If you’re been reading me for any length of time between 1991 and 2019, you likely know that I am a longtime admirer of, and listener to, the fusion/jazz/whatever-guitarist Pat Metheny. I’ve seen him in concert a dozen times at least, have bought one copy (or more) of pretty much every recording he’s ever made, own hundreds of hours’ worth of bootlegs and mixer-deck tapes from his concerts. I have T-shirts, sealed-and-signed vinyl albums, posters, and 24k-plated Japanese-market-only hi-def CDs. He has published three books of music; I bought, read, and played them. Hell, I even own a book of interviews with the fellow.
Earlier this year, I went to see Pat’s “Side Eye” tour and it was, charitably speaking, a mess — an indifferent setlist where both of his sidemen had music on the bandstand and were visibly uncomfortable with the material. This in no way diminished my willingness to buy front-row tickets again in the future. Everybody has a bad gig once in a while.
The email I received yesterday, on the other hand…
It started promisingly enough:
…It is unlikely that the recordings of the CTI label of that time would likely never be thought of as “avant-garde” by garden variety jazz critics of that (or probably any other) era. But from my seat as a young fan, the idea of an excellent and experienced arranger like Don Sebesky taking the improvised material of great musicians like Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter and weaving their lines and voicings into subsequent orchestration was not only a new kind of arranging; it resulted in a different kind of sound and music.
Well, that’s great! I’m a huge fan of the CTI sound. What else does Pat have to say about this new record?
, I felt that the essence of this music was so American in nature that if it were in any way possible, it needed to be done here in the States – and in Los Angeles in particular.
Outstanding! Made In The USA! Let’s keep reading…
On November 8, 2016, our country shamefully revealed a side of itself to the world that had mostly been hidden from view in its recent history. I wrote the piece From This Place in the early morning hours the next day as the results of the election became sadly evident.
Oh shit, he’s caught TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome).
There was only one musician who I could imagine singing it, and that was Meshell Ndegocello, one of the great artists of our time. With words by her partner Alison Riley, they captured exactly the feeling of that tragic moment while reaffirming the hope of better days ahead.
Ah, Pat, you have a lot of nerve to even mention Better Days Ahead in this context. Also, calling Ndegocello “one of the great artists of our time” would be like calling Courtney Love “America’s greatest female guitarist”.
That said, as I approach 50 years of recording and performing, while looking back on all the music I have been involved in, I am hard-pressed to immediately recall in retrospect the political climate of the time that most of it was made in. And if I can, the memories of those particulars seem almost inconsequential to the music itself.
The currency that I have been given the privilege to trade in over these years put its primary value on the timeless and transcendent nature of what makes music music.
Music continually reveals itself to be ultimately and somewhat oddly impervious to the ups and downs of the transient details that may even have played a part in its birth. Music retains its nature and spirit even as the culture that forms it fades away, much like the dirt that creates the pressure around a diamond is long forgotten as the diamond shines on.
I hope this record might stand as a testament to my ongoing aspiration to honor those values.
So, to paraphrase: “This jazz record doesn’t really have much to do with Trump. But it’s important to me that you understand I despise both Trump and the basket of deplorables who elected him.”
Truth be told, I would be just as annoyed if I were in an alternate universe and I got an email from Charlie Daniels telling me that he was writing music in response to the election of Hillary Clinton. I don’t see the point in calling an election “shameful” simply because one multi-millionaire New Yorker got elected instead of another. Furthermore, it is deliberately divisive to do so. I wasn’t thrilled by the election, or the re-election, of Barack Obama — but I didn’t send a mass-marketing email to all my readers on the subject, nor did I engage in claptrapping about how it “revealed” a “shameful” side of America.
There’s a lot I’d like to say to Pat in response. I’d like to say that the idea of “a side of the country” being “shamefully hidden” is in fact only true if you’re a millionaire with a Manhattan penthouse and a wife who burns your cash on the New York art and social circuits. The fact that about half of the United States was effectively disenfranchised until recently is not something to celebrate; it’s this close to talking cheerfully about having thirty years of permanent revolution, or praising the Dear Leader. I would like to tell him that whining about a free and fair election is never admirable. I’d like to point out that Mr. Trump, unlike Mrs. Clinton, has exhibited very little bloodthirsty desire for combat, and that his remarkable disinclination to meddle militarily in foreign affairs has saved the lives of many young men from Ohio, Indiana, and Metheny’s home state of Missouri, even if they didn’t notice the difference in the rehearsal halls of Berklee (or Berkeley).
Most of all, however, I’d like to ask him exactly what he hoped to gain from this all-too-obvious pandering. Does he really think that the entire world is exactly like his social scene in New York? Does he think that he is playing to an exclusive audience of progressives when he visits Dayton, Ohio or Lexington, Kentucky? What is gained by deliberately antagonizing a major percentage of his audience, and what is lost?
In this case, what’s lost is $23.99, which is the price of the 2-LP set I’d have bought on Day One, plus the two dozen or so concerts I’d likely attend between now and his retirement, plus all future recordings, reissues, and merchandise. Let’s say it rounds up to five grand. What I’ll do instead is stream the new album on Spotify, which will pay him $0.006 per stream. If I listen to the whole thing a hundred times, that’s eight and a half bucks, max. More likely I’ll listen to it ten times, which will be eighty-four cents. Will Metheny miss my five thousand dollars? Probably not. I’ll enjoy spending it somewhere else regardless.
Perhaps the key to Pat’s attitude can be found in this hugely important, and fascinating interview between a conservative-thinking Jewish liberal and a classical-liberal Catholic conservative. Neither has much affection for Mr. Trump — but they understand how his election came to pass, and the very real sickness affecting this country’s so-called “elite”. Most of all, it’s quite interesting to see the two of them discuss the manner in which each generation deliberately sabotages the “meritocratic” generation after it. Prior to 1965, you could count on the fact that people would deliberately get out of the way of their successors, both in their careers and in society as a whole. The current elite, on the other hand, poisons the well of their potential successors while mortgaging the future to China, all to prolong their unparalleled and unprecedented bliss just a few more years. It’s not a situation which can prevail indefinitely. There will a response, one that will bring the powerful to their knees. So may it secretly begin.
Brother Bark dealt with offering some real-life advice.