(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “Bright Size Life” (1976)

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Welcome to the first entry of our new series (Cross the) Heartland, a song-by-song examination of the entire Pat Metheny catalog. It’s no secret that I’ve been a Metheny fan since my introduction to him (via my cousin’s copy of American Garage) way back in the late 1970s.

Aside from maybe Bruce Springsteen, I’ve probably written more about Pat than any other artist.

Why am I so attracted to the man’s music? I’m hoping that this series will provide an answer, though the short story is this: he has worked successfully in so many musical contexts that to label him as just a “jazz guitarist” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is to miss his essence. So follow me from straight-ahead jazz through fusion, free jazz, noise, and film music …

Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life was an audacious debut album. With the ever-sensitive Bob Moses on drums and the great Jaco Pastorious on bass, Metheny seemed to show up with a fully-formed concept. The trio springs to ife after that ascending opening line, with Jaco’s chiming artificial harmonic and Moses’ cymbals both following and creating the dynamics. The interplay is so spot on that the line between improvisation and composition is thoroughly blurred.

Here’s a great version of tune performed with Antonio Sanchez at the kit and Richard Bona in Jaco’s spot. I never got to see the original lineup, but this take is pretty righteous.

Up next: Sirabhorn

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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 reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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