In 2007, composer, arranger and performer Richard Niles wrote, produced and hosted a three-part radio series for the BBC titled “Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life.” The in-depth discussions Niles held with Metheny for the series covered all aspects of the renowned musician who has revolutionized both the guitar and jazz music – from Metheny’s first realization of his affinity for music to his wisdom accrued from years of dedicated musicianship.
This book simply transcribes those and other interviews Niles conducted with Metheny over time. And since it’s not structured nor does it read like a standard musician bio or treatise, it’s a surprisingly easy read, without sacrificing detail for brevity.
The subtitle of “The Pat Metheny Interviews” states it’s “the inner workings of his creativity revealed,” and for the most part, the book delivers. Over the course of its 152 pages, Niles and Metheny delve into such topics as why he was driven towards music with such stratospheric drive and dedication; how he developed his style and approach to music; how he set and achieved his own demanding goals; Metheny’s methodology as a guitarist, improviser and composer.
During the course of the interviews, Metheny demonstrated some of what he was talking about on the guitar, transcriptions of which appear in the book. Also included are some touching contributions from some of Metheny’s closest colleagues, including Lyle Mays, Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette, John Patitucci, Metheny’s brother, Mike Metheny, and the late Michael Brecker, as well as numerous rare photographs from Metheny’s private collection.
Whether or not your a fan of Metheny’s fusion-lite sound, it’s pretty hard to deny his exemplary musicianship. His first solo album, “Bright Size Life” (1976), virtually reinvented the jazz guitar and inspired a new generation of players. He’s won countless “Best Jazz Guitarist” polls and innumerable awards including three Gold records for “(Still Life) Talking,” “Letter From Home” and “Secret Story,” 12 Grammy Awards, including an unprecedented seven consecutive wins.
His versatility is without peer, having performed with Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and David Bowie. His 20-year writing partnership with Lyle Mays has been compared to Lennon/McCartney and Ellington/Strayhorn. His body of work includes compositions for large orchestras, film and ballet. He has been a pioneer in the realm of electronic music with the Synclavier and the electric sitar as well as developing several new types of acoustic instruments such as the fretless guitar, the soprano acoustic guitar and the 42-string Pikasso guitar.
Niles himself has built a strong career as a performer, recording artist, producer, songwriter, composer and arranger, author and educator, and his long-time friendship with Metheny (the two met as young jazz cats at Berklee) as well as his deep understanding of both jazz and music (and musicians) in general allow this book to go beyond the usual biographical and guitar-specific wankery that is normally found in interviews of guitar heroes. “The Pat Metheny Interviews” is a good read for for musicians and non-musicians alike to learn more about the artistic process that fuels this legendary guitarist, composer and bandleader.