The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Pat Metheny and Eight Songs Shiraz

I’m in Washington D.C. tonight, getting ready to present my research on improving the surgical removal of tumors at a science conference. I’m going to kick off the week with one of the finest jazz guitarists on the face of the earth, namely Pat Metheny. Pat was born in Kansas City on August 12, 1954 into a musical family. He started out playing the trumpet at the age of 8, but switched to guitar at age 12. By the age of 15, he was working regularly with the best jazz musicians in Kansas City. At 18, he was the youngest teacher ever at the University of Miami, where he met and joined forces with another young prodigy, Jaco Pastorius. Check out the video of the two young’ins playing an early gig. At 19, he became the youngest teacher ever at the Berklee College of Music, where he also received an honorary doctorate more than twenty years later (1996).

While he was at Berklee, he hooked up with vibraphone great Gary Burton and began a three year stint traveling and performing with him. It was while working with Burton that he developed his trademark playing style that blends the loose and flexible articulation customarily reserved for horn players with an advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility. His playing and improvising are deeply grounded the jazz tradition of melody, swing, and the blues, yet he brings a modern sense of composition to his music. Look carefully at his unorthodox picking style that includes using the rounded, thick end of the pick. Also, check out the Pikasso guitar made for him by luthier Linda Manzer. With 42 strings it must have monster bracing to keep the top from exploding.

Over the years, Metheny has won countless polls as "Best Jazz Guitarist" and has garnered 17 Grammy Awards spread out over a variety of different categories including Best Rock Instrumental, Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, Best Instrumental Composition. In fact, his group won an unprecedented seven consecutive Grammies for seven consecutive albums. What’s even more amazing to me, road warrior that I am, is that he has spent most of his life on tour, averaging between 120-240 shows a year since 1974. Talk about frequent flyer miles, the guy’s probably on par with George Clooney’s character in the movie, Up In The Air. He’s a tremendous musician and his music is a great way to kick off the week. Enjoy!


Have You Heard:

As It Is:

Into the Dream (Check out the weird Pikasso guitar):

With Jaco Pastorius:

Last Train Home:

Slip Away:

Close to Home:

Here to Stay:

Heat of the Day:

Spring Ain’t here:

Phase Dance:

To go with the mello sounds of Pat Metheny, I recommend a 2000 Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz (normally $30; on sale for $20.00). It’s rare to find a ten year old wine like this, especially at my local grocery store. It has a northern Rhone nose that belies a classic Aussie palate of blackberry, black cherry, coffee, and chocolate, accented by exotic spices and a finish that seems to go on forever. This is a really nice Shiraz that ten years of aging have made into a great wine. Wine spectator gave it 92 points. Combine it with the music of Pat Metheny and you’ve got a perfect score. Enjoy!


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