WTF?! Wednesdays: Pat Metheny Group, “Forward March” (1984)

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I love that feeling that washes over me when a piece of music is so screwed up that I (at least initially) have no idea why I’m enjoying myself so much. That feeling will be the driving force behind most of my WTF?! entries. From Merzbow to Peter Brotzmann, me a fellow noise cohort S. Victor Aaron have this mysterious attraction to room-clearing music. Why do we like this stuff? Is it only because it will clear a room? Peel the paint off the walls? Blow the balls off a charging rhino at 20 paces?

Maybe…but we’ll never admit to that.

Which brings me to “Forward March.” This was the first song of my very first Pat Metheny Group show. Excepting the quite odd title track from 1981’s Offramp, there was no hint resident in Metheny’s discography that pointed toward this bit of weirdness. As you will see below, Pat walked on stage making a ton of bizarre howls and squeaks with his guitar synthesizer. Then the band walked in from both the wings and the rear of the theatre carrying and playing various marching band instruments. Wertico is banging on a drum. Pedro Aznar is on glockenspiel. Steve Rodby is pounding a bass drum. Lyle Mays is on trumpet (at my show, he played one particularly ugly note and then flipped the horn around to get a good look down inside the bell).

At some point a whistle blows and the ensemble launches into what has been (brilliantly) described as “The Marching Band At Ornette Coleman High.” Hell yes, that is perfect. This song is in no way representative of the Metheny Group’s sound, and yet it made me a believer, almost from the first few (mangled and magical) notes.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Mark Saleski
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