Life-Changing Recordings: Pat Metheny

Twenty-time GRAMMY-winning jazz guitarist on the Miles Davis album that was like "someone hitting me over the head with a baseball bat"
  • Photo: Jason Kempin/
    Pat Metheny
  • Miles Davis, Four & More — Recorded Live In Concert
May 03, 2013 -- 9:17 am PDT
By As told to Paul Zollo /

(Every artist has a soundtrack that reveals their musical journey. But what is the one recording that proved to be a transformative moment? In this ongoing series, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists will reveal their answer to the deceptively difficult question: What recording changed your life?)

Miles Davis
Four & More — Recorded Live In Concert (1964)
Featuring: Miles Davis (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (double Bass), and Tony Williams (drums)

"There are so many levels [on which] this recording has had an impact on my life. For one thing, it was my first record of any kind in this general area of music. My older brother Mike brought it home one day and when I listened to it, it was like someone hitting me over the head with a baseball bat. I always hear that this kind of music is something you are supposed to have to develop some listening skills to know how to appreciate. For me, it took all of five seconds. As an 11-year-old kid, it hit me the same way the Beatles did around the same time and for many of the same reasons. It sounded like what the world felt like to me at that time. It sounded modern and of the time, but also mysterious and eternal somehow.

"As much as it was hearing Miles and everything that he brought to every note, it was the sound of Tony Williams' ride cymbal that really did it for me. The urgency and unpredictability of it. The feel of it. The sound of it.

"I have continued to listen to this record often for more than 40 years now. Every time I hear it, I still hear different things and it hits me in entirely new ways. Early on, as I would listen to it, I didn't exactly understand the details of the changes they were improvising on that they were playing on the way I do now, but it didn't matter. As time went on I began to know all the particulars of what was going on in terms of the way they were dealing with the form itself — the harmonies and the infinite sensibilities that Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter were contributing to make it all have the amazing color and distinct quality that made the core of that band the greatest rhythm section of all time.

"But I have always contended that the greatest music can be viewed under the scrutiny of a musical electron microscope or from the telescopic distance of a casual music listener and what makes it great will withstand and transcend all perspectives. Four & More has that quality for me."

(A world-renowned guitarist, Pat Metheny won Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Unity Band at the 55th GRAMMY Awards, marking his 20th career GRAMMY win. Starting with his first win in 1982 for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental, Metheny has earned GRAMMYs in four consecutive decades.)

(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On Songwriting, Conversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)

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