I love the music of Pat Metheny and have followed his career through the years, purchasing quite a few of his CDs along the way. I’ve never heard him perform in person—until last night! Pat is a Missouri born lad and the sold-out crowd at the Sheldon Arts Center here in St. Louis welcomed him enthusiastically.
Pat came out on stage alone and performed on his 42-string Pikasso guitar. His individual artistry was incredible—a word I used constantly throughout the night. Then his group joined him and didn’t stop playing for the next 2 ½ hours. It was an incredible evening. His group consists of Antono Sanchez (his drummer for the past ten tears), bassist Linda Oh and pianist Gwilym Simcock. Antonio, you probably know, was the composer of and drummer for, the film score for “Birdman” which awarded an Oscar for Best Picture. Linda is from Malaysia/Australia and Gwilym from the UK. It was an international, all-star quartet, with each musician given plenty of space to solo and share their artistry.
The band played a full hour before a single word was spoken, seguing from one number to the next after a round of appreciative applause. Pat began every song and it soon became evident that the band was eager and ready to jump in, even though they weren’t sure what he was going to play next. They were tight yet spontaneous, passionate in their intensity, yet constantly connected with us the audience. The smile on Pat’s face was evident throughout the evening.
Last night’s concert was one of the most creative and inspiring performances that I’ve ever attended—a blending of old and new music that typified Pat’s quote that jazz is a verb, not a noun. It’s not a thing, rather a process, a free-flowing, ever-evolving encounter with the spirit of the musicians, and I would add: an encounter with the Spirit. No, this was not presented with any religious or spiritual intent (at least to my knowledge). And yet, if you believe as I do that jazz can be a deeply sacred experience, then Pat’s quartet constantly lifted us to new heights, filling the audience with an exuberance and joy that resonated in the soul.
Jazz, as a verb, moves the musicians through the creative terrain of invention, inspiring each other and catapulting the audience to a new level of experiencing their own inner landscape. Exactly what happens when jazz is the music for worship. So, I suppose I did a lot of worshipping last night. No liturgy, but plenty of Spirit.