The guitarist and composer Pat Metheny ranks among the most popular and innovative jazz musicians of all time. In Pat Metheny: The ECM Years, 1975-1984
, Mervyn Cooke offers the first in-depth account of Metheny's early creative period, during which he recorded eleven stunningly varied albums for the pioneering European record label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music). This impressive body of recordings encompasses both straight-ahead jazz playing with virtuosic small ensembles and the increasingly complex textures and structures of the Pat Metheny Group, a hugely successful band also notable for its creative exploration of advanced music technologies which were state-of-the-art at the time.
Metheny's music in all its shapes and forms broke major new ground in its refusal to subscribe to either of the stylistic poles of bebop and jazz-rock fusion which prevailed in the late 1970s. Through a series of detailed analyses based on a substantial body of new transcriptions from the recordings, this study reveals the close interrelationship of improvisation and pre-composition which lies at the very heart of the music. Furthermore, these analyses vividly demonstrate how Metheny's music is often conditioned by a strongly linear narrative model: both its story-telling characteristics and atmospheric suggestiveness have sometimes been compared to those of film music, a genre in which the guitarist also became active during this early period.
The melodic memorability for which Metheny's compositions and improvisations have long been world-renowned is shown to be just one important element in an unusually rich and flexible musical language that embraces influences as diverse as bebop, free jazz, rock, pop, country & western, Brazilian music, classical music, minimalism, and the avant-garde. These elements are melded into a uniquely distinctive soundworld which, above all, directly reflects Metheny's passionate belief in the need to refashion jazz in ways which can allow it to speak powerfully to each new generation of youthful listeners.