Pat Metheny

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Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny



Pat Metheny is one of the leading voices in the field of contemporary jazz, and also had a great success in the fusion genre. He has written music for film scores and collaborated with most of the great jazz musicians of our time. He is regarded as the crème de la crème amongst musicians, and has a distinguished sound and an unique composition style. He has been awarded 17 Grammys in different genres during the years (10 for PMG) , and is still touring between 120-240 days a year.

Early Career

Pat Metheny (Patrick Bruce Metheny) was born on August 12, 1954, Lee's Summit, Missouri, U.S.A. (a suburb of Kansas City) He has an elder brother that plays the trumpet, which Pat also played from age 8. He switched to guitar at age 12, and progressed very fast. He states Wes Montgomery as one of his early influences, but horn-players like Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker were also a source of inspiration. At the age 15 he was already jamming with top-notch players in Kansas City. Vibraphone-player Gary Burton saw the potential in the talented teenager, and Pat later joined Gary Burton's band.

After graduating from Lee's Summit High School, Pat moved to Florida in order to attend University of Miami. He studied just one semester before he was offered a position as a teacher, which he also took. He was teaching a short period before he was offered a teaching position at Berkeley College of Music. In Miami he also met Jaco Pastorius, whom he played with and became a close friend until Jaco's death.

In 1974 he joined Gary Burton's band and stayed with him for three years. He replaced Mike Goodrich in the band, and he is present on the record "Ring". At the same time Pat jammed with Jaco and Gary Burton's drummer Bob Moses, and together with Paul Bley they made Jaco's debut-album just entitled "Jaco". The year after, a new label ECM, offered him to make a solo recording. This led to the milestone "Bright Size Life", which featured Jaco and Bob Moses, that is considered one of the finest jazz albums made in the 70's.

At the same time Pat also met Lyle Mays which he later co-formed Pat Metheny Group with and is his alter-ego in terms of the piano. The next album Pat recorded for ECM (who is best known for their "spacy" recordings) was "Watercolours" with Lyle May's and this album can be seen as the embryo to Pat Metheny Group. On the album Pat play's a lot of acoustic guitar to create an open an interesting sound.

Against the top

The first Pat Metheny Group

In 1978 Pat formed the first version of Pat Metheny Group with Lyle May's, Jaco's bass-protege' Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb. The debut-album just entitled "Pat Metheny Group" marks a beginning of a new style in the fusion genre, and is more "easy-listening" than "Bright Size Life", which is more for jazz connosieurs. The beats are more latin-like and both pop and folk influences can be heard along with a strong melodic approach. The most famous song from this album is probably "Phase Dance", which every jazz/fusion player at that time covered.

The sound of the first version of Pat Metheny Group is marked by Pat's use of two Eventide delays and reverb to get an open sound as well as Lyle May's use of Oberheim & Prophet 5 synthesizers in addition to the piano. Later on both of them started to use the Synclavier - a top-notch synthesizer at that time. Pat used it in conjunction with the first Roland guitar synths, which he still uses.

The follow up to the first album was the success "American Garage" from 1980, reaching #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and even attended the Pop charts. The first song from the album "Cross the Heartland" has an almost pop-like atmosphere, which a lot of people seemed to like, not just jazz/fusion-musicians. The band then started to tour all over the world on a very tight schedule for the next couple of years.

Parallell Career's

At the same time Pat was working with his band, he had - unbelievable or not - time to make a solo release in 1979 called "New Chataqua", which featured himself on all guitars and basses with no other musicians involved. He was also making a record with the contemporary jazz group 80/81, as well as some touring the same years. The band incoorperated the late Michael Brecker, Dewey Redman and legend drummer Jack de Johnette. With this album Pat proved to the "core" jazz audience that he had'nt got "commercial", which he sometimes got critics for. He was also participating in Joni Mitchell's band on the highly acclaimed "Shadows and Light" -tour playing music by Charles Mingus. Another duo-cooperation with Lyle Mays apart from Pat Metheny Group resulted in the album "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls" from 1981.

Introducing latin music

Pat Metheny Group
Pat Metheny Group

The band released "Offramp" in 1982 with the introduction of a new line-up, except for Lyle Mays. Steve Rodby was playing the bass and Paul Wertico the drums. Along with the group was also Nana Vasconcelos, who played percussion and sang wordless vocals. The groups sound moved towards latin music which intensified even further when the album "First Circle" from 1984 was released. A double live-album was also released in 1983, containing all Pat's "hits" up til then, and showed Pat using Roland's guitar synth extensively as well as an awesome production.

