World-renowned Pat Metheny Trio visits Dartmouth

by Christopher Moss | 11/3/03 6:00am

Acclaimed jazz guitarist Pat Metheny just walked out on stage.

The guitarist, a 15 time Grammy winner who was teaching at the prestigious Berklee School of Music by the age of 19, was the portrait of simplicity. He wore a plain black and white shirt out of an old prison movie. He smiled at the clapping audience, took a seat and began to play. He had a spotlight on him, but he may as well have been sitting in his living room -- bent toward the guitar, face invisible.

He played a number of soft melodic tunes on his baritone guitar, stopping after each one only to smile at the audience and let the clapping die down. During his solo, Metheny showed off a custom made guitar called the Pikasso. The guitar had two necks and 42 strings, producing a sound complex enough make one doubt it was played by one man.

For the second part of the performance, Metheny was joined by drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Christian McBride. As Metheny's final solo was played, the stage slowly lit up. Sanchez and McBride gave the illusion of simply appearing on stage, having walked on while it was still dark. Their combined music was just as moving as Metheny's solo numbers.

The other two members of the trio are widely acclaimed as well. Sanchez was part of the Pat Metheny Group, a band that won seven Grammys for seven straight albums. Sanchez also graduated magna cum laude from Berklee College of Music. Christian McBride hails from Philadelphia and has played with artists such as Sting, The Roots and Boys II Men.

Their combined talents produced an intensely emotional and diverse array of jazz music. In addition to the music itself, the trio's emotional music found another outlet for expression: Metheny's face. Now fully visible, his face changed expression with every note. At times it almost seemed he was adding words to his instrumental music.

The stage also mirrored the tone of the music. Throughout the night, the stage was bathed in red, blue and gold. The gold reflected off the musician's instruments, blinding some members of the audience. The curtain behind them changed from a purplish hue to a deep red between songs and throughout the performance.

The only decorations on the stage were four large shrubs located behind the musicians. The shrubs were used with the lights to give the piece a season effect. At times they were green, almost fluorescent, while at other times they were bathed in red, reminding one of autumn.

Metheny's first words to the audience were in appreciation of his fellow musicians and the people who turned out to see him. His stange banter was easy and familiar. He could have been talking to a group of friends. He made jokes about both members, telling the audience it was Antonio's birthday. He said that he had promised not to get Sanchez a piata as he did the year before. He also commented on their performance the previous night in Philadelphia and in the presence of McBride's entire family at the show.

The question and answer session after the show was lively; the audience sang "Happy Birthday" to Sanchez who sat on stage shaking his head. In response to a question on how they remember songs, Sanchez and McBride attributed their memory to fear. McBride admitted being afraid to "lose the gig" and Sanchez's reason was fear of deportation.

One fan asked Metheny for a picture with his wife after the show, and Metheny immediately agreed -- proof that Metheny and company were not only great musicians, but also great performers, always appreciative of their audience.

The feeling was undoubtedly mutual.