Pat Metheny

Kansas City-born Pat Metheny is the only guitarist from the jazz realm to have achieved rock-star status. He rose to fame in the late ’70s as leader of the Pat Metheny Group by forging a satisfying pop-edged instrumental sound that guided many mainstream listeners to jazz. A teacher at Berklee College of Music while still in his teens, most of Metheny''s work demonstrates harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, yet remains aesthetically appealing—a fact that has led some misguided critics to deride it as overly commercial. In truth, the multiple-Grammy-winning Metheny is an innovative risk-taker who has experimented with altered-tuned 12-strings, guitar synthesizers, world music, and free jazz.


Bright Size Life, 1976

Jaco Pastorius’ expansive fretless bass underpins a fluid guitar tapestry on one of the most evocative recordings from the fusion era. Metheny vibes out on “Sirabhorn” and “Midwestern Nights Dream” by tuning the string pairs of his 12-string guitar in fifths.

Travels, 1983

This rousing 2-CD live set is a great jump-off point for rockers wanting to explore jazz guitar. Jam band acolytes will dig the connection between Metheny’s “The Fields, The Sky” and Phish songs like “Rift” and “Runaway Jim.”

Still Life (Talking), 1987

Metheny achieves accessibility without sacrificing depth. Cognecetti may knock this as “smooth jazz,” but it’s hard not to get hooked on the Brazilian-accented melody of “Minuano (Six Eight)” or the Coral Sitar-driven joyride, “Last Train Home.”


Pat Metheny Group, 1978

The first release from the classic PMG lineup (pianist Lyle Mays, bassist Mark Egan, and drummer Danny Gottlieb) is a must have. Metheny cops a Nashville tuning for the sprightly signature lick of “Phase Dance.”

Song X, 1985

Ornette Coleman's abrasive modernism proves the perfect foil for Metheny’s lyric approach on this harmelodic free-jazz adventure.

The Road to You, 1993

An energetic live recording that emphasizes ensemble playing over improvisation. Metheny’s guitar synth sounds a bit ‘twee at times, but the six-piece touring band is tighter than a bowline knot.

Wish, 1993

A playful Metheny moonlights as a sideman with tenor sax phenom Joshua Redman for this groovy hard-bop date.

One Quiet Night, 2003

This solo-acoustic outing proves Metheny, stripped of production, exotic instruments, and high-profile collaborators, is still a tasteful player of rare grace and vision.


Zero Tolerance for Silence, 1994

A bold artistic statement or a calculated kiss-off to fulfill recording contract obligations? Either way, it’s 40 minutes of tiresome unaccompanied electric guitar feedback. Eesh!

The Sign of 4, 1997

Metheny improvs with Derek Bailey on the latter’s self-described “non-idiomatic” music. Even if Knitting Factory-approved atonal abrasion is your bag, this three-CD set is a bit much.