PAT METHENY ORCHESTRATES
a One Man Band Bonanza at the Bergen Pac in New Jersey!
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny is hailed as a unique and innovative player. Metheny's music is a blend of classical and contemporary jazz with elements of blues, fusion, Latin, progressive, rock and swing and the artist has garnered much acclaim since releasing his first record in 1975. Pat has won many polls for Best Jazz Guitarist. He has three gold records to his credit along with seventeen Grammy Awards covering a wide range of categories including Best Rock Instrumental, Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo and Best Instrumental Composition.

Pat Metheny in Concert at the bergenPAC
Pat Metheny on stage at the bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey.

"Orchestrionics", as Pat states on his website, "is the term that I am using to describe a method of developing ensemble-oriented music using acoustic and electric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled in a variety of ways, using solenoids and pneumatics".

This coalition of sounds and sonic innovations was presented at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ on October 8th 2010.

Pat greeted the crowd mid-way through the show taking time to say thank you and explaining the concept of the concert. He acknowledged that it was not your usual gig leading into a story about his grandfather who collected instruments and how Pat at a young age tinkered with a player piano. Many years later, Metheny mixed that bygone instrumentation with modern technology. The result was a framed wall of drums, cymbals, bells, percussion, guitars and even an accordion. Also on the stage was a piano and more gear.

Metheny summarized the show, which started with Pat playing a solo on guitar that featured pretty picking on an acoustic. The sound was dainty yet dynamic and flowed into a precise piece that was layered and lilting.

For the third song he switched to an unusual guitar that had two sets of strings stationed over openings, a third set of strings was going diagonally across part of the instrument and a fourth crossed over the first two. The beguiling sounds were a blend of guitar and harp with lots of echoes enhancing a wide range of notes from high to low.

"Unity Village" was vibrant and augmented by the playful percussion patterns from "Mr. Cymbals" - the first of the mechanical instruments to be incorporated into a song. It was then that the curtain rose to reveal the wall of sound and equipment stacked up behind the guitar master. Pat continued to explain the concept of Orchestrion but it was still hard to conceive how he was controlling all the accompaniement with just his guitar and foot pedals.

The next series of songs was a mechanical musical suite from his most recent record Orchestrion. The instrumentals were a myriad of sights and sounds directed by Metheny's lush leads. Lighting was used to capture the many movements from the wall of sound. The jams flowed through various styles and speeds with an emphasis on jazz.

It was our understanding that much of the mechanically musical suite was pre-programmed as the next series of songs were presented by Pat as improvisational. These pieces were just as mysterious and magical as guitar chords conversed with rhythms. There were mixes of tricky tempos and tantalizing guitar leads. Pat's attention to details was daunting with his guitar directing dynamic progressions of bells, blinking lights and even the subtle movement and sound of the accordion. At times it was spooky but sensational.

Metheny said it would take hours to fully explain what was going on stage but his own website contains a tutorial that goes deeper into the concept. Basically, Metheny is controlling multiple instruments - including two organs with water bottles as the tuning agent. Through his guitar Pat can produce a related note, chord, lead, or percussive statement on any of the two dozen or so pieces of equipment on tour with him. Some reviewers have reported a disconnect because it's not totally clear what's happening on stage musically but the end result is magnetic and captivating.

Pat said that two of his favorite places to perform music are Italy and New Jersey. On this night, the intrigued Bergen County crowd were charged up, drawn in and clamoring for more.

Since the audience was receptive and appreciative, Pat played some songs from his back catalog including "Tell Her You Saw Me" - a gentle and graceful ballad mixed in with more fluid and futuristic instrumentals. The audience - which included former Yankee and jazz musician Bernie Williams - was in awe. The concert was also a fund-raiser for the Jazz Foundation (www.jazzfoundation.org) that supports retired and aging jazz and blues musicians with performance opportunities, emergency care, living expenses and related medical needs.

Pat Metheny in Concert at the bergenPAC
In 2010 Pat Metheny is touring in support of the Orchestrion CD.

Related Links: For more information on PAT METHENY and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- PatMetheny.com | JazzFoundation.org | bergenPAC.org

(Originally Published on October 10, 2010)

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