Saturday, July 13, 2013

No. 327 – Right Now

Performer: Santana
Songwriters: Alex Ligertwood, Carlos Santana
Original Release: Beyond Appearances
Year: 1985
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985.

When Carlos Santana introduced Pat Metheny at Live Aid, I knew his name, and I think I knew that he was a jazz guitarist, but I didn’t know his music. His performance at Live Aid on this song was the first time I heard him play, and I liked the results. Pat Metheny’s guest work was atmospheric.

Fast forward a year to Northwestern. As I mentioned, not long after I started there, I became what could have been the fifth wheel on a four-person crew (but really wasn’t) in my class. Don and Frank were roommates, as were Lisi and Amy. They bonded almost right out of the gate. I met them at a social gathering at Engelhart Hall; I recognized them from my Bootcamp class.

I have a couple other stories to tell that involve this group, but by far the biggest thing I took from my reltionship with those four was a profound love of Pat Metheny in general and The Pat Metheny Group in particular.

I’ve always been into jazz to a certain extent. Although there wasn’t a lot of jazz in my house when I was a kid, the music that was there led me to embrace the poppier sounds of George Benson and Chuck Mangione when I was young. In college I discovered the jaw-dropping guitar of Stanley Jordan, as I documented, and I also heard Coltraine for the first time.

Now, Sirius’ jazz station is me and Laurie’s dinner music, unless it’s a tape of Miles or Sara, or a thumb drive consisting of the exploratory works of Patricia Barber, Gil-Scott Heron and lots and lots of Metheny. I would say that my favorite jazz performer is The Pat Metheny Group. (I vastly prefer Metheny when he works with Lyle Mays.)

My love of Metheny began at an end-of-bootcamp celebratory dinner that Don and Frank held in their room in December 1986. By this time the crew had expanded to include a sixth person, Mary, and everyone was invited. I remember Don was drinking wine when I showed up, which made him the first person close to my age I ever saw drink wine and not beer or liquor.

Anyway, Don was a New Yorker who had fairly refined tastes—in his drink, his clothes, his baseball (stone-cold Mets fan) and, evidently, his music. At the dinner, he had on this really great, atmospheric jazz music. After hearing—and digging—the sounds of a few of them, I asked him who it was. He said The Pat Metheny Group. So, THIS is Pat Metheny, huh?

I instantly recalled his performance with Santana at Live Aid and listened with intent. By the end of first CD, which was First Circle, I commented how great it was, and Don said he’d make me a tape and immediately popped in a blank cassette he happened to have handy. Side 1 was First Circle; Side 2 was a different Pat Metheny CD, which he put on next—Watercolors. I played that tape constantly for the next year, and it was on at a particularly crucial moment in my relationship with Melanie, as I will discuss later.

Just before I left The News-Dispatch in 1988, Jim made me a tape of the Pat Metheny that HE had—American Garage and The Pat Metheny Group. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that I listened to that tape every day for the next year after I moved to Herald City.

It was on after that. I bought Metheny’s two most current tapes: Still Life (Talking) and Letter From Home, and I’ve bought every one of The Pat Metheny Group’s albums since, although there hasn’t been anything new in eight years and counting. (There’s been a bunch of Metheny albums with other configurations of musicians, of course.)

Naturally, the more I got into Metheny, the more I got into this song. And now it’s gone from being a tune that made the secondary Live Aid tape to being higher up on the list than a song that made the primary Live Aid tape, Open Invitation (Good ol’ No. 407), and almost every other Santana song—all because of Pat Metheny.

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