Jazz legend Pat Metheny brings his best band ever here for show on Oct 27

Pat Methany (right) will be playing at the Esplanade with the Pat Metheny Unity Group’s (from far left) Chris Potter, Giulio Carmassi, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez. -- PHOTO: ESPLANADE
Pat Methany (right) will be playing at the Esplanade with the Pat Metheny Unity Group’s (from far left) Chris Potter, Giulio Carmassi, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez. -- PHOTO: ESPLANADE

Pat Methany to play with "best band", who are adept at playing songs from his vast back catalogue

American jazz guitar virtuoso Pat Metheny will be back in Singapore for a gig at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Monday and he is bringing along, in his words, "the best band" that he has ever played with.

That is no light praise, for over the last four decades, he has built an extensive and acclaimed body of work that is rarely paralleled.

While the 20-time Grammy winner's last show here at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2006 was as a trio with stellar sidemen Christian McBride on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums, his return show here will be with the Pat Metheny Unity Group, which feature Chris Potter on saxophone, Ben Williams on bass, Giulio Carmassi on various instruments and Sanchez again on drums.

The 60-year-old says in a telephone interview from New York: "This band has been such a thing, I hope when you hear it, you'll understand what I'm talking about. This band has really been a life-changing experience for me and it's true. I've never had a band quite like this and it sort of just took off and became this front and centre thing for me.

"I've never had an agenda in a way, I just follow what's going on and what seems to be happening and for the moment, this is the thing that's happening for me."

While this line-up played on his last album, Kin, which was released in February and topped the American jazz charts, he says that the group are more than adept at playing songs from his vast back catalogue.

"We can play anything from all the years of my career as a musician. It's a band with that kind of depth and versatility. It's usually a long concert that covers a very wide range."

Whether it is under his name or with the many groups that he has led and played with, including the Pat Metheny Group, or through collaborations with other jazz names Gary Burton and Brad Mehldau, he has played on more than 60 albums.

Acknowledged as one of jazz's premier guitarists, his genre-stretching music straddles post-bop and progressive and contemporary jazz, and he is known for playing less common instruments, including the 42-string Pikasso guitar, 12-string electric guitars and guitar synthesisers.

But to him, the goal of making music has always been to play songs live and that is the main reason he has toured the world in the last 40 years.

"For me, playing live is the most fun part and it always has been the kind of final product. I know for a lot of people, it's all about making the record and you go out and do concerts and, hopefully, people will buy the record," he says.

"I like making records and everything. But it's always been more, for me, you make the record so that when you come to town, people want to come and hear you because they want to hear the music on the record. To me, the destination has always been the live presentation. I love playing live. I love the whole idea of understanding each night as a unique, special thing. It's always fun to see how people respond."

The father of three has also always been passionate about education and conducts workshops and classes regularly.

In his early years as a jazz prodigy, the then 19-year-old Metheny was the youngest teacher at acclaimed American music school, Berklee College of Music.

Asked about the best lesson that he can impart to budding musicians, he offers this sound advice - the more uncomfortable you are with other musicians, the better it is for you.

"If you're the best guy in the band, you need to get in a different band, particularly if you are a young musician," he says.

"You can have great teachers and be in a great school and all that, but music is still something you learn by doing and by being in situations where you are extremely challenged by the musicians who are around you. So try to be in a situation where you are uncomfortable because people around you are better than you are."

He modestly adds that in terms of his musical development, he feels like he is "just starting out" and is trying to learn as much as he can.

"I'm lucky in the sense that I get to hop on a plane and fly for 18 hours and play a gig in Singapore. It's great but I would also be very happy to just be in my little room practising 12 hours a day. I feel that my main interest is in the music and trying to understand music."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg