I like a good guitar solo as much as the next guy, but given a choice between a display of fretboard pyrotechnics vs. something with a little more soul, I’ll always gravitate to the latter. So that would be Keith Richards over Joe Satriani, every single time.
What does this have to do with Pat Metheny? A while ago, during an e-conversation in which I was trying to convince a writer friend to pick up a copy of Orchestrion, the subject of melody was broached. More specifically, the fact that Metheny tends to write very, very long melodies. This is what gives his music such an involving sense of storytelling. Yes, Pat can tumble out the notes at blinding rates, but he never does that if it would step outside service of melodic development.
On “Third Wind,” there’s a short but amazing confluence of both chops and melody. After a long introductory passage, full of driving percussion and the floating melodic lines painted out by the unison guitar/voice combination of Pat and Pedro Aznar, the group abruptly drops away and Metheny unleashes a torrent of notes. It’s like one of his extended melodies, compressed in time to increase the intensity. After a few seconds the band kicks back in and the guitar solo continues, expanding on the story told in the first in those first few blistering measures.