Pat Metheny's Unity Band

By JON GARELICK  |  July 27, 2012

So, how has his own music changed since 80/81? Clearly, he says, "I know so much more than I did then." But the essential Metheny approach remains unchanged. "I know there are musicians who go through styles and periods the way a snake sheds skins. It has never been that way for me. I feel like I have a lot more to talk about now, but I can still play all the tunes from [first album] Bright Size Life and feel like the basic premise that was set up there is still viable and worth pursuing."

I communicated with Pat Metheny via e-mail while he was on tour in Europe with Unity Band. Here's the rest of our conversation about Unity Band, both the band and the album:

BEN WILLIAMS HAS SUCH A SPECIAL SOUND AND APPROACH. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE/CONTRAST HIM WITH TWO OTHER GREAT BASSISTS YOU'VE PLAYED WITH LATELY, CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE AND LARRY GRENADIER? WHAT QUALITIES DO THEY SHARE? WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT HIM? They are all similar in the sense that they are the kinds of players who have a wide sense of what music can be and are capable of functioning at a high level across a whole spectrum of possibilities. Christian and Larry are both of that generation of guys who are all now somewhere around 40. It's funny, but the generation that immediately followed mine, the so called "young lions" was always a big mystery to me — it seemed like a bunch of people who were mostly playing for the approval of their parents — which was kind of the opposite of the way that I came up. Then those guys came along who were all born around 1970 or so, and I really got excited about their openness to all sorts of possibilities that included but was not limited to a traditional way of thinking. . . . Josh (Redman), Brad (Mehldau), Brian (Blade), and they all seemed to understand and gravitate towards my thing too. Then was kind of a pause, and now the generation of guys like Ben is coming along. What I like about them is they are most definitely NOT playing for their parents — they are playing for their friends. That is the way I always was too.

YOU MENTION IN YOUR NOTES THAT DRUMMER ANTONIO SANCHEZ'S "EVEN EIGHTH-NOTE THING" SET A SPECIAL DIRECTION FOR THE WRITING. CAN YOU TALK SPECIFICALLY ABOUT HOW THAT EVEN-EIGHTH NOTE THING INFLUENCED INDIVIDUAL PIECES? I would say that there are some drummers, Billy Higgins and Roy Haynes come to mind, who kind of default to triplets, and then the more modern, newer guys who can play great triplet based music but have even-eights as a kind of cultural default. Antonio is in that category — but he definitely can play anything. I wrote a lot of music for us to try, and those kinds of grooves seemed to be the fundamental fabric that the band sound seemed to be made of.

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