Monday, January 3, 2011

Music for the Pastor's Study: Part X. Pat Metheny (Group)/Lyle Mays

Perhaps the breathtaking output of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and his (ever mutating) Group is better suited to a (hypothetical) list like "Music for the Pastor's Car," but a number of individual tracks figure on the 5-Star iTunes playlist that cycles in this pastor's study.

I remember as a high schooler first hearing tracks like "(Cross the) Heartland" and "New Chatauqua" finding their way onto the local rock radio station, before radio was 100% syndicated and local DJs were allowed to play what they liked. Pat Metheny was the local (Kansas City) "boy makes good," playing in jazz clubs when still in high school and eventually cranking out one brilliant album after another. He was blessed to find Lyle Mays early on to complement him on piano. It was a perfect fit. The voicings and progressions in their compositions (both together and separately) are simply unique, and open up indescribable vistas. If they occasionally go off the rails experimentally, well, never mind. The fact is I simply don't know of any more consistently joyful music anywhere.

[Warning: I still don't quite get the sheer noise album, Rejoicing, which title is terribly misleading. Stay far away from that one! Pat, what were you thinking?]

As far as whole albums go, the one most likely to make it all the way through in this pastor's study is an older impressionistic recording of Metheny's quartet, but Watercolors includes some some lovely solo pieces as well.

Some other tracks not to be missed are:

"September Fifteenth," from As Falls Wichita ..., a tribute to the late, great Bill Evans.

"Across the Sky," from Imaginary Day.

"Letter from Home," from the album of the same name.

"Sueno Con Mexico," from New Chatauqua (see my earlier posting on The Organ, and what makes for a great prelude to worship; well, this track too has a similar effect on the respiration.)

"The Search," from American Garage, is the climax on my Metheny playlist, and any pastor with even the slightest sense of being on a spiritual, vocation journey will grasp what this great, capacious midwestern quartet is saying with this simultaneous undulating and soaring chart. Mays' piano here puts me in mind of Vince Guaraldi or George Shearing, and his trademark Oberheim synth patch always sounds to me as care free as my late dad's happy whistling - just the thing to lift one's spirits.

Lyle Mays has had his own distinguished solo career. Check out the evocative and ethereal "Newborn" on Street Dreams.

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