Sep 252009

Keith JarrettThe first time I walked into a Chinese herb shop in San Francisco, the rush of aromas was nearly overwhelming. It was as if I was smelling everything that I had ever smelled in one delicious inhale. Keith Jarrett’s music is like that. It’s all there. The first time I heard Keith play I realized that I had never heard anything like it and yet the music sounded inevitable, the improvising coherent and the spirit celebratory. I was instantly a fan for life. I’m not a piano player but I listen deeply to everything  Keith does. Jarrett’s music is beyond style. Beyond music sometimes. It’s an expression of a state of being.

Enjoy this video of one brilliant Keith Jarrett moment:

Sep 252009

He graces the covers of the jazz magazines, wins best jazz guitarist in polls, and is one of the most in demand sidemen in the jazz world, yet he rarely plays a jazz cliche, a 16th note, or a jazz standard.

Frisell 003He is Bill Frisell and he doesn’t sound like any other guitarist.

His music is deep, simple, familiar, sophisticated, surprising, whole, inevitable,  colorful, sometimes melancholy, always heartfelt.

Frisell seems to conjure music. I’ve seen this before. Jimi Hendrix, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny. He gets it. I don’t know if what he has can be taught or learned, but he can be studied and relished for his sheer musicality.

You want to listen to Frisell with open ears (always good actually), let yourself enter his world and be transported.

This sublime version of a song that most jazz players would never think to play, is a great example of being musical.

Sep 252009

Pat Metheny in flight

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:

Sep 252009

Jaco 01Go! Go! Hike the ball – now!

Jaco’s bare feet were bleeding and the ring finger on his left hand had been jammed and was swollen to the size of a Ball Park Frank. We were playing flag football at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Jaco had a gig with Ira Sullivan in just a few hours, but for now it was all about football.

Jaco played at sports the same way he played bass. All out, complete focus, no drugs, no crazy. This was 1973 and Jaco was the worlds greatest electric bass player but no one outside of south Florida knew it yet.

I had met Jaco through local friends and fellow University of Miami students like John Paulus, Stan Samole, and Pat Metheny. We were all playing, searching our way into music. Pat and Jaco stood apart. Their level of understanding and control of their instruments was stunning, even at that time.

“James Brown Soul Classics volume 2 – the gold cover – get that record and play along with it every day – all day!”

The most dedicated musician I have ever met, Jaco lived and breathed it. He was the perfect example of “ten thousand times equals mastery”. He studied and listened to the right things. When he found out that I had a sizeable collection of Stravinsky recordings we would listen and try to play along. He dug The Beatles and Bach, Coltrane, Miles, everything.

I played two gigs with Jaco and many times at home. Both gigs were at Bachelors III in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. One was with Nancy Wilson, the other with Bobby Vinton. I was subbing for guitar giant Joe Diorio, who I had met at the University of Miami where he was doing some teaching. These gigs were shows, with a big band, tuxedos, and detailed charts. Jaco was amazing – singing horn parts at rehearsal, coaching players with quick comments and a sly grin – “like Chuck Berry!” he’d yell (Jaco wasn’t the bandleader but he was the most musical and enthusiastic guy on the bandstand).

I remember heading back to the band break room, walking behind Jaco. As we passed a grand piano that was tipped up on its side for storage, Jaco couldn’t resist. “Listen to this chord I found today!” he said as he leaned over and pounded out a ten fingered creation. The strings of the piano rang and clanged with out of control overtones and with our laughter. Jaco.

Jaco’s Modern Electric Bass video – a master shares: