(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “Two Folk Songs” (1980)

I have to admit that intellectually, I was not prepared for 80/81. I had not yet listened to enough jazz music. American Garage, First Circle, Kind of Blue and Weather Report’s 8:30 rounded out nearly my entire listening discography. It just wasn’t enough. And even when I finally took the deep dive, the enormity of this body of music was difficult to process. You have to admit that the lineup was intimidating: Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Dewey Redman? Are you kidding me?

The cool thing is that “Two Folk Songs,” even though it clocks in at over twenty minutes, comes across as anything but intimidating. Supported by Metheny’s “furious strumming” technique (that he would later bring to “The First Circle”), we have Brecker switching back and forth between the melody and some joyous emoting. What truly drives things forward are the typically spectacular drums of Jack DeJohnette. Jack is one of the jazz world’s most sensitive and melodic drummers, but when the velocity is increased, it can sound like he’s coming from several directions at once.

And if anybody wants to understand what Pat means when he mentions the uniqueness of Charlie Haden, they should give a close listen to the Charlie’s featured passages in the latter half of this composition. It’s musical beauty and simplicity distilled.

Up next: 80/81

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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 writes several 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.

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