Hitting Top 40

Pat Metheny/Lyle wrote the music for the movie "the Falcon and the Snowman" in 1985, and his group was playing at the soundtrack. Pat had for a couple of years beeing playing on some soundtracks, and were asked to do the complete soundtrack for this movie, which is a spy story featuring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. David Bowie performed the lead theme as well as getting credits for co-producing the soundtrack. The lead motif "This is not America", reached #32 at Billboard, and #14 in England. The soundtrack added even more importance to Pat's reputation as composer and presented him to an even larger audience.

Further explorations

Switching record company

In 1986 Pat recorded with his older brother Mike Metheny, a skilled Kansas City based trumpeter, an album (Day in -Night out) that reached #18 in the jazz charts. The same year Pat also got a chance to record with one of his role models Ornette Coleman, which produced the critic's success "Song X", that has been re-released in this century, digitally mastered containing 6 previously unreleased tracks from the session.

Pat took his ideas about latin music even further on the next album "Still Life (Talking)" (1987), introducing percussionist Armando Marçal. Before the record was made, he switched record company after some disputes with Manfred Eicher (founder of the ECM label) about his artistic freedom. Pat signed a new record deal with Geffen Records, that was a part of Warner Records by that time, which Pat also changed to in 1997. (Pat was a cornerstone in ECM's business, saleswise. Ed. note.)

In 1989 came "Letter from Home", which was the last album before Pat took a break from the band lasted almost 4 years in order to work on other projects/collaborations.

Symphonics, duos and noice

In 1992 Pat wrote "Secret Story", a symphonic work that incoorperated Pinpeat Orchestra of the Royal Ballet, the London Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Jeremy Lubbock, the Choir of the Cambodian Royal Palace, Lyle Mays. all orchestrations were made by Jeremy Lubbock, and Pat even took the setup on a small tour which produced a live-dvd released in 2001.

With fellow-guitarist John Scofield, he recorded "I can see Your house from there" (1993) as a duo recording accompanied by Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart. The recording spots originals written by both Pat and John Scofield and is regarded as legandary amongst guitar players.

He also made a solo-album entitled "Zero Tolerance for Silence" in 1994, which saw Pat playing distorted guitar, overdubbing guitars, playing blues and experimenting with sounds. The record was highly controversial and totally written down by the critics and Pat's fans wanted him to draw the release back, which he refused to.

In these years (without Pat Metheny Group) Pat seemed to focus on finding a new approach as well as playing with other great jazz musicians, a live album was made with Jack De Johnette, Dave Holland, and Herbie Hancock, and a trio album with Dave Holland and Roy Haynes was also released. But obviously his work with London Symphony Orchestra took the most of his time.

PMG finds new directions & playing with the greats

Pat Metheny with Gary Burton
Pat Metheny with Gary Burton

Other influences

In 1995 Pat Metheny Group released the first studio album in 6 years, although a live album with some older studio cuts were released two years earlier. "We Live Here" marks a change in the bands direction, featuring hip-hop influences, free form improvisations and blues theme's. In a commercial context, this approach was not succesful, and the bands forthcoming records "Quartet" (1996), and "Imaginary Day" (1997) also followed this tradition. In 1997 Pat took another break from the band that doesn't re-emerged until 2002.

Exploring contemporary jazz & performing with the greats

Pat was highly active as both a recording musician as well on performing with some of the greatest players around between the years 1995-2000. He continueed the duo tradition with an album with legendary guitarist Jim Hall, as well as a duo release with Charlie Haden.

He participated on albums with Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland and collaborated with guitarist Bill Frisell on "The Sound of Summer Running" (1998) with bassist Marc Johnson & drummer Joey Baron. He also continueed to teach, which he had been doing on and off since the 70's, making him one of the most appreciated lectures throughout University's of Music throughout the world.

The return of Pat Metheny Group

In 2002 Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays formed a new line-up of Pat Metheny Group that incorporated several younger musicians, that actually had grown up with their music. Drummer Antonio Sanchez (also in Pat's trio) from Mexico were added, and so was bass virtouso/multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona from Cameroon. (also with Mike Stern, ed. note) Steve Rodby was still along from the old band, and other newcomers on the release was trumpet player Cuong Vu and David Samuels on percussion/Marimba. The music heads back to the sound a little more than on the previous three releases, and have a more "classic" PMG sound, even that the introduction of Cuong Vu's trumpet adds sparkle and light to Pat's music.

The big change in the band's music came however in 2005, when they released the album "The Way Up". added to the sound was Swiss harmonica player Gregoire Maret. Pat collaborated with minimalistic composer Steve Reich, back in 1987 on the album "Electric Counterpoint". This approach may have inspired Pat and Lyle Mays for the album, that are just one song spanning 63 minutes. Though the music have several "cues" and themes are there plenty of room for improvisation and a lot of counterpoint themes can be found. On the world tour in 2005, PMG got standing ovations on almost every of the 90(!) concerts.

