Pat Metheny, Rebecca Parris
January 1, 1970A light week: the column was a Q&A with Pat Metheny, in which the focus stayed on his new CD, "The Way Up," which runs the full 68 minutes and 10 seconds of the disc. There wasn't room in the paper to include our talk about the planned re-release of his record "Song X," a 1980s collaboration with Ornette Coleman that will have 20 minutes of additional music in the forthcoming CD version. (And there certainly wasn't room enough for Metheny's fond memories of the long defunct jazz club Amazingrace in Evanston, Ill., where I told him I had caught my first jazz at a show featuring Metheny in Gary Burton's band, then saw Metheny lead his own group there several times over the next few years.)
The Calendar item this week was about Rebecca Parris reopening the Real Deal Jazz Club & Cafe, which had not presented any jazz since McCoy Tyner did a few shows there around Christmas.
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Metheny's new CD stretches musical boundaries
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | March 25, 2005
Pat Metheny burst on the jazz scene nearly three decades ago as a member of Gary Burton's band, formed his own group with keyboardist Lyle Mays soon after, and has long since established himself as one of jazz's preeminent guitarists. But Metheny, 50, has broken new ground with the extended composition that makes up the entire 68-plus minutes of his ambitious new CD, "The Way Up"; he'll perform the piece live at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow night.
Composed over six weeks with longtime collaborator Mays, the piece incorporates voices not previously associated with the Pat Metheny Group, among them the harmonica of Gregoire Maret and a couple of toy xylophones. Rounding out the Metheny Group these days are Steve Rodby on bass, Cuong Vu on trumpet, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. We spoke with Metheny recently about his new work.
Q. Your new CD is one extended composition, the point being partly to experiment with the CD format itself.
A. We always did lots of things to kind of expand the formal conception of what a jazz group could be in the modern era. So in many ways getting to a place like this, where we're really addressing the length of a CD, is something we've been working toward for a long time. It's been on my list for about 10 years, something that we might try at some point, ever since the CD itself emerged. It kind of changed the boundaries of what would be possible to present.
Q. You've also talked about the long composition being a protest against "the artificial lack of time" imposed on life.
A. Before Lyle and I wrote a note for this piece, we spent three days in a room just talking. We live in a world where there's now a Billboard chart for ring tones, which are little two- and three-second snippets of music that are now apparently a viable musical form. At the same time, the political and cultural climate has become more and more conservative over recent years, and more and more based on fear and less and less about exploration and the kinds of things that a progressive society might embrace. I think we've just found ourselves increasingly an opposition voice to things. I mean, we've found in our own personal lives, and in our own aesthetic pursuits, that the kind of things that have real value and meaning and weight and the kinds of things that have provided the most interest for us are, in fact, the kinds of things that take the longest to develop and to present.
Q. An unusual motif on the record involves what you've labeled a "toy instrument ensemble." What was the thinking behind that, and how do you incorporate that into the music?
A. Throughout the piece, there are these pulses that we called the Reich pulses that, of course, reference Steve Reich, who's an incredibly influential musician in my life. To me, around 1968, the rhythmic pulse of the world shifted from kind of a triplet fundamental to a duple feeling, and Steve I think noted that and put his finger on literally the pulse of the world, starting with his record ''Drumming." For this record, I wanted to include those pulses as an element in the piece. I got a bunch of my kids' instruments — I've got two young kids at home — and we mapped out all the places in the record where these pulses were components, and then played those tempos with those pitches out on the street and in the subway and all around New York. And then wove them into the piece, morphing in and out of the different versions of the pulses. It became a sonic glue for some of the transitional devices that we use.
Q. You've called the new disc your most ambitious project to date, at least compositionally. How did you and Lyle go about writing it?
A. It was written in New York, right in Times Square, where I've had an office for the last couple years. We'd write for hours and then go out, hang out a little bit on the streets, and then go back in there and write some more. The record is very informed by this sort of New York experience.
Q. Harmonica is an unusual voice in your music. How did you come to bring it into the group?
A. When Lyle and I were writing the piece there was this one line that kept coming up that we weren't really sure who was going to play it. And we kept thinking, 'That's not really a guitar part, and it's not really a trumpet part. What is that?' During the process of writing and recording, I was also doing a lot of trio gigs with Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez, and we did one concert opposite Cassandra Wilson, and in Cassandra's band was Gregoire Maret, playing harmonica. When I heard him I realized that that was exactly the register of the instrument that we were writing for.
Q. You've been touring the new material for about a month now. How have you adapted the CD to live performance?
A. I had to go out and hire another guitar player to do the tour. One of the things that sets this record apart is that we did decide early on that we would use the studio itself as a major component in the record in allowing for guitar overdubs, so that I could really offer the guitar itself as a fairly major orchestral component. Obviously, I can't do all of that live, so we hired Nando Lauria.
Q. You're known for spending enormous amounts of time touring. How does having two kids affect that?
A. It's less [touring] than it used to be. There were many years there when I was on the road just about all the time. Like so many other things in life, finding a good balance between things is important. Obviously, I still have to work — going out and playing gigs is kind of my job, and that's how I pay the rent each month. But I'm happy to be able to have those guys come out and stay out on the road with me for a few days at a time, and we have a lot of fun when they come out. It's possible to do everything. I just sleep a lot less.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Calendar Jazz Picks
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The Rebecca Parris Quartet Real Deal Jazz Club & Cafe, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge. 617-876-7777. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $18.
Rumors of the Real Deal Jazz Club & Cafe's demise (assuming there have been any) would have been exaggerated. A three-month dry spell at Cambridge's newest jazz club will end Saturday night when local favorite Rebecca Parris comes in with her quartet for two sets of high-caliber jazz vocals - one of several bookings to have trickled onto the Real Deal's spring schedule in recent weeks. "She's kind of a good luck charm for us," says Fenton Hollander, who books the club, noting that Parris was among both the first and last acts he booked at the Regattabar during the two decades he oversaw jazz programming there. Additionally, her Christmas show at the Real Deal in December was among the highlights of the first season at his new venue. Parris continues mending from the cracked vertebrae that had her climbing onto the Real Deal stage on crutches during that previous appearance, an injury that had her audience gasping until she began singing and her talent and professionalism made them forget about it. Backing her this weekend will be pianist Brad Hatfield, bassist Peter Kontrimas, and drummer Matt Gordy.
Sat 3-26 Pat Metheny Group Pat Metheny's ambitious new CD, "The Way Up," is an extended-composition tour de force lasting 68 minutes and 10 seconds. He and his group, including recent addition Gregoire Maret on harmonica and extra guitarist Nando Lauria, will perform their live approximation of the album at the Orpheum on Saturday. Orpheum Theatre, One Hamilton Place. 617-679-0810. 7:30 p.m. $42.50-$62.50.