(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “Turnaround” (1980)

Like a lot of young guys growing up in the 70s, I fell in love with the electric guitar. I didn’t get my first instrument until my late teens and really didn’t start playing in earnest until my early 20s. The problem is that the process of learning how to play has a funny, almost drug-like quality to it. Early on, a minimal amount of effort and concentration can yield startlingly cool results. I don’t want to say that it’s easy (because it’s not), but there you’ve got this chunk of wood and strings and out comes a lopsided version of some riff you’ve been hearing on the radio since you were 15 and boom….let me try that again!

So over a decade after I’d made why way past Rolling Stones tunes and had played some more complex material with my friends, I came upon the 80/81 version of Ornette’s “Turnaround.” It’s one of those tunes that immediately resonated with me, so much so that an instant desire to play the song formed. The problem was that I just didn’t have to chops to do it. Hell, I didn’t even really know what Pat was doing on those choruses. I was sure that it was more or less a three-chord blues, but my ability to play over simple blues progressions didn’t seem to transfer into this context. At all.

My frustation lead me to study jazz guitar for several years. It sure gave me an appreciation for the insane level of complexity that Metheny and his cohorts are so comfortable with. And yes, I did learn how to play “Turnaround,” though not nearly as well as Pat. No surprise there.

Oh, and for years I thought that it was Metheny yelling out “Wooooooo! Jack DeJohnette, man!” at the end of this track. It was actually Charlie Haden, bubbling over with joy after witnessing Jack DeJohnette’s particular brilliance. Until this session, the pair had never worked together before. Kind of amazing.

Up next: Open

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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.