Other projects

In 2003 Pat recorded a solo album entitled "One Quiet Night", which like "New Chataquoa" featured just himself playing all guitars & bass. On the release he plays both 12-string and the Baritone guitar. On the album was Norah Jones "Don't Know Why" (Jesse Harris), as well as Ferry cross the Mersey and "My Song" by Keith Jarret. The album won a Grammy in 2004, for Pat's subtile rendering and was critic and public success.

Besides this he was also present on solo recordings by Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, Cassandra Wilson amongst others.

Up til now....

Since 2005 Pat has been recording with artist such as his friend Michael Brecker (on his last record "Pilgrimage"), started to collaborate with piano virtouso Brad Mehldau, recorded his trio, playing spanish music with singer Enrique Morente and written theatre-music for an off-Broadway show. He has also been touring extensively with different line-ups and held several lessons/lectures at the Universitys throughout the World. Pat doesn't seems to slow down, and the voice of this truly unique musician will continue to linger on! At this moment when this is written, Pat are planning a tour with Gary Burton, which soon shall begin!

The trio tradition

Pat had since the release of "Bright Size Life" always performed/recorded with different trio setup's, a band configuration which he seems to like a lot. Since he during the years has done a lot of teaching, the trio format has also been convenient in these situations. In 1983 he recorded "Rejoicing", which included legendary musicians Billy Higgins (drums) and Charlie Haden (double bass). Pat has on almost all trio recording's played a lot of "standards", which have kept him as a favourite player amongst the jazz connossieurs audience. His trios had featured different line-ups throughout the years, but has always been considered amongst the finest in the world of jazz guitar. "Qustion and Answer" from featured Dave Holland and Roy Haynes, while his trio from around 2000 was containing Bill Stewart and Larry Grenadier. His current trio consists of Antonio Sanchez and Christian McBride.


Pat Metheny has a very fluid style of playing guitar, and he uses both legato and picking techniques. He favors to sometimes end the phrases with an upward glissando. He is a truly modern player, who uses a lot of chromatism and alternative pentatonics as well as post be-bop phrasing. His style is influented of horn players rather than guitar players. He developed a phrase which is known as "the Pat Metheny lick", which is actually a broken chord, starting on the mid-tone and transposed up & down the neck. He has also an unique rhytmic approach in both playing acoustics & electrics, and his voice is immidiately recognizeable.


Pat Metheny with the "Pikasso" guitar
Pat Metheny with the "Pikasso" guitar

Gibson ES-175
Ibanez PM1000
This is Pat Metheny's signature guitar model, made by Ibanez. He owns a couple of them (modified to his special needs) Linda Manzer Guitars (acoustic, 12-string and Baritone) Roland GR-300

Other Guitars:
-Guild dreadnaught cutaway (permanently in Nashville tuning)
-Ovation nylon guitar
-Sadowsky solid body nylon stringed guitar
-Coral electric sitar

Guitar amps:
Acoustic 134 (until 1994)
Digitech 2101 GSP Guitar Pre amp
Ashly Mosfet 200 power amp routed to JBL speakers
Crest 6001 stereo power amp

Guitar Effects:
Lexicon Prime Time Digital Delay
The output of the Digitech, just like the Acoustic 134, is connected to 2 Lexicon digital delays, one on his left at 14 Ms and one on his right at 26 Ms.

Pat uses 0.11 flatwound strings and a large pick (holded with three fingers), using the back of the pick.

He also developed the "Pikasso" -guitar with Linda Manzer, which is a harp-guitar containing two F-holes and four necks. It can be heard on the album "Quartets".



New Chautauqua
Zero Tolerance for Silence
One Quiet Night

Beyond the Missouri Sky (short stories) | Verve, 1997 (w. Charlie Haden: bass)
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1996)

Bright Size Life (1976)
(Jaco Pastorius: bass; Bob Moses: drums)
As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (1981)
(Lyle Mays: keyboards; Nana Vasconcelos: percussion, voice)
Rejoicing (1984)
(Charlie Haden: bass; Billy Higgins: drums)
Question & Answer (1990)
(Dave Holland: bass; Roy Haynes: drums)
Trio 99→00 (2000)
(Larry Grenadier: bass; Bill Stewart: drums)
Trio→Live (2000)
(Larry Grenadier: bass; Bill Stewart: drums)

Jaco Pastorius - Pat Metheny - Bruce Ditmas - Paul Bley (1974)
(Reissued by DIW (Japan) titled “Jaco”)
Watercolours (1977)
(Lyle Mays: piano; Eberhard Weber: bass; Dan Gottlieb: drums)
I Can See Your House From Here (1994)
. (John Scofield: guitar; Steve Swallow: bass; Bill Stewart: drums)
Pat Metheny Group: Quartet (1996)
(Lyle Mays: piano, non-tuned spinet piano, celeste, pedal harmonium, autoharps, electric piano, clavinet, Steve Rodby: acoustic bass, piccolo bass; Paul Wertico: drums & percussion.)
The Sign of Four (1997)
(Live recording, Derek Bailey: guitars; Pat Metheny: guitars, Paul Wertico: drums, percussion, Greg Bendian: drums, percussion)

