What’s all the jazz about?

In his early years, Pat Metheny quickly made his way to the upper echelons of the jazz community, sometimes playing more than 200 gigs a year. Now he’s here and fans can’t get enough of him.

Pop stars (illustrative) (photo credit: Courtesy: Jimmy Katz)
Pop stars (illustrative)
(photo credit: Courtesy: Jimmy Katz)
There are few bigger stars in the jazz world than guitarist Pat Metheny, so his first visit to this part of the world in a decade is a source of great joy for jazz fans all across the country. And the proof of his popularity is in the pudding. Metheny, whose long-standing trio includes bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart, was originally booked to play just one concert at Hangar 11 at the Tel Aviv Port, but demand for tickets was so great that the original Saturday night slot was augmented by a second show at the same venue on Sunday (both at 9 p.m.).
It is difficult to find enough superlatives and kudos to describe Metheny’s career to date, during which he has performed and recorded in numerous areas of musical endeavor, including some that are way off from the strict confines of improvisational sounds.
In addition to record sales figures that would have many a pop artist drooling, Metheny has garnered no fewer than 17 Grammy Awards in various musical categories – from Best Rock Instrumental to Best Contemporary Jazz Recording and Best Instrumental Composition – and has shared the stage with a 24- carat array of iconic figures such as David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and renowned jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.
Israel’s very own Ahinoam Nini – a.k.a. Noa – has also added her vocal skills to Metheny’s instrumental work.
Metheny was something of a child prodigy and quickly made his way to the upper echelons of the jazz community while still in his teens. He began his musical education at the University of Miami where he was soon offered a teaching position. Still only 19, he moved to take up a teaching assistantship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he came under the wing of vibraphonist Gary Burton. He made his recording debut with pianist Paul Bley and prodigy bassist Jaco Pastorius at the age of 19.
METHENY MADE rapid progress as a sideman in Burton’s band and put out his debut recording, “Bright Size Life,” at the early age of 21. The record also featured Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses and attracted excellent reviews. By that stage Metheny had begun to make the headlines of musical publications all over the world and across a range of market sectors. He also started to extend his stylistic attack, enjoying commendable synergies with avant-garde jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, and a whole galaxy of jazz greats such as drummers Roy Haynes and Jack DeJohnette, pianists Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau, bassists Charlie Haden and Dave Holland, fellow guitarists Jim Hall and John Scofield and vocalists Abbey Lincoln and Noa.
Metheny has performed and recorded in all kinds of formats, from solo work to trios, quartets and larger combos. The Pat Metheny Group, a fusion act that he started in 1977, still gets together periodically.
The trio Metheny is bringing to Israel has been together, on and off, for over two decades. Brazilian music found its way into Metheny’s oeuvre in the 1980s and he has also written and recorded a number of well-received sound tracks.
Metheny has said that he has fed off numerous influences over the years, citing such leading acts as jazz guitarists Jim Hall and Joe Pass, trumpeter Miles Davis, The Beatles, minimalist composer Steve Reich and even rock guitarist-keyboardist Eddie Van Halen and acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke.
In addition to putting out dozens of albums over the years, Metheny maintains a punishing performance schedule, sometimes playing over 200 gigs a year, and working with established stars and up-and-coming artists alike. Metheny’s latest album, What’s It All About, is a solo effort in which the guitarist pays tribute to some of the artists that have impacted on his professional trajectory to date, including Paul Simon, Henry Mancini, John Lennon and Paul McCartney and American composer Burt Bacharach and Brazilian counterpart Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The Pat Metheny Trio will perform at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv Port at 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets: *8965, (03) 604-5000 or www.tkts.co.il