(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “Oasis” (1977)

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“Oasis” provides a very early counterexample to the notion that the music of Pat Metheny tends toward lightweight fare, closer to new age or (worse) smooth jazz than anything from the “real” jazz tradition. Built atop a cloud of acoustic guitar arpeggios, we have a very early (and somewhat dark) hint at what would become one of Metheny’s signatures: the wordless vocal line.

The credits list 12-String bass guitar, guitar, 12-string guitar, and harp guitar…none of which give a clear indication of what Pat used to produce that eerie melodic line around which those gauzy arpeggios bloom. The interesting thing here is that there’s nothing fancy going on, just a very simple, almost mourning melody — a melody given color by its surroundings. And to my ear, the human vocal qualities of that melody foreshadow Metheny’s use of actual vocals in later contexts beginning with Nana Vasconcelos on As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.

As with much of the material from Watercolors, I’ve never heard Pat rework this one in a live setting. It’d sure be nice though…

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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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