Quintets: 80/81 (1980)
(Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, Dewey Redman: tenor saxophone; Charlie Haden: bass, Jack DeJohnette: drums)
Song X (1986)
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, violin, Charlie Haden: bass, Jack DeJohnette: drums, Denardo Coleman: drums, percussion)
Burton - Corea - Metheny - Haynes - Holland: Like Minds (1998)
(Gary Burton: vibes, Pat Metheny: guitar, Chick Corea: piano, Dave Holland: bass, Roy Haynes: drums)

Pat Metheny Group:
Pat Metheny Group (1978)
American Garage (1979)
Offramp (1982)
Travels (1983)
First Circle (1984)
Still Life (talkin) (1987)
Letter From Home (1990)
The Road to You (1993)
We Live Here (1995)
Quartet (1996)
Imaginary Day (1997)
Imaginary Day Live (2001) [DVD]
Speaking Of Now (2002)
The Way Up (2005)

As A Side Musician:
Gary Burton: Ring (1974)
Gary Burton: Dreams So Real (1976)
Gary Burton: Passengers (1977)
Joni Mitchell: Shadows and Light (1980)
Ross-Levine Band: That Summer Something (1981)
Célia Vaz: Mutação (1981)
Toninho Horta: Toninho Horta (1981)
Pedro Aznar: Contemplación (1984)
Mike Metheny: Day In - Night Out (1986)
Michael Brecker: Michael Brecker (1987)
Ricardo Silveira: Long Distance (1988)
Toninho Horta: Moonstone (1989)
Túlio Mourão: Teia De Renda (1989)
Leila Pinheiro: Olho Nu (1989)
Akiko Yano: Welcome Back (1989)
Jack DeJohnette: Parallel Realities (1990)
Silje Nergaard: Tell Me Where You're Going (1990)
Gary Burton: Reunion (1990)
Milton Nascimento: Encontros e Despedidas (1991)
Akiko Yano: Love Life (1991)
Gary Thomas: Till We Have Faces (1992)
Bruce Hornsby: Harbor Lights (1993)
Paul Wertico: The Yin and the Yout (1993)
Joshua Redman: Wish (1993)
Trilok Gurtu: Crazy Saints (1994)
Milton Nascimento: Angelus (1994)
Roy Haynes: Te Vou! (1994)
Bruce Hornsby: Hot House (1995)
Abbey Lincoln: A Turtle's Dream (1995)
Kenny Garrett: Pursuance - The Music of John Coltrane (1996)
Michael Brecker: Tales From The Hudson (1996)
Tony Williams: Wilderness (1996)
Akiko Yano: Oui Oui (1997)
Jim Hall: By Arrangement (1998)
Marc Johnson: The Sound of Summer Running (1998)
David Liebman: The Elements: Water - Giver of Life (1998)
Mark Ledford: Miles 2 Go (1998)
Philip Bailey: Dreams (1999)
Cassandra Wilson: Traveling Miles (1999)
Kenny Garrett: Simply Said (1999)
Michael Brecker: Time is of the Essence (1999)
Charlie Haden: Nocturne (2001)

Under Fire (1983)
The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
Toys (1992)
Passagio Per il Paradiso (1996)
A Map of the World (1999)

Pat Metheny Group: A New Phase Of The Guitar (2000)
Pat Metheny Group: Blue Asphalt / Blue Light (1991)
Pat Metheny Group: Clouds (1991)
Pat Metheny Group: Unity Village (1979)
Pat Metheny Group: Salt Lake (1982)
Pat Metheny Group: Jaco (1982)
Pat Metheny Group: The Windup (1984)
Jack DeJohnette's Parallel Realities: (1990)
Pat Metheny Group: Ice Dreams (1993)
Pat Metheny Group: In Concert (1993)
Pat Metheny: This World (1994)
John Scofield & Pat Metheny: You Speak My Language
Pat Metheny: Autumn Leaves (1995)
Pat Metheny Trio: Umbria Jazz Festival

Steve Reich: Different Trains | Electric Counterpoint | Elektra/Nonesuch, (1989
Electric Counterpoint (tracks #4-6) performed by Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny: Works (1991) Compilation
Pat Metheny: Works II (1991) Compilation
A Special Conversation with Pat Metheny (1992)
Pat Metheny: Secret Story (1993)
Various Artists: Kool Jazz at Midem (1994)

See also

Pat Metheny homepage
PM at all about jazz