. To my surprise, the guy bent over the guitar positioned at center stage and began to wail out the opening notes to "Phase Dance," a piece that has to be one of the best works of jazz-fusion of all time. He played several bars of the opening theme then stepped back from the guitar on its stand, reached back over his shoulder, grabbed the guitar slung over his back whipped it around front and proceeded to crank out a solo that could bring tears to one's eyes. I didn't know who the artist was at the time but I knew that he was talented and I made a mental note to remember this artist for future reference. After his group completed his set, Jean-Luc Ponty took the stage and I instantly forgot about the warm-up band.

Several weeks later, a friend approached me and said that Pat Metheny was appearing at a club called the Paradise and would I like to go see him? I replied, "Who's Pat Metheny?" His response was, "Don't worry about it, I know you'll like him." I thought, what the hey.

After we were seated at our table and a round or two of drinks were served, the stage lights came up and there was, at center stage, a guitar on a stand positioned at a 45 degree angle, waiting for a guitarist to approach it from behind, grasp its neck and begin playing it for all it was worth, which is just what happened when some floppy-haired performer bounced onto the stage, wearing another guitar over his back, accompanied by the other menbers of his band. The guitarist bent over the guitar on the stand and seconds later the first bars of Phase Dance were blasted from the speakers onstage.

My eyes widened. I said "That's the guy!!!" That was the night when I began to fully appreciate the artistry of Pat Metheny, his uncanny ability to wrest every ounce of emotion from a guitar, his ability to express every emotion from despair to elation using nothing but his fingers, strings and a geyser of talent.

That night, I went to a music store and bought all of the Pat Metheny Group albums I could find (there were no such things as CDs at that time) and began a journey of exploration into an area of jazz that widened my horizons to an entirely new level. Pat Metheny remains, to this day, the guitarist for whom I hold the utmost respect and in whose talent I stand in awe. By CatManDEW.

I had heard of Pat Metheny back in middle school, when I first really started exploring jazz. It wasn't until one of the jazz ensembles at my high school played Phase Dance during my junior year that I actually got to hear something by Metheny.
I wasn't in that particular band, but I remember the bassline sounding cool, and I thought I would seek out the record. I finally bought it on used vinyl in August 1995 -- and I couldn't wait to get home and play it.
It was one of the best decisions of my musical life.
Phase Dance is a great song, very positive and uplifting, but San Lorenzo is the album's centerpiece to me. Lyle Mays' solo just blows me away everytime I listen to it. This is definitely not a spontaneous album (and his solo may have even been rehearsed) but it works so well.
As much as I don't like winter, this album has a very wintry feel to me (even though I bought it in the summer heat). Maybe it has to do with the picture on the back of the record, and the fact that it was recorded in Norway during winter.
Listen to San Lorenzo and Phase Dance and imagine snow falling outside, then sparkling in the sun after the storm's gone. The rest of the album enthralling as well, but it's the first two pieces that really shine. 
By Disc.

Tracks Listing

1. San Lorenzo (10:16)
2. Phase Dance (8:25)
3. Jaco (5:40)
4. Aprilwind (2:09)
5. April Joy (8:15)
6. Lone Jack (6:43)


    Pat Metheny - 6 and 12-string electric and acoustic guitars
    Lyle Mays - piano, Oberheim synthesizer, autoharp
    Mark Egan - fretless electric bass
    Danny Gottlieb - drums 



  2. Bonjour,
    Votre blog est vraiment fantastique, une source de musique spécialisée et qui recèle des découvertes, même pour l'amateur et collectionneur du genre que je suis.
    Je profite de cet article sur Pat Metheny pour vous communiquer mes remerciements et félicitations, formidable anecdote.
    Voir cet artiste à ses débuts est un grand souvenir.

  3. After some Rypdal, the first Return to forever and Eberward Weber albums one of my first ECM records and I still think it is excellent, so thanks.
    Jan (Netherlands)

  4. Nice. Thank you so much!

  5. Great!Thank you.