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    The Artistry of... Pat Metheny

    Written by John Devenish

    I recently read an article online on the National Public Radio (NPR) website that vividly shared an experience of artistry. It was so on the mark I needed to share it; not unlike how you can feel when having been touched by a recording or performance and you feel the compulsion to share. You know, that – hey, you’ve gotta hear this, feeling…?

    The article was written by Robert Krulwich who works in radio, podcasts, video, and also blogs. His NPR bio says he has been called, "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide.
    He is the Science Correspondent for NPR and write a blog called, "Krulwich Wonders" . There is a slight connection of familiarity too because of another related experience. He’s an Obie. That’s a graduate of Oberlin College. My younger sister, Allyson, is an Obie. If you know anything about Oberlin grads they're definitely a breed apart! Oberlin is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. The first to regularly admit female and black students in addition to white males.  Its Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the USA. Oberlin is noted for its political and social energy, often described as, the prototype for progress even in the face of strong resistance.  Oberlin students have a reputation for being fiercely liberal and socially progressive. The school was been ranked on the Princeton Reviews' list of "Colleges with a Conscience".

    In the article Krulwich wrote about visiting MOMA with his father.  He talked about liking to go places with his dad, even saying it did not matter where they went.  In a humorous description he talks about entering the gallery: “… so we arrived at the lobby, bought our tickets, handed them to a man who tore them in half, like at the movies…”.  Once inside he describes being instantly affected by a painting. Describing the experience as being as if something, “grabbed his eyes...a woodland scene, a blur of greens, blues and purples, a tumble of rocks in the foreground, tall pines, branching into a blue sky,..no people in it, no girls, nothing I recognized... couldn't stop looking…”. He asked his father what is was and his dad told him it was a Cezanne.  Of the experience he reasoned the whole episode out this way: “Here's all I can think: that when we are born, we are born with a sort of mood in us, a mood that comes to us through our genes, that will be seasoned by experience, but deep down, it's already there, looking for company, for someone to share itself with, and when we happen on the right piece of music, the right person, or, in this case the right artist, then, with a muscle that is as deep as ourselves, with the force of someone grabbing for a life preserver, we attach. And that's what happened to me that day.”.

    The sentiments of the experience speak directly about artistry. Not just a piece of art, not just a tune or watching a theatrical production or dance but actually having it touch you so deeply that you never forget – that you need to share it and, as Krulwich says, engage that ‘mood’ that is seasoned by experience. Something already there looking for company. “ A muscle as deep as ourselves.”. You know when you hear a musician make music and even if the tune is something you are very familiar with the way they re-create it, perform and present it is so fresh, so there for you, that you feel it like never before. You come to expect something excitingly great from that artist and anticipate the feelings you get from just being there with it as it is about to happen or is happening. Intimate, It is cool stuff. It is what artistry is all about.

    The Artistry of Pat Metheny

    I had the pleasure of seeing Pat Metheny in concert at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall. With every foot-fall and musical note that place just sounds like history! It was an excellent show. Vintage Metheny some Orchestrion stuff and newer Unity Group offerings…Everything he does is honest. A lot of it is tried by others but all too often comes off as cliche or not as genuine … when he does stuff, even though it is very much his – even stuff he has done many times before, it sounds as fresh or honest as it ever was … Art rock and jazz fusion saw almost a point of over saturation through the late 70s and into the 80s …this is not that at all… his sound is a blend of a Berkley sound of the late 70s – experimental and liberated. The artistry of Metheny is the essence of liberation …

    The Unity Group is a definite unit - although he is the namesake and star, the group is as much about him as he is about them. Artistry in unity!





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