Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny man of many Grammy Awards

Pat Metheny.
Pat Metheny.

PERTH music fans will get a rare chance to see one of the all-time greats next year, when American jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny makes just his second visit to WA.

When it comes to towering figures, few cast a bigger shadow than Metheny.

He’s been at music’s cutting edge for 45 years, traversing genres and leaving behind dozens of ground-breaking albums brimming with experimentation.

At 20 he was recording with bass God Jaco Pastorius, while teaching the best guitarists at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.

He counted Mike Stern and the late Hiram Bullock among his star pupils.

He has played with David Bowie, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Chick Corea, and collaborated with fellow guitar greats Jim Hall and John Scofield.

Metheny’s racked up an astonishing 20 Grammy wins, but when told that still left him one behind Kanye West, he could only laugh.

“If you came to my house you wouldn’t see any Grammys or awards,” he said.

“I wish (winning awards) did more for me, where I could go: ‘Yes, I did it!’

“It just doesn’t work like that for me – where I get that is if the gig went well. And I only get that for a very short period of time.

“If I did great last night in Phoenix, well, I’ve still got to play tonight in Tucson. That’s part of what it means to be an improvising musician – it doesn’t really matter what you did yesterday, it’s all about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

It is a philosophy that has served the 65-year-old well.

Metheny has a hungry soul, always reaching for something beyond the horizons of most of his peers.

He has pushed the boundaries of technology and instrumentation, pioneering the use of guitar synthesisers and playing a 42-string custom instrument created for him by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer.

The results are otherworldly.

But, to Metheny, guitars are “just like screwdrivers” – tools for creating something grander.

Another constant in Metheny’s professional life is surrounding himself with the best musicians in the world.

He’ll be joined in Perth by British pianist Gwilym Simcock and the dazzling Antonio Sanchez, who recently gained a whole new level of fame thanks to his sublime jazz drumming on the Oscar-winning Michael Keaton film Birdman.

Metheny described him as “the greatest drummer of his generation, easily”.

The WA gig will be a homecoming for Metheny’s Perth-raised bassist, Linda May Han Oh.

Linda May Han Oh. Photo: Getty

The 35-year-old was selected from the cream of New York’s jazz set – a huge compliment for the WAAPA-trained musician, who’s been based in the US since 2006.

“I lined up the top 10 bass players, basically, and played with all of them, then got Antonio over,” Metheny said.

“Linda was the last one in and literally, in four bars, Antonio and I looked at each other and that was it.

“She is an amazing musician, an even better person and she’s having an incredible impact on the scene.”

Metheny last hit our town in 2006 for a Perth Festival show, and he said the city left such an impression that he’s been thinking about it ever since.

“One of my main daydreams is that I want to move to Perth,” he says.

“For me, that is the best place I have ever been.

“I took the ferry out to Rottnest Island, I had a bike, went to the beaches every day. I’m like ‘this is the best place on the planet’.”

Metheny has never shied away from the spiritual elements of his music.

When he was awarded the title of NEA Jazz Master last year, he closed a rousing acceptance speech by declaring: “What we’re all slinging for is something eternal.”

When probed about striving for the higher purpose, Metheny was expansive.

“I think that the benefit of understanding music is that you somehow get this rocket fuel to understanding a whole bunch of other things,” he said.

“Particularly improvised music – the nature of what is required to be a good improviser is stuff that you can apply to anything.

“It’s just this unbelievable, life-enhancing thing, to be able to live inside music.

“That appealed to me in an instant, when I heard a Miles Davis record.

“It was like somebody turned on a light. From then until now, I’m just trying to understand.”

An Evening With Pat Metheny

Riverside Theatre, Tuesday March 3, 2020.

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