Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pat Metheny Concert: A Review

Last Friday, Mrs. S. and I traveled to Birmingham AL to sit in the front row of the Alys Stephens Center and see Pat Metheny live. Careful readers of this blog will know that I’m not a big fan of jazz guitar and I’ve never been a big fan of Pat Metheny, as I just never found his music that interesting or stimulating to me. So why would I go to see him live? Well, because he is probably the single-most famous living jazz guitarist, he has won 17 Grammies, and because you never know: the live experience might just turn it around for you. Metheny was to perform alone with his “Orchestrion”:

The original orchestrions were player pianos that manufacturer’s starting adding instruments to in order to try and stop radio from eroding their market share. They added violins, guitars, anything they could get to work with a piano roll and the piano roll motor. 

Metheny’s Orchestrion is a stage covering monstrosity. It includes two full-size Yamaha grand piano disclaviers, an accordion, a bass guitar, a rhythm guitar, a marimba, a xylophone, a vibraphone, two set of glass jugs, castanets, a full drum set, congas, sleigh bells, and more. All of these devices were rigged with solenoids of one type or another, and all were controlled from a specially built guitar hooked to bank of switches and foot pedals. With the guitar and pedals, he could tell each instrument or group of instruments what rhythm to play, what tones to play, and in what sequence to play them in. 

But before he got to that…

He started off with a solo number on a regular guitar. Then he did another solo number on a different guitar. During the second song, I had something happen to me that never happened before: I was listening so intently to the music and so engrossed in the moment, I completely forgot where I was. Essentially, I lost consciousness. When I came out of it, I felt dizzy and couldn’t remember where I was. I felt as though I needed to wake up from a dream. I’ve never had a piece of music move me like that, ever. It was downright scary. Then he brought out his 42 string pikasso guitar. 

That should’ve been the song I got lost in, but I was too enthralled in just watching him play that instrument. After that, he got to work with the orchestrion.

He played for almost two and a half hours. And although I can’t say I feel any differently about Metheny’s music in specific or jazz guitar in general, I have to say, I certainly respect Mr. Metheny as a musician and musical innovator and I’ll damn sure go and see him in concert anytime he gets within 150 miles of me. It was simply an amazing concert.

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