Pat Metheny: 'Bright Size Life'

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MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Melody is a hard thing to come by nowadays, even in contemporary jazz music, which is influenced inevitably, I suppose, by popular music that depends more and more on hard-driving rhythms and less and less on melody and harmony. Hi, I'm Murray Horwitz, and even though it was recorded over 25 years ago, and can hardly be considered contemporary, melody is the reason we're adding Pat Metheny's Bright Size Life to the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library.


HORWITZ: It's a trio, but maybe a more apt description is "three melodic improvisers." The three are guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Jaco Pastorius, and drummer Bob Moses, who really makes the drums sing. The music really bears close listening because of the tunes all three men weave, often simultaneously.


HORWITZ: These are three complementary talents, especially Pat Metheny and the late Jaco Pastorius, whose inventive playing inspired scores of musicians. People tend to make a lot of Metheny's midwestern roots. In fact, he does so on this CD with titles like "Omaha Celebration" and "Midwestern Night's Dream." And in his compositions, you hear a lot of great big intervals - the jumps between notes - that might remind you of wide-open spaces. But the decidedly East Coast Jaco Pastorius exploits them as well with great yawing melodies in his improvisations.


HORWITZ: Not everything swings, but there's always a rhythmic pulse that the three musicians challenge and play against. And, it's not nearly so rhythmically handcuffed as a lot of disco-era jazz. All in all, a bright shining statement from a time some folks think of as the bleakest era in jazz — the 1970s.

It's Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life, and it's on the ECM label. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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