Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Pat Metheny — Road to the Sun (BMG)
Over the past four decades, jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny has earned plenty of awards that must be stashed in his closet. Among them are 20 Grammys in 10 categories including jazz, samba and progressive rock.
"If you come to my house, you won't see any remnant of anything like awards or records or anything like that," Metheny said. "I don't really like to look back. If something comes along and there's some acknowledgment, I really do appreciate it. But as soon as something is done, what's the next thing? It's like that for me."
His latest album, Road to the Sun, brings his distinctive style into the world of classical music. The self-titled track was inspired by a trip to Montana's Glacier National Park. That's where he composed the tune for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The other original work, Four Paths of Light, was written for guitarist Jason Vieaux.
In Kansas City, you received on-the-job training without any formal guitar lessons. How has that changed throughout the years?
"Well, you're right. I learned the guitar from playing with really great musicians. I was incredibly lucky to be in the Kansas City area during a period where there happened to be a lot of great players and just a handful of guitar players. So I got a lot of gigs when I was 14, 15 and 16 years old. The issue is some things exist on paper. In reality, we're musicians, and our currency is the sound that we make or the notes that we leave on a page for other musicians to play."
Is this the first time you've crossed into the classical genre?
"For me, there is this issue of music that's improvised versus music that's written. I've written a lot of notes over the years for a lot of great musicians. But this is the first time where it's not leading to improvising. It's funny that it took me this long to get to that, because usually that's where people start and then they go to improvising afterward. It was kind of backward for me.
"This whole project began with the L.A. Guitar Quartet, because for 20 some years they've been wanting me to write something for them. I was on a trip with my family, and we had a space where I could get up really early in the morning, go by myself and not bother anybody. The idea which became the first movement of Road to the Sun appeared. I thought, 'Well, this would be good for those L.A. Guitar Quartet guys.'"
What does that mean to you to hear Bill Kanengiser of the LAGQ say that Road to the Sun is vintage Pat Metheny, and one of the most ambitious and powerful pieces that they have ever played in their 40 years together?
"Well, my reaction to that is also, 'Wow!' What an incredible compliment. There is a thing that happens when you make a project that takes a long time like this and it's finally done. Sometimes it's, 'If I never hear that again, that's OK,' because you've moved on. But this one, I still really like listening to it. I think it did capture something that I hoped to be able to offer, and it makes me happy that those guys like it, too."
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.