By Tom Gates
Jazz guitar instructor Stan Samole had just come from a small practice room on the second floor of the building that housed the jazz department at the University of Miami. “I just met the future of jazz guitar” he said. He was right. It was an eighteen year-old kid from Missouri named Pat Metheny.
It was 1972, and Stan had the job of playing for a few minutes with each of the incoming jazz guitar students to check their skills. Just two guitars, face to face, in a tiny room – “blues in B flat” he’d say and off you’d go.
There were very few colleges that offered jazz guitar studies in 1972, and the number of young guitarists that showed up in Miami was impressive. We had been inspired and motivated by the amazing and wonderful rock and roll of the late 1960’s and the new breed of guitarists fusing rock with the jazz tradition.
Pat Metheny had it. He got it. He had listened and studied and practiced and researched and loved it so much that when I met him at age 18 he was stunning. Deep musicality combined with genuine personal presence is a powerful combination. Pat can weave a musical melody over any chord changes. Not just a line that is correct and logical, but a creation with meaning. How? How do you create real feeling and an important moment with an improvised creation?
I was fortunate to spend some time with Pat both in lessons and socially in 1972-73 before his move to Boston and beyond. It was a joy and his musicality has inspired me ever since.
Pat Metheny has discussed his search for an original voice. Whatever instrument you play do not try to emulate your favorite player. Look at the entire spectrum of players of your instrument. Look in the cracks between styles. What hasn’t been done? That’s what you should do.
Here is a beautiful solo guitar medley from Pat Metheny:
And a soaring band track: