ORONO - 20-time Grammy-winning guitarist Pat Metheny is set to perform with his band on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 7:00 pm at Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono.
The concert, titled “An Evening With Pat Metheny” will present material from throughout his career – a body of work that stretches back to the mid-1970s and covers nearly 50 albums.
Joining Metheny onstage will be an international band of jazz greats including his longtime drummer, Mexican-born Antonio Sanchez, Malaysian-born/Australian-raised Linda Oh on bass and British pianist Gwilym Simcock.
Perhaps more than any other musician, Metheny is responsible for the fact that the guitar is as significant an instrument in jazz as the trumpet, piano and saxophone. With a pure tone, a virtuoso’s touch and a constant desire to take the music to new and often surprising places, his reputation as a trailblazer and risk-taker is unquestioned.
In advance of Pat Metheny’s upcoming concert at Collins Center For the Arts, I sent a few questions to him via email and received some very thoughtfully-crafted responses.
TME: You are presenting music from all eras of your career on this tour. Have you rediscovered things about your own history?
Metheny: You’re right, the concept this time is simple - to put together a really exceptional group of musicians and write some music for them, but additionally, to have them also be able to play anything from at any point in my career as well. This is an excellent live band, each person on the bandstand is a really great player.
I wanted to put together a group of players that could play well across the wide range of things that I have done over the years. And at the same time, in a way my whole approach to music has always been more about the “how” than the “what.” I really feel that the best situations I can be in and that I can offer other the other musicians I choose to come along with me on this or that part of the journey is to provide an environment that allows a certain personal authenticity in concert with a distinctive musical identity. That identity is often informed by the tunes themselves.
So, when it comes time to play some of the older tunes, to me, they are all still fun to play. I don’t think there is anything from any period where I go, “Wow, what was I thinking there?” So while using that as a kind of launch pad this time, I am also looking to feature the strengths of the exceptional group of musicians I am bringing with me - all of whom kind of grew up listening to that music and can now bring their own takes to it. I always try to put together a program each day that will be challenging and fun to play and hopefully will be fun for the folks who come to check it out as it will be for me to be standing on the bandstand.
The concerts are very long and cover a LOT of territory. I am sure people who have followed my thing over a long time will enjoy it, and by the same token someone who is really not that familiar with any of it will too.
TME: When you are playing with Antonio, Linda and Gwilym, have you landed on some ideas or themes that you may later into new material?
Metheny: We did just record for a week. Having heard them all play together every night for the past year, I did learn a lot about what makes them tick individually as well as as a band. I tried to write music for whatever that unique quality is that they all bring.
TME: Thinking back to your childhood or teen years, whose music was the first to grab you?
Metheny: My family were all trumpet players. Me too - I started on trumpet when I was eight. But I fit chronologically right in that demographic of people who saw the Beatles in the early 60s on the Ed Sullivan Show. Suddenly the guitar had a place in the culture that took it from being simply a musical instrument to an almost iconic emblem of everything that was about to happen. Where my story differs from the other gazillion people who got interested in the instrument around that time was that I heard that Miles Davis record (“Four and More”) shortly after I got a guitar and I became devoted to wanting to understand what that music was all about.
TME: Do you prepare a different set-list of songs nightly or mostly select from an established lineup of material?
Metheny: Usually as a tour goes along it becomes a bit like a menu - there is a flow that can stay somewhat the same even if you choose A one night but maybe B the next night. But tunes have a way of fighting their way into the set if they really want to get played. It is actually kind of interesting how that works.
(Tickets for “An Evening With Pat Metheny” Sunday, January 15 at 7:00 pm, are available at www.CollinsCenterForTheArts.com or by calling 800-622-TIXX or (207) 581-1755.)