Lots of Musicology to Skip Over; A few gems of background insights
Reviewed in the United States on 9 December 2018
I'm a long time Pat Metheny Group fan -- I met him just before he released Offramp at the Molson Ampitheater in Toronto after a concert and we chatted. I've followed his music for 3 decades since. I've seen him in concert 4 times in two countries. So, I'm a pretty die hard fan, having read most of his interviews, listened to a lot of his podcasts, and even play his music in jazz groups I've formed for that purpose. I'm a bass player, but I learn his licks and try to emulate his solo development in my playing.
I found this book THICK to read. I was more interested in the backstory to his group members, why they left, why he went in certain musical directions, his relationship with this labels, his leadership style -- about Pat Metheny the man and the people he worked with. I was less interested in the intricacies of the music, which I can hear and decide for myself what I think of it.
I would say 75% of the book is an analysis of the music, with actual notation provided. You need to actually listen to the music as you read it to really understand it. And even then, I'd rather form my own impressions. There was some value in understanding why Pat chose certain styles, shunned or embraced certain technologies and musical styles, but it was buried in pages of analysis.
But there were some good tidbits in the book I'll remember -- why he left Burton's group, why he left ECM, the dynamics of the ECM Producer and Pat Metheny, and what he liked about some of the musicians, and how he "trained" some of them, particularly drummers to play rock without the rock beat (using cymbals). Also interesting was his impression of the quality of certain albums he made, why he liked them, and why he didn't.
I also wasn't aware of much of his work beyond his solo work and Pat Metheny Group over the years. I learned about his collaborations and tours with past Gary Burton musicians, musicians he respected, as well as reasons he would branch off into solo or other work that was a departure from his early White Album and American Garage work. All that was interesting.
But I found myself skipping most of the analysis and notation pages, even though I can read musical notation. In spite of being pretty well educated, I found myself reaching for the dictionary in a few spots, and of course, there were a lot of words such as "ostensibly", "palpable" and other higher academic words that I find distracting rather than helpful. And I do read academic work in my job.
So, I was glad I read it, liked the tidbits, but I think I liked his book of interviews better, available here on Amazon.
One good biproduct of this read was how it instilled a desire for me to listen harder to some of his work I rejected earlier. The author writes about it in a very appreciative way, which inspires a second, third, or fourth listen, and I've already started on that path.
So, it certainly wasn't a waste, but I'd rather read about the interpersonal dynamics, lineup changes, etcetera, than all that analysis.
12 people found this helpful