Pat Metheny's long career has woven through many styles, genres, and forms, but never included a solo acoustic album. And he didn't plan to make one when he retreated to his home studio two years ago and started to play -- and then record -- a batch of songs on baritone guitar. Last year, he picked it up again and recorded a few cover tunes (including "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and the recent Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why"). The sessions became One Quiet Night, his latest CD.
"It just kinda showed up," Metheny says. "I wasn't really thinking about it, and I wasn't really planning anything. Playing solo guitar isn't something I've done much of. And it didn't even seem much of a record [at first]. I played it for a couple people and asked them, 'Is this a record?' And they said, 'Yep. It's a record.'"
One Quiet Night is also Metheny's most tranquil recording: intimate, relaxed, and comforting. His intricate style, which so often comes across as aloof, here sounds warm and open. Acoustic playing suits him well, and he plans to record another album that way.
Metheny has jumped genres for almost three decades; his forays into electronic, classical, rock, and world music reveal a restlessness that may never be quelled. His Sunday appearance at Severance Hall is with his trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. "There's such a strong trio tradition [in jazz]," he says. "As an improvising musician, I can home in on certain aspects of my playing style. A trio can go almost anywhere. The freedom is enormous."
Metheny's always been a master at exploring his freedom. Each of his endeavors -- from collaborations with free-jazz master Ornette Coleman (on Song X) to feedback-drenched noise (Zero Tolerance for Silence) to 25 years fronting the Pat Metheny Group -- offers unique opportunities. "I like going on little tangents," he explains. "It's a natural reaction to the world we live in. The world is quite complex and offers many, many different points of view."
It's all part of evolution, Metheny says. But it's not his growth that matters; it's the maturity of jazz through the ages that means something. "It's great that all of the information has become so quantified. But it creates a semi-false illusion that, by knowing the language, you're going to have something to say. There's a point where you've got all the tools, you've got the language, you've got the vocabulary. Now tell us something.
"And that's where the rub is. We have many, many players who are fluent in the language, but who don't have much to talk about. But personally, I enjoy just hearing the language."
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