(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “September Fifteenth” (1981)

In interviews, I’ve seen Lyle Mays speak of how music has it’s own “language and syntax.” He wasn’t necessarily talking about music’s technicalities — harmony, melody, and the like. Instead, it was those ideas that can only be expressed through music. Now, I’ll grant you that it’s very difficult to describe this phenomenon, but maybe that’s the point.

“September Fifteenth,” Pat and Lyle’s unspeakably beautiful tribute to Bill Evans, always makes me think of Mays’ ideas of musical meta-language. Does knowing the composition’s intent somehow get in the way of a listener’s understanding? As some say analysis of a poem might do? I don’t think so.

Early on, Metheny is playing the acoustic guitar inside of Mays’ pastoral synth washes. I’ve always been struck by the changeover, when Pat rides on four chords, introducing Lyle’s short melody on the Oberheim. After that, Lyle switches to piano and the pair are locked in for a time. The interplay is both delicate and intimate…exactly what Bill Evans’ career was built on. But when Pat steps back for Lyle’s solo passage? Incredible.

I’ve seen them play this live a few times and it’s always stunning.

Up next: It’s For You

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.
  • Marla

    It’s a beautiful